Book Reviews

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

1
Review: MEETING THE MANTIS by John Ashford (Botswana)
2
Review: A REASON TO KILL by Carole Sojka (Somalia)
3
Review: A TIME THAT WAS . . . by Philip Salisbury (Liberia)
4
Review — LIPS OPEN AND DIVINE by Matthew Hamilton (Armenia, Philippines)
5
Review — CONSULTING IN INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT, A PRIMER by John Holley (Colombia)
6
Review: DEATH IN VERACRUZ translated by Chandler Thompson (Colombia)
7
Mark Wentling reviews THE GREAT SURGE by Steve Radeltt (Western Samoa)
8
Review — WAVELAND by Simone Zelitch (Hungary)
9
Review — HEALING THE MASCULINE SOUL by Gordon Dalbey (Nigeria)
10
Review — WHY STOP THE VENGEANCE? by Richard Stevenson [Richard Lipez (Ethiopia)]

Review: MEETING THE MANTIS by John Ashford (Botswana)

  Meeting the Mantis: Searching for a Man in the Desert and Finding the Kalahari Bushmen by John Ashford (Botswana 1990–92) Peace Corps Writers August 2015 216 pages $13.00 (paperback), $4.00 (Kindle)   Reviewed by Julie R. Dargis (Morocco 1984-87) • “Follow the lightening,” the first people of the Kalahari said. At the end of the proverbial rainbow in Western culture, lies water, herds of wild animals, and life in the desert. For years, John Ashford fantasized about what it would be like to live the life of a Bushman. After years of contemplation, the photograph of Freddy Morris that John Ashford had once glimpsed in his hometown library, came to life. By the time the author met him, Freddy Morris had clocked nearly 90 years straddling two cultures. Before he set out on his journey, Ashford could lay claim to a half-life of Freddy’s experiences, the most relevant months boiled . . .

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Review: A REASON TO KILL by Carole Sojka (Somalia)

  So Many Reasons to Die: An Andi Battaglia – Greg Lamont Mystery by Carole Sojka (Somalia 1962–64) Create Space 2015 322 pages $14.00 (paperback), $3.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Matthew Hamilton (Armenia 2006-08 and Philippines 2008-10) • This evocative sequel to A Reason to Kill, by Carole Sojka (Somalia 1962-64), comes with all the sleaze, violence, and eroticism one expects to find on the sketchy side of Miami’s nightlife. One reader said, “There is no doubt in my mind this is a very easy rating of 5 stars.” I would have to agree. The story centers on the murder victim, Miranda Duncan, whom we never meet, but learn about through her friends, lovers, and enemies. She is indeed a fascinating character, a true femme fatale that led a life of intrigue, danger, and seduction. Sojka is an excellent researcher. Her descriptions of the murder scene and the way police conduct investigations are . . .

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Review: A TIME THAT WAS . . . by Philip Salisbury (Liberia)

  A Time That Was . . .: A Peace Corps Volunteer’s Experience of Pre-revolutionary Liberia, West Africa, 1962–1964 Philip S. Salisbury (Liberia 1962–64) Xlibris 2014 244 pages $19.99 (paperback), $29.99 (hard cover) Reviewed by Lee Reno (Liberia 1963–65) • A Time That Was . . . is an interesting and engaging read, particularly for PCVs who were in Liberia before the Liberian civil wars, and perhaps their children. A PCV in the first group of PCVs to Liberia in 1962, Salisbury writes in his introduction, In the pages that follow, I present a rewrite of my journal entries. Despite gaps in coverage, I made an effort to recall days that were written about. My purpose is to communicate the experiences, thoughts, and feelings of a twenty-two year-old who was encountering his first experience in an unknown culture as well as provide a sense of the services I rendered to the Peace . . .

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Review — LIPS OPEN AND DIVINE by Matthew Hamilton (Armenia, Philippines)

  Lips Open and Divine (poetry) by Matthew A. Hamilton  (Armenia 2006–08, Philippines 2008–10) Winter Goose Publishing 2016 107 pages $11.99 (paperback), $4.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Ann Neelon (Senegal 1978-79) • As the Roman dramatist Terence famously wrote, “I am a man. Therefore nothing human is foreign to me.”  More than most writers, especially young ones, Matthew A. Hamilton succeeds in giving us an authentic sense of this human amplitude. The range of Lips Open and Divine, his second book of poems, is astonishing. Whether it is in “Thich Quang Duc” witnessing the flames crawling up a self-immolating Buddhist monk’s arms like “a tamed cat” or in “Chickamauga” “accepting/the dry-bone shouts/of a lost cause,” Hamilton is on the scene. His originality lies in his ability to go for the jugular in terms of shock value while remaining, essentially, within the realm of prayer. Hamilton is a veteran as well as . . .

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Review — CONSULTING IN INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT, A PRIMER by John Holley (Colombia)

  Consulting in International Development, A Primer John Holley (Colombia 1968-70) Infinity Publishing 2014 452 pages $26.95 (paperback), $8.95 (Kindle) reviewed by Russ Misheloff (Ethiopia 1962–64) • DRAWING ON 40 YEARS OF EXPERIENCE, Mr. Holley has developed a comprehensive description of the life and functions of international development consultants. The book is organized into three sections covering: the process of entry into the profession, and why one might want to consider it; the “basics,” to use the author’s term;  a discussion of what consultants in the development arena do, and what abilities, attitudes and behaviors the good ones exhibit; and an extensive examination of some tools and concepts. In sum, it presents a “primer,” as the title indicates, but a thorough one, providing a wealth of information and insight into the functions, the life style, the rewards, the drawbacks, and the abilities and disposition needed for success in development consulting . . .

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Review: DEATH IN VERACRUZ translated by Chandler Thompson (Colombia)

  Death in Veracruz (thriller) Hector Aguilar Camin (author), translated by Chandler Thompson (Colombia 1962–64) Schaffner Press 2015 304 pages $16.95 (paperback), $9.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Suzanne Adam (Colombia 1964–66) • Photos of eight semi-nude cadavers still fresh and bleeding lie displayed on the table before Negro. His onetime schoolmate and friend, Francisco Rojano, asks Negro, an investigative journalist, to help him find the assassin, whom he suspects is Lacho, the powerful leader of a northern oil workers union. Rojano claims that Lacho is after the oil-rich land owned by the assassinated farmers, but Negro is reluctant to get involved with Rojano, an ambitious politician. He learns that Rojano owns an extensive tract of land bordering Lacho’s farm. He guesses that there’s more to the story than Rojano is revealing. To complicate matters, Negro holds a torch for his friend’s wife, Anabela. The story is set in Mexico during the 1970s. . . .

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Mark Wentling reviews THE GREAT SURGE by Steve Radeltt (Western Samoa)

The current July-August edition of the Foreign Service Journal carries a review written by Mark Wentling (Honduras 1967–69, Togo 1970–73; PC Staff/Togo, Gabon, Niger 1973–77) of The Great Surge: The Ascent of the Developing World by Steven Radelet (Western Samoa 1981-83). • The Great Surge: The Ascent of the Developing World  Reviewed by Mark Wentling  “Is the glass half-full or half-empty? Radelet’s ‘surge’ viewed from an African angle.” I applaud Radelet for this fascinating book. I’m enriched by all the information marshalled to support his argument that the number of poor people in the world today is less than at any previous time in history. He quotes all pertinent sources; almost every sentence cites a key statistic or reference. His book is so chock full of facts and citations it’s a relief to read a sentence that puts a human face on the poor. I agree that poverty has generally been reduced . . .

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Review — WAVELAND by Simone Zelitch (Hungary)

  Waveland: One Woman’s Story of Freedom Summer (Fiction) Simone Zelitch (Hungary 1991–93) The Head & The Hand Press 2015 224 pages $18.00 (paperback) Reviewed by Linda Mather • “Once there was a girl who did everything wrong.” Waveland by Simone Zelitch starts with this sentence, which then sets the tone for the book. Most of the novel is set around events in the Civil Rights Movement in the late 1960s including efforts to register black voters in Mississippi, to gain seats at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, to establish grass roots mobilization in Chicago. And much of that is common to most movements — the clash between the whites and blacks both in the organization of the movement as well as in the towns, the motivation of the volunteers (Beth notes that she didn’t join to type letters), to the philosophies of the organizers themselves (short term goals vs. . . .

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Review — HEALING THE MASCULINE SOUL by Gordon Dalbey (Nigeria)

  Healing The Masculine Soul: How God Restores Men to Real Manhood Gordon Dalbey (Nigeria 1964-1966) Thomas Nelson 2003 (first published in 1988) 244 pages $12.70 (paperback), $ 4.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Michael Varga (Chad 1977-1979)  • There’s a tear in the western masculine soul and many men struggle with how to make themselves whole, given this wound. Gordon Dalbey draws on a ritual he witnessed during his Peace Corps tour in Nigeria to suggest potential solutions. Based on the “calling out” ceremony of the Igbo tribe, a male initiation rite, where a boy is required to leave his mother’s hut and join the men of the tribe, Dalbey asserts that in western societies most men never have a clear-cut opportunity to bond with men, often including their fathers. They remain tied to their mothers, and thereby often never mature enough to have satisfying relationships with other adults. In his work . . .

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Review — WHY STOP THE VENGEANCE? by Richard Stevenson [Richard Lipez (Ethiopia)]

  Why Stop the Vengeance? (A Donald Strachey Mystery — Volume 14) Richard Stevenson [Richard Lipez (Ethiopia 1962–64)] MLR Press 2015 248 pages $14.99 (paperback), $6.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Robert Keller (Albania 2008–09) • Well, I’m hooked. I put down Why Stop at Vengeance? ready to pick up another Donald Strachey mystery novel. And if the others are anything like this one, then they’re perfect summertime, beach reads. The lead, Donald Strachey, is a good-at-heart but slightly ambiguous private detective who rolls around Albany, NY getting into and out of trouble with less than reputable characters. Some are saints, others are down toward the other end of the spectrum. Why Stop at Vengeance? centers around an unholy alliance of right wing Christian zealots who spend millions to terrorize African countries with anti-gay propaganda and legislation. Strachey comes to the aid of a poor African man under political asylum; a man . . .

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