Book Reviews

A look at books published by fellow RPCVs that hopefully you will want to read.

1
Review — The Peace Corps Experience, 1969-1976 by P. David Searles (staff)
2
Review — DUSTY LAND by John Ashford (Botswana)
3
Review — TRAVELS IN SOUTH AMERICA by Lawrence Lihosit (Honduras)
4
Review — SLACKER’S CONFESSION by Lawrence Lihosit (Honduras)
5
Review — THE FARM ON THE RIVER OF EMERALDS by Moritz Thomsen (Ecuador)
6
Review — APOSTLE: Travels Among the Tombs of the Twelve by Tom Bissell (Uzbekistan)
7
Review — HOT MILK ON MY CORNFLAKES (India)
8
Review — WRITING ABROAD: A GUIDE TO TRAVELERS by Peter Chilson (Niger)
9
Review — FROM FREEBORN TO FREETOWN & BACK by Patrick R. O’Leary (Sierra Leone)
10
Review — ONE OF US by Sandi Giver (Uganda)

Review — The Peace Corps Experience, 1969-1976 by P. David Searles (staff)

    The Peace Corps Experience: Challenge and Change, 1969-1976 By P. David Searles (Philippines Country Director 1971-74; Peace Corps Deputy Director 1974-76) The University Press of Kentucky March 1997 254 pages $21.96 (hard cover) Reviewed by David Elliott (Poland 1991-93; Staff-India 1966-68, Nigeria 1965-66, Sierra Leone 1964-65) • Was the Peace Corps on its deathbed in 1969? Did Director Joe Blatchford revive the patient with his “New Directions” medicine? In his preface, P. Searles is explicit as to his book’s “main message”: In late 1969, President Richard Nixon’s first Peace Corps director, Joseph H. Blatchford, announced a set of policies, which he labeled New Directions, that changed its [Peace Corps’] nature and ensured its survival…Without these changes its tenth anniversary (in 1971) would have been a wake mourning the death of the last of the Kennedy era. Peace Corps history buffs may find this book entertaining, even provocative. Searles was . . .

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Review — DUSTY LAND by John Ashford (Botswana)

  Dusty Land: Stories of Two Teachers in the Kalahari John Ashford (Botswana 1990–92) Peace Corps Writers December, 2017 260 pages $13.00 (paperback)   Reviewed by D.W. Jefferson (El Salvador 1974–76; Costa Rica 1976–77) • MANY RETURNED PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS (RPCVs) feel a need to share our stories of life in another country, and our often transformative experiences. Because most of our family, friends and coworkers just are not very interested, we find our audience in local RPCV groups and at RPCV conferences. John Ashford took the next step and filled his need by publishing two collections of stories. Dusty Land is the second of those story collections. The author and his wife Gen were midcareer and middle-aged professionals when they joined the Peace Corps and headed to the African nation of Botswana. This book of stories and his previous one, titled Meeting the Mantis – Searching for a Man . . .

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Review — TRAVELS IN SOUTH AMERICA by Lawrence Lihosit (Honduras)

  Rob Thurston (Venezuela 1968–70; staff: Belize, Honduras 1972–77 ) wrote . . . I recently read Lawrence Lihosit’s book Travels in South America and submitted a review on Amazon.com. I liked the book  a lot, having been to many of the places he, his wife and sister-in-law traveled to in 1988. My late wife (Juanita Thurston (Venezuela 1968-70) and I took a similar trip right after our Peace Corps assignment in Venezuela (January 1970), then returned to work and live in Bolivia with USAID from 1980-85, just before Lawrence made his trip. Consequently, the account resonated with me. • Travels in South America by Lawrence F. Lihosit (Honduras 1975–77) CreateSpace Dec 2017 – second edition 418 pages $22.95 (paperback) This is not your normal travelogue, and once opened its hard to put down. In 1988 Lawrence Lihosit, his Mexican wife, Margarita, and sister-in-law, Licha, take the reader far beyond notable sites and historical . . .

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Review — SLACKER’S CONFESSION by Lawrence Lihosit (Honduras)

  Slacker’s Confession: Essays and Sketches By Lawrence F. Lihosit (Honduras 1975-77) CreateSpace 184 pages January 2018 $18.95 (paperback) Reviewed by Darcy Meijer (Gabon 1982-84) • Lawrence F. Lihosit’s latest book is a simple delight. His dozens of sketches make drawing look easy, and the essays are conversational and candid. His work and travels have taken him to Central and South America, and after eight years he carried home sketchbooks filled with 150 drawings and essays on art, travel, inspiration and technique. Slacker’s Confession is a tidy book in terms of scope and sequence: four parts, each with essay and sketches. Part I comprises Lihosit’s title essay and sketches from Uruguay, Argentina and Chile; part II his essay “Pen to Paper” and sketches from Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador; part III “Drawing Outdoors” and sketches from Panama, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala; Part IV “Materials” and sketches from Caribbean and South . . .

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Review — THE FARM ON THE RIVER OF EMERALDS by Moritz Thomsen (Ecuador)

  The Farm on the River of Emeralds by Moritz Thomsen (Ecuador 1965-67) Vintage Departuers 344 pages July 1989 $9.99 (paperback) Reviewed by Mark D. Walker (Guatemala 1971-73) • While perusing my favorite books above my desk today, I realized that I’d never reviewed a book of my favorite Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, Moritz Thomsen. He is best known for Living Poor, published in 1969, which is rated as one of the best Returned Peace Corps Volunteer memoirs of all time.  My personal favorite is The Farm on the River of Emeralds, the sequel, which tells a tale of endless reverses as a part owner of a farm on the northwestern coast of Ecuador—close to a hot, muggy, dirty, fishing village. The author struggles with his much younger, semi-literate black Ecuadorian partner, Ramon, and his wife Esther, battling nature, history and tradition in his efforts to develop a tropical farm in . . .

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Review — APOSTLE: Travels Among the Tombs of the Twelve by Tom Bissell (Uzbekistan)

  Apostle: Travels Among the Tombs of the Twelve By Tom Bissell (Uzbekistan 1996) Vintage Paperback 517 pages February, 2017 $11.52 (paperback), $26.76 (hardback), $11.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Denis Nolan (Ethiopia 1964-66) • When I first saw what this book was about, I became very interested. The front of the book says that is “Travels among the tombs of the Twelve”, and I thought I would learn a great deal about the legends and knowledge of where the apostles are buried. This is of interest to me, for I have been doing a fair amount of research into the early Christian religion and have found a number of discrepancies about what people in the gospels did after the death of Jesus and where they finished their lives . The book begins with a chapter on Judas Iscariot. At least that is what the title is. However, it is more about . . .

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Review — HOT MILK ON MY CORNFLAKES (India)

  Hot Milk on My Cornflakes: Peace Corps India-33 Remembers, A Collection of Vignette by Donald Clement (India 1966-68), editor;  and authors: Judy Barille (1966-69), Neal Barille (1966-69), Tom Carter (1965-67), Mike Thorburn (1966-68), Ken French(1966-68), Ruth Kister-Berry (1966-68), Tom McGarry (1966-68), Carol Reichert (1966-68), Katy Peek (1966-68) Createspace 173 pages September 2017 $4.95 (Kindle), $29.95 (paperback-color) Reviewed by Bob Arias (Colombia 1964-66) • DONALD CLEMENT AND THE TEN co-authors of Hot Milk On My Cornflakes, were members of India 33, from 1966-1968 during the biggest movement of Peace Corps Volunteers. Jack Hood Vaughn was the Peace Corps Director at that time.  In the book I like the memories of getting ready to report for Training before you leave home. Going to Philadelphia for staging where you meet your friends for life, and then leaving for Camp Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands where India 33 Trainees will spend three months. During 1966-1968, I was across the islands in Puerto Rico at Camp Radley as the Language . . .

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Review — WRITING ABROAD: A GUIDE TO TRAVELERS by Peter Chilson (Niger)

  Writing Abroad: A Guide to Travelers By Peter Chilson (Niger (1985-87) & Joanne B. Mulcahy The University of Chicago Press 224 pages $22.50 (paperback), $67.50 (cloth), $13.50 (Kindle) Reviewed by David Arnold (Ethiopia 1964-66) • EDITING THE WORK of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, I have learned that travel writing seems at first to be the easiest form of written narrative. That may be true if only you and your grandchildren are going to read it, but publishable travel writing is hard work. Most readers of a travel story in a magazine, a book or on a blog will not pay the fare and follow that writer’s taken path. They read the story so they won’t have to go, or they use the article to decide whether to go. Usually, they go somewhere else. In the end, the traveler’s tale must be satisfying as a passive reading experience. It takes . . .

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Review — FROM FREEBORN TO FREETOWN & BACK by Patrick R. O’Leary (Sierra Leone)

From Freeborn to Freetown & Back by Patrick R. O’Leary (Sierra Leone 1966–68) Peace Corps Writers September 2016 146 pages $14.95 (paperback), $10.00 (Kindle) Reviewed by Mark D. Walker  • THIS IS A WELL WRITTEN  that brings back many memories, as I worked in Sierra Leone for three years. When twenty-two year old Patrick O’Leary stepped off the plane in Sierra Leone, West Africa in January 1967, he was dressed for the snow storm he had left in Freeborn County, Minnesota a few days earlier, so it didn’t take long for him to realize his rural Catholic upbringing, training for Tanzania — his original Peace Corps assignment — and an earlier road trip to Key West, Florida — in a Cadillac hearse — would be less than effective in preparing him for a two-year stint in Binkolo, a small village outside of Makeni in western Sierra Leone. One unique aspect of . . .

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Review — ONE OF US by Sandi Giver (Uganda)

  One of Us: Sex, Violence, Injustice.  Resilience, Love, Hope. by Sandi Giver (Uganda 2009–11) Peace Corps Writers June 2017 260 pages $14.95 (paperback) Reviewed by D.W. Jefferson (El Salvador 1974–76; Costa Rica 1976–77) •   SANDI GIVER WAS A Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) in Uganda when she was raped by a member of the United States armed forces. This book is a memoir that started out as a written statement to the Naval Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS) about her rape. It took incredible courage for the author to tell her story, and she does so with a candor and attention to detail that is remarkable. In addition to the core story of the author’s rape and participation in two military trials, she includes information about her childhood, her work history prior to Peace Corps, being physically assaulted by her landlord in Uganda, and much more. It is a very far-reaching . . .

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