Book Reviews

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

1
Review: DEATH IN VERACRUZ translated by Chandler Thompson (Colombia)
2
Mark Wentling reviews THE GREAT SURGE by Steve Radeltt (Western Samoa)
3
Review — WAVELAND by Simone Zelitch (Hungary)
4
Review — HEALING THE MASCULINE SOUL by Gordon Dalbey (Nigeria)
5
Review — WHY STOP THE VENGEANCE? by Richard Stevenson [Richard Lipez (Ethiopia)]
6
Review — TWO PUMPS FOR THE BODY MAN by Ben East (Malawi)
7
Review — LEARNING TO LOVE KIMCHI by Carol MacGregor Cissel (Korea)
8
Review — AMERICAN SAHIB by Eddie James Girdner (India)
9
Review — THE PEACE CORPS, SIERRA LEONE, AND ME by Norman Tyler (Sierra Leone)
10
Review — THE GIRL IN THE GLYPHS by David C. Edmonds (Chile)

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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Review — TWO PUMPS FOR THE BODY MAN by Ben East (Malawi)

  Two Pumps for the Body Man: A Diplomatic Noir B. A. [Ben] East (Malawi 1996–98) New Pulp Press March 2016 286 pages $14.95 (paperback), $4.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by John Rouse (Peru 1966–68) • Ben East’s humorous yet deadly serious diplomatic noir  Two Pumps for the Body Man should be required reading for any youngster contemplating a foreign service career along the conflict-torn borders of the vast American empire. It’s a story about Jeffrey Mutton, a diplomatic security officer in charge of strengthening office security at a local consular office in Saudi Arabia in the wake of the September 11 disaster and during the propaganda buildup to the “War on Terror” and the US invasion of Iraq. Mutton and his confederacy of bungling junior political officers and visa stampers find themselves hopelessly caught within the seductive spell of their professionally incompetent, but bureaucratically ambitious, Consul General; the two-faced maneuvering of their . . .

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Review — LEARNING TO LOVE KIMCHI by Carol MacGregor Cissel (Korea)

  Learning to Love Kimchi: Letters Home from a Peace Corps Volunteer Carol MacGregor Cissel (Korea 1973–75) CreateSpace May 2016 274 pages $10.99 (paperback), $4.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Clifford Garstang (Korea 1976–77) • CAROL CISSEL EMBARKED on her Peace Corps odyssey in December, 1973. “We’re in Korea!” she writes home to her mother upon arrival after a journey through Honolulu and Tokyo with her service group. This exclamation forms the opening of Cissel’s memoir, Learning to Love Kimchi. What follows are all the letters she wrote to her mother over the course of her two years working in Korea as an education Volunteer and the months spent touring Southeast Asia after the completion of her service. My own Peace Corps/Korea experience began just a few days after Cissel left the country, so I read these letters with considerable fondness and nostalgia, remembering my own first taste of kimchi, my own . . .

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Review — AMERICAN SAHIB by Eddie James Girdner (India)

  American Sahib (novel) Eddie James Girdner (India 1968–70) CreateSpace March 2016 420 pages $14.90 (paperback) Reviewed by Tony D’Souza (Ivory Coast 2000-02, Madagascar 2002-03) • ONE OF THE GREAT liberties of the on-going tidal wave of self-publishing is that an author can go on as long as he wants. No longer do fussy editors slash and burn their way through your manuscript, no nitpicking gatekeepers naysay your style or plotting, or even the basic value of the endeavor at all. Turn the coin over, however, and the drawbacks are those same things. If engineers were allowed equal liberties, the landscape would be littered with deathtrap bridges. If ballerinas were so free, most would be falling down. In the back jacket copy to Eddie James Girdner’s overlong and plodding American Sahib, someone has lauded the book as, “The only novel ever written about the American Peace Corps experience in rural . . .

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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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