Book Reviews

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

1
Review — THE PEACE CORPS, SIERRA LEONE, AND ME by Norman Tyler (Sierra Leone)
2
Review — THE GIRL IN THE GLYPHS by David C. Edmonds (Chile)
3
Review — THE LYNCHING by Laurence Leamer (Nepal)
4
Review — BREATHING THE SAME AIR by Gerry Christmas (Thailand, Western Samoa)
5
Review — SWIMMING by Karl Luntta (Botswana)
6
Review — BLOOD UPON THE SNOW by Martin Ganzglass (Somalia)
7
Review — LOVE OR JUSTICE by Rachel Mannino (DC/staff)
8
Review — STREET OF ETERNAL HAPPINESS by Rob Schmitz (China)
9
Review — OFF TO THE NEXT WHEREVER, stories by John Michael Flynn (Moldova)
10
Review — GAINING GROUND by Joan Velasquez (Bolivia)

Review — THE PEACE CORPS, SIERRA LEONE, AND ME by Norman Tyler (Sierra Leone)

  The Peace Corps, Sierra Leone, and Me Norman Tyler (Sierra Leone 1964–66) CreateSpace August 2015 191 pages $12.50 (paperback), $3.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Mark D. Walker (Guatemala 1971–73) • THIS MEMOIR IS ABOUT THE JOURNEY of a naïve 19-year-old who joins the Peace Corps and heads “up-country” to Kenema, Sierra Leone, on the Liberian border, from 1964 to 1966. His trek was about seven years before my PCV experience in Guatemala, after which I eventually arrived in Sierra Leone with my family as the director of an international child care agency. My experience there allowed me to commiserate with much of Norman’s story. Upon my arrival in Sierra Leone, I remember thinking, “And I thought I knew what poverty was — and diseases — lassa fever and green monkey disease — yikes!” (I don’t remember Ebola being mentioned, but you get the picture). I’ve always admired the PCVs who served and were able to survive . . .

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Review — THE GIRL IN THE GLYPHS by David C. Edmonds (Chile)

  The Girl in the Glyphs by David C. Edmonds (Chile 1963–65)) and Maria Nieves Edmonds Peace Corps Writers January 2016 354 pages $12.99 (paperback), $4.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Andy Martin (Ethiopia 1965–68) • The Girl in the Glyphs was a surprisingly enjoyable book. I say surprisingly because I chose to review the book from a list of available titles, each of which had a short paragraph synopsis. I believe the synopsis for this book said it was a romantic adventure story. John Coyne, who saw a proof copy of the book said it was “a splendid tale of love and intrigue in a dangerous country . . ..” When the book arrived in the mail, I didn’t know what to think. I was definitely trying to judge it by its cover and that was a bit unfair. It’s 6″ x 9″ with cover art that harkens to Indiana Jones. The inside has one illustration, a map, and . . .

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Review — THE LYNCHING by Laurence Leamer (Nepal)

  The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan Laurence Leamer (Nepal 1964–66) William Morrow June 2016 384 pages $27.99 (hardcover), $12.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Martin Ganzglass (Somalia 1966–68) • Whatever hyperbole appears on the back cover will not do justice to Laurence Leamer’s The Lynching — The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan. This fast paced factual thriller, with its numerous short, punchy chapters, is better than a John Grisham courtroom novel. It is an account of two dramatic trials: the first, a criminal trial of two members of the Mobile, Alabama Klan for the 1981 lynching of Michael Donald, an innocent black nineteen-year-old, randomly selected and brutally murdered; and the second, the 1984 civil suit, brought by Morris Dees, civil rights attorney and co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLA) against the United Klans of America (UKA). That suit, “Beulah Mae Donald, as Executor of . . .

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Review — BREATHING THE SAME AIR by Gerry Christmas (Thailand, Western Samoa)

  Breathing the Same Air: A Peace Corps Romance Gerry Christmas (Thailand 1973–76; Western Samoa 1976–78) Lulu April 2015 366 pages $22.95 (paperback), $8.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by James Jouppi (Thailand 1971–73) • FOR HIS INTRODUCTION, Gerry Christmas uses an eighteen page “Peace Corps Termination Report” dated April 16, 1976. The body of his memoir consists of sixty-nine letters — he calls them “Epistles” — written after his three-year Thailand Peace Corps tour was complete. While these Epistles, at times, are very “newsy,” they also express, sometimes in intimate detail, his feelings about his girlfriend Aied, and, in more general terms, his evolving philosophies about true love between American men and “nice” Thai women. He wrote the first five Epistles while preparing for another Peace Corps tour of duty, this time in Western Samoa, and these were sent to people he’d known in Thailand. Thirty-five more were sent from Western Samoa, mostly to . . .

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Review — SWIMMING by Karl Luntta (Botswana)

  Swimming: Stories Karl Luntta (Botswana 1977-80; staff: Fiji, Solomon Islands, Western Samoa, Kiribati, Barbados) Excelsior Editions/SUNY Press September 2015 180 pages $16.95 (paperback — from publisher), $12.38 (Kindle) Reviewed by Ben East (Malawi 1996–98) • ONE THING IS CERTAIN for foreigners at work in much of Africa: the proverbs can be as colorful as they are vague, utilitarian as they are vexing. The truth can emerge — or remain obscured — with a single phrase applied in limitless ways. Truth, in these proverbs, lies in the eye of the beholder and not the object beheld. This principle is at work in the eight stories of Karl Luntta’s Swimming, each of which churns beneath the surface with traces of hidden truth. Whether his characters are far removed from the world we know — like Maag, digging his own grave at the edge of the Kalahari — or are much closer to home, Luntta’s . . .

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Review — BLOOD UPON THE SNOW by Martin Ganzglass (Somalia)

    Blood Upon The Snow (A Novel of the American Revolution) Martin R. Ganzglass (Somalia 1966–68) A Peace Corps Writers Book March, 2016 344 pages $14.95 (paperback), $3.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Thomas E. Coyne • Martin . . . Martin . . . Martin, we need maps and illustrations. Your descriptions of battles and the human misery of war are excellent as usual, but having to go to Rand McNally to trace the route of the army takes away from the flow of the novel. Plus, I’m never going to be able to build a bridge over the creek just by visualizing your directions. Please! — Tom • Martin R. Ganzglass is at it again. In this, the third in his series of Revolutionary War novels*, he has captured the extreme and deep seated patriotism of our nation’s forebears, the disdain of the British military and Loyalists and the cruel reality of war. Those . . .

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Review — LOVE OR JUSTICE by Rachel Mannino (DC/staff)

   True Crime on the Hawaiian Lei-Away Plan   Love or Justice Rachel Mannino (DC/staff) Limitless Publishing October 2015 408 pages $16.95 (paperback), $3.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Kitty Thuermer (Mali 1977–79) • He had me at “bodice ripper.” When John Coyne asked me to review Rachel Mannino’s Love or Justice, it was an easy sell. Too easy. After all, who could resist what a breathless reader called “a sexy, thrilling read . . ..  I recommend this to anyone who enjoys a sexy and tough alpha FBI male that’s broody and hot, and a thrill ride with sexiness and a book that will leave you wanting more.” Wanting more? What I wanted was to edit that run-on testimonial and then get out the smelling salts in anticipation of a hot read. Mr. Coyne had, after all, dubbed Mannino the E.L James of Peace Corps —referring to the Fifty Shades of Grey author. . . .

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Review — STREET OF ETERNAL HAPPINESS by Rob Schmitz (China)

  Street of Eternal Happiness: Big City Dreams Along a Shanghai Road by Rob Schmitz (China 1996–98) Crown May 2016 336 pages $28.00 (paperback), $13.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Peter Van Deekle (Iran 1968-70)  • How can any Westerner comprehend much less understand the complexities of modern China?  With its vast landmass and diverse populations, its centuries-long dynasties, imposed isolation from the world, and its dynamic political and financial emergence, China represents the ultimate challenge for modern international relations. So, what prospects can an American have for beginning to grasp the conflicting and converging elements of modern China? While these prospects may face any American, Peace Corps service (begun toward the end of the Twentieth Century in China — 1993) offers among the broadest and deepest opportunities for meaningful understanding of China’s ancient traditions and incredibly rapid growth and change today. Rob Schmitz accepted his Peace Corps assignment to China in 1996, and served there for . . .

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Review — OFF TO THE NEXT WHEREVER, stories by John Michael Flynn (Moldova)

    Off To The Next Wherever by John Michael Flynn (Moldova 1993-95) Fomite Publisher April 2016 265 pages $15.00 (paperback), $4.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Kathleen Coskran (Ethiopia 1965-67) • Off to the Next Wherever aptly describes the scope and action of this new collection of short stories by John Michael Flynn. His characters are certainly on the move — wherever and everywhere — many of them with a stronger taste of a past than a hope for the future. In the best stories they find satisfaction, if not happiness or resolution. And they inhabit the world we live in, the one world. Flynn protagonists are male, female, gay and straight; as young as 12, old enough to worry about being old, and everybody in between. Flynn also deftly moves the reader through time and space — evoking the life of a newsboy in the 1940s, a druggie in the 60s, Reagan sloganeering, “Peace Through Strength,” in the 80s — right . . .

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Review — GAINING GROUND by Joan Velasquez (Bolivia)

Gaining Ground: A Blueprint for Community-Based International Development by Joan Velásquez (Bolivia 1965–67) Beaver’s Pond Press 2014 $24.95 (paperback), $9.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Bob Arias (Colombia 1964–66, 2011–13) • This is an awesome “how to” book, not a novel with only love and excitement . . . but a beautiful and exciting manual on how to create and develop  a non-profit agency in Bolivia from Mendota Heights, Minnesota, a distance of 4,623 miles. In 1965 Joan Velásquez, a Peace Corps Volunteer, is sent to Cochabamba, a remote community in the Andean mountains of Bolivia. There she meets her future husband and NGO partner Segundo and his family, the Velázquez clan . . . all Quechua speaking indigenous people of the Inca Empire. Joan discovers that the community may not have much, it is extremely poor, but it is rich in cultural values that have been handed down for generations . . . primarily that family members help one another during difficult times. . . .

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