Book Reviews

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

1
Review of A Small Key Opens Big Doors
2
Review — WAR OF HEARTS AND MINDS by James Jouppie (Thailand)
3
Review — MAYA 2012 by Joshua Berman (Nicaragua)
4
Review — A VILLAGE SON REMEMBERS by Mark Lewis (The Gambia 1970-72)
5
Review — FROM THE SAN JOAQUIN by Barry Kitterman (Belize)
6
Review — A PEACE CORPS MEMOIR by Terry Sack (Bolivia 1963–65)
7
Review — Whispering Campaign by Larry Lihosit (Honduas 1975-77)
8
Review: RPCV Kirsten Johnson’s novel Footsteps
9
Review: TWO YEARS IN POLAND by Lawrence Biddall (Poland)

Review of A Small Key Opens Big Doors

A Small Key Opens Big Doors: 50 Years of Amazing Peace Corps Stories, Volume 3 — The Heart of Eurasia edited by Jay Chen (Kazakhstan 2005–08) Travelers’ Tales 336 pages $18.95 (paperback) 2011 Reviewed by Lawrence F. Lihosit (Honduras, 1975–77) THE PEACE CORPS AT 50 PROJECT, that includes four volumes,* offers an unparalleled, operatic ensemble of voices, singing about the world. About two hundred men and women sing to us, describing 88 of the 139 nations served by the Peace Corps during the past 50 years. The voices are divided into four geographic movements. This book includes voices from those Americans who served in Eurasia — the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, its political satellites and periphery. For those who only vaguely remember the destruction of the Berlin Wall (1989) or television film of the Russian army’s retreat as the empire dissolved (1991), this federation ruled the largest geographic . . .

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Review — WAR OF HEARTS AND MINDS by James Jouppie (Thailand)

  War of Hearts And Minds: An American Memoir by James Jouppi (Thailand 1971–73) iUniverse 618 pages $45.95 (hardcover), $35.95 (paperback), $3.95 (Kindle) 2011 Reviewed by Joanne Roll (Colombia 1963–65) • IN WAR FOR HEARTS AND MINDS, James Jouppi writes about his Peace Corps tour as a civil engineer assigned to the Community Development Corporation Thailand, and what happened to his life as a result.  For those unfamiliar with Thailand and/or Peace Corps, Jouppi has provided maps and identifies key sites mentioned in the book. He has also created a glossary of terms. Jouppi intersperses an historic timeline of public events through out his narrative. In the Preface, to enhance this historical context, Jouppi states: In this memoir, I describe events which were unfolding during a War of Hearts and Minds campaign in Thailand, a War of Hearts and Minds campaign which occurred simultaneously with what, in America, is often . . .

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Review — MAYA 2012 by Joshua Berman (Nicaragua)

Maya 2012: A Guide to Celebrations in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and Honduras by Joshua Berman (Nicaragua 1998–2000) Moon Travel Guides 128 pages $7.99 (paperback) October 2011 Reviewed by Lawrence F. Lihosit (Honduras 1975–77) TRAVELERS WHO PLAN TO EXPLORE the Mayan world this coming year need this book! Even the seasoned trekker with a worn and patched backpack, creased boots, frayed hat and a passport bulging with extra pages will want to buy Maya 2012 before it’s sold out. It has it all: great maps, background information, descriptions of tours, transportation and discount hotels. It also contains conversion tables, an index, Mayan words and phrases, interesting interviews with important Mayan scholars and even a suggested reading list. This ain’t no guide to overpriced hotels and do-dads, but a book written for us serious wayfarers. For those with only a whiff of Mayan history, this book will convince you that the place . . .

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Review — A VILLAGE SON REMEMBERS by Mark Lewis (The Gambia 1970-72)

A Village Son Remembers Mark R. Lewis (The Gambia 1970–72) Self published 104 pages 2010 Reviewed by David H. Day (Kenya 1965–66; India 1967–68) I HADN’T GIVEN IT MUCH THOUGHT AT FIRST, but the torn and singed pages of what appears to be a personal journal on the cover of this slim paperback provides a clue to just one of the traumatic incidents punctuating Mark Lewis’ Peace Corps assignment in The Gambia. This reviewer was  soon led through a series of incidents that, on one hand, for their sheer shock value, astounded, and prompted me to recall one of our great Peace Corps mantras in coping with the vagaries of life in exotic places: flexibility. And is Lewis ever flexible! His equanimity in the face of the unexpected is exemplary. Even before the group departs the States, there was a snafu and Lewis was visited during training by two FBI . . .

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Review — FROM THE SAN JOAQUIN by Barry Kitterman (Belize)

From the San Joaquin: Stories by Barry Kitterman (Belize 1976–78) Southern Methodist University Press $23.95 208 pages 2011 Reviewed by Marnie Mueller (Ecuador 1963–65) IN ANTICIPATION OF WRITING THIS REVIEW I read Barry Kitterman’s award winning debut novel, The Baker’s Boy (The Maria Thomas Award for Fiction), which I admired greatly, but which didn’t prepare me for the muscular, thoroughly authentic voice of From the San Joaquin. From the San Joaquin has been compared to Winesburg, Ohio; it’s more a novel in form than a collection of short stories as well as a decidedly American story of small town life, but unlike Winesburg it never flirts with the grotesque, nor panders to notions of quaintness. Covering a forty year span, Kitterman subtly weaves the lives of half a dozen main characters and a dozen subsidiary ones into a complex, multileveled narrative. It’s set in Ivanhoe, California in Tulare County, the . . .

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Review — A PEACE CORPS MEMOIR by Terry Sack (Bolivia 1963–65)

Reviewer Leita Kaldi Davis worked for the United Nations and UNESCO, for Tufts’ Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and Harvard University. She worked with Roma (Gypsies) for fifteen years, became a Peace Corps Volunteer in Senegal at the age of 55, then went to work for the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Haiti for five years. She retired in Florida in 2002.  She has written a memoir of Senegal, Roller Skating in the Desert, and is working on a memoir of Haiti. • A Peace Corps Memoir: Answering JFK’s Call by Terry Sack (Bolivia 1963–65; PC/Washington 1968–69) Createspace $15.95 449 pages 2010 Reviewed by Leita Kaldi Davis (Senegal 1993-96) WHEN I FIRST SAW the title, A Peace Corps Memoir: Answering JFK’s Call, I expected a dry narrative of a typical Peace Corps experience, but the author’s unique stories and clear writing style surprised and delighted me. And how could I . . .

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Review — Whispering Campaign by Larry Lihosit (Honduas 1975-77)

Whispering Campaign: Stories from Mesoamerica by Lawrence F. Lihosit (Honduras 1975-77) iUniverse, Inc. $11.95 120 pages November, 2009 Reviewed by Allen W. Fletcher (Senegal 1969-71) • Lawrence Lihosit is an inveterate self-publisher, has served us up a pungent and tasty array of stories in his Whispering Campaign – Stories from Mesoamerica. They have the allure of Mexican street food — rough and honest and earthy. They are laced with the complementary spices of cross-cultural compassion and gringo guilt; and they go directly to the gut. Lihosit spent a total of seven and a half years in Mexico and Central America, and from the feel of it, it was not a touristic enterprise. By his own account he grew close enough to the people of the several countries in which he lived to tip toe on the dangerous side of local politics. There is no question where his feelings fall with . . .

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Review: RPCV Kirsten Johnson’s novel Footsteps

Patricia Taylor Edmisten, who served in the Peace Corps in Peru from 1962 to 1964, is an author herself. She has published Nicaragua Divided: La Prensa, Chamorro Legacy, and Wild Women with Tender Hearts, which was the winner of the 2007 Peace Corps Writers’ Award for poetry. Patricia reviews Kirsten Johnson’s novel Footsteps about life in Kenya. • Footsteps by Kirsten Johnson (Kenya 1982–84) Plain View Press July 2009 248 pages $18.95 Reviewed by Patricia Taylor Edmisten (Peru 1962–64) It’s easy to forget that Footsteps is a novel. Buoyed by an enormous heart, Kirsten Johnson shares with her readers the injustice and inequities she witnessed while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya in 1982. In particular, she sheds light on the unique burdens borne by girls and women: lack of education; pregnancies before reproductive organs mature; the absence of skilled midwives; unsanitary birthing conditions; too little breast milk . . .

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Review: TWO YEARS IN POLAND by Lawrence Biddall (Poland)

  • Two Years in Poland, and Other Stories: A Sixty-Seven-Year-Old Grandfather Joins the Peace Corps and Looks Back on His Life by Lawrence Brane Siddall (1997–99) Pelham Springs Press 2008 255 pages $16.95 Reviewed by David Gurr (Ethiopia 1962–64) • In Poland, Lawrence Brane Siddall taught English in the town of Swidnica, pronounced as shvid-NEET-sa, according to the author. He was the only PCV assigned to that city of 65,000 in southwest Poland, and replaced a Volunteer who had taught English the previous two years at the secondary school to which he was assigned. Parts I and III of his book are devoted to his experience in Swidnica, travel to major cities in Poland, one of them as part of his in-service training, as well as a six-week summer project organized by another Volunteer followed by a vacation in Russia. Sandwiched in between these two parts is Part II, . . .

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