Book Reviews

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

1
Review — PERCEPTION AND DECEPTION by Joe Lurie (Kenya 1967-70)
2
Review — CROCODILE LOVE by Joshua Berman (Nicaragua 1998-2000)
3
Review — I AM ME BECAUSE OF YOU by Karen Lawrence with Jennifer Nelson (Kyrgyzstan 2004–06)
4
Review — PEACE CORPS FANTASIES by Molly Geidel
5
Review — Far Away in the Sky by David L. Koren (Nigeria 1965–66)
6
Review — Ripples in the Pond by Michael Stake (India 1966–68)
7
Review— DEVIL’S BREATH by Robert Thurston (VENEZUELA)
8
Review: UNDER CHAD’S SPELL by Michael Varga (Chad)
9
Review — OUTPOST by Chris Hill (Cameroon 1974-76)
10
Review — I Climbed Mt. Rainier with Jimi Hendrix’s High School Counselor by Rick Fordyce (Ghana)

Review — PERCEPTION AND DECEPTION by Joe Lurie (Kenya 1967-70)

Perception and Deception: A Mind-Opening Journey Across Cultures Joe Lurie (Kenya 1967–70) Cultural Detective 180 pages 2015 $12.95 (paperback), $7.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Patricia S. Taylor Edmisten (Peru 1962–64) • After completing my Peace Corps years in Peru and earning a graduate degree, I married, left my home-town of Milwaukee for New York City, and took up residence in a dinky studio apartment at Columbia University’s International House. My then husband, also a Peace Corps Volunteer in Peru, was pursuing his doctorate while serving as resident advisor. Author Joe Lurie is executive director emeritus of International House (I House) at the University of California, Berkeley, which opened in 1930.  “It is one of the largest, most diverse residential cultural program centers in the U.S., second only to the International House in New York City,” according to the introduction of Chapter Two. Lurie is especially equipped to write about the erroneous . . .

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Review — CROCODILE LOVE by Joshua Berman (Nicaragua 1998-2000)

  Crocodile Love: Travel Tales from an Extended Honeymoon by Joshua Berman (Nicaragua 1998–2000) Tranquilo Travel Publishing 294 pages 2015 $17.95 (paperback), $4.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Peter Deekle (Iran 1968–70) • When I served in Peace Corps/Iran in the late 1960s, I was urged to share my experiences with others upon my return to the United States.  Joshua Berman has fully accomplished this through his monthly column in The Denver Post, his five previous travel books, his blog and website, many articles in The New York Times, National Geographic Traveler and other publications. Crocodile Love: Travel Tales from an Extended Honeymoon is Berman’s first narrative travel book, and one that not only vividly describes exotic locales, but also draws the reader into a compelling and extended story. The book makes the mysteries of different cultures both accessible and personal. As the author says early on in the book, “Everything about . . .

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Review — I AM ME BECAUSE OF YOU by Karen Lawrence with Jennifer Nelson (Kyrgyzstan 2004–06)

I Am Me Because of You: A Daughter’s Peace Corps Journey through the Eyes of Her Mother (Peace Corps biography from letters and phone calls, with photos) by Karen Lawrence with Jennifer (Lawrence) Nelson (Kyrgyzstan 2004–06) Beaver’s Pond Press 2015 364 pages $24.95 (paperback) — email iammebecauseofyou@gmail.com to purchase reviewed by Catherine Onyemelukwe (Nigeria 1962–64) . • I Am Me Because of You provides a valuable resource for the parents of Peace Corps Volunteers, though for those who are frightened to know what lies ahead they might want to wait until their offspring has been in the country a few months before reading! For those less nervous, the book can be a guide to the ups and downs of following a Volunteer through training and deployment. I love the cover of I Am Me Because of You. The dusty gold with the brown edges and snapshots superimposed on a world . . .

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Review — PEACE CORPS FANTASIES by Molly Geidel

PEACE CORPS FANTASIES: How Development Shaped the Global Sixties by Molly Geidel University of Minnesota Press, $30.00 320 pages 2015 Reviewed by Mary-Ann Tirone Smith (Cameroon 1965-67) Please note the subtitle, herein: How Development Shaped the Global Sixties. This book is not a saga of the Peace Corps, but rather the conception and incubation of a plan to offer opportunities where none were available christened, “community development” (a fairly lame term I always thought). It is centered in the 1950s, an era that began in1950 but lasted till around1964, when men were men and women were having nervous breakdowns (treated with submersion in ice water, electric shock and lobotomies). Then 1965, accompanied by the Titan II rocket usher, broke open portal, and suddenly, Cassius Clay is Muhammed Ali; the Second Vatican Council turns altars around; Gloria Steinem dons a bunny suit to give an insider’s account of the casual acceptance . . .

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Review — Far Away in the Sky by David L. Koren (Nigeria 1965–66)

Far Away in the Sky: A Memoir of the Biafran Airlift by David L. Koren (Nigeria 1964–66) CreateSpace April 2012 332 pages $17.99 (paperback), $8.60 (Kindle) Reviewed by Don Schlenger (Ethiopia 1966–68) • David Koren was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Eastern Nigeria from January 1964 through December 1965. At the end of his two-year service, after a brief return to the States, he re-enlisted, or ‘extended’ his service, as it was called at the time, and returned to Nigeria in January 1966, during a coup led by army officers. Many of these officers, who were from the Igbo tribal group, were Christian and their  home was the eastern district of Nigeria, where Koren served as an English teacher. They overthrew the ruling Hausa leaders who were Muslim and mostly from northern Nigeria. In June and July 1966, another coup ousted the Igbo officers and led to the slaughter of . . .

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Review — Ripples in the Pond by Michael Stake (India 1966–68)

  Ripples in the Pond: Reflections of a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer from India by Michael Stake (India 1966–68) Inkwell Productions, 2014 371 pages $17.00 (paperback), $8.00 (Kindle) Reviewed by Barbara E. Joe (Honduras 2000–03) • ALL PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS HAVE a story to tell — a highly personal series of adventures to share. Thankfully, many are contributing to an archive about this unique historical experiment, with which fellow Volunteers can compare and contrast with their own experiences. Michael Stake has added his memoir, dating back to Peace Corps’ earliest days, a very readable book about that heady time when the agency was still feeling its way. Much has changed since, including less-ready acceptance of non-college graduates and no more assignments in India, where Stake was sent as a neophyte Agriculture Volunteer and where President Carter’s mother Lillian also served. Stake interrupts his college career to join because of uncertainty . . .

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Review— DEVIL’S BREATH by Robert Thurston (VENEZUELA)

Devil’s Breath (Peace Corps novel) by Robert Thurston (Venezuela 1968–70, Staff: Belize 1972–75, Honduras 1975–77) CreateSpace September 2014 176 pages $8.99 (paperback), $2.99 (Kindle) • Review by Bob Arias (Colombia 1964–66) WE GET TO MEET GRINGO MATEO, the volunteer from Mission USA, an organization like Peace Corps in many ways. Mateo is sent to a small village in the remote area of Vainazola to assist the local farmers and the community COOP. But what happens is he gets caught up with the bad guys that do not want a Gringo, especially Gringo Mateo to find that they have been stealing money from the community, lots of dinero! Mateo is framed for the murder of a young lady and the fact that he is the son of a prominent US Congressman causes problems for the American Embassy. This gets better, as we see the local CIA Station Chief involved in gun . . .

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Review: UNDER CHAD’S SPELL by Michael Varga (Chad)

Under Chad’s Spell (Peace Corps novel) by Michael Varga (Chad 1977–79) CreateSpace August 2014 378 pages $16.99 (paperback), $9.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by John Kennedy (Ghana 1965–68) • Under Chad’s Spell is a fine book. I enjoyed reading it from start to finish. It’s an easy read. Michael Varga’s story kept me entertained on many levels. I recommend this book to all over the age of eighteen. Read this book and you will know more about Chad, the people of Chad, and the experience of being a Peace Corp Volunteer in Chad. I also believe that if you are open to exploring the possibilities of how your life might have been different if you had been a PCV in Chad, you will learn something about yourself, your past and possible future by reading this book. That’s a heavy burden to place on a book, but for me, Under Chad’s Spell did . . .

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Review — OUTPOST by Chris Hill (Cameroon 1974-76)

Chris Hill (Cameroon 1974-76) begins his new book: Outpost: Life on the Frontlines of American Diplomacy by telling his favorite story, his account of how as a PCV in Cameroon he tried to overhaul a corrupt credit union only to have his efforts rejected, largely because he did not understand the community’s internal dynamics and culture. What happened was something like this, Chris discovered that one board of directors had stolen 60 percent of their members’ money. He reported this to the members, who promptly re-elected them because the board reflected carefully balanced tribal interests and it really didn’t matter to the members if the board directors ran a good credit union or not. Hill said the lesson was that “When something’s happened, it’s happened for a reason and you do your best to understand that reason. But don’t necessarily think you can change it.” In his book he then sums up, “Years later, . . .

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Review — I Climbed Mt. Rainier with Jimi Hendrix’s High School Counselor by Rick Fordyce (Ghana)

  I Climbed Mt. Rainier with Jimi Hendrix’s High School Counselor, and Other Stories of the Pacific Northwest by Rick Fordyce (Ghana 1978-80) Merrimack Media $12.00 (paperback) 125 pages 2014 Reviewed by Don Messerschmidt (Nepal 1963-65) If you grew up in Seattle in the ’60s or ’70s, you’ll appreciate this little book. You might even understand some of the teenage jargon. Groovy! Cool! There are twelve stories here, about adolescents in the city trying hard not to get busted for pot; about camping out in the North Cascades with a bunch of friends trying hard to like it; about making friends and comparing notes about urban high school life; about flying off to Europe with other teenagers, smoking cigarettes in flight (before the ban), and kissing the girl sitting next to, though you’d only just met; and, among others, the title story about climbing Mt. Rainier with the guy who . . .

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