Book Reviews

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

1
Review: GIMME FIVE by Philip Dacey (Nigeria)
2
Review — A HERO FOR THE PEOPLE by Arthur Powers (Brazil)
3
Review of Matthew A.Hamilton’s (Armenia 2006-08; Philippines 2008-10) The Land of the Four Rivers
4
Review of The South American Expeditions, 1540-1545 by Álvar Núñez Cabeza de VacaTranslated with notes by Baker H. Morrow (Somalia 1968-69)
5
Review — Sendero by John Rouse
6
Review of David Koren’s Far Away in the Sky
7
Review — Larry Lihosit’s Peace Corps Experience: Write and Publish Your Memoir
8
Review of A Small Key Opens Big Doors
9
Review — WAR OF HEARTS AND MINDS by James Jouppie (Thailand)
10
Review — MAYA 2012 by Joshua Berman (Nicaragua)

Review: GIMME FIVE by Philip Dacey (Nigeria)

Gimme Five by Philip Dacey (Nigeria 1963–65) Blue Light Press: First World Publishing 2013 74 pages $15.95 (paperback) Reviewed by Barry Kitterman (Belize 1976-78) • On the surface, Philip Dacey’s poems have less to do with his time as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Nigeria in the early ’60s, than with the rich life he has lived since. This collection of poems, with one or two notable exceptions, is not about Africa or the great world out there. Philip Dacey’s concerns are those things held dear to any American poet living in our time, in our country, anyone who has devoted his life to letters and teaching and family. Like any poet worth his salt, Dacey loves individual words and phrases, the bricks and mortar of poetry. His ear for a good turn of phrase is evident throughout. When his name is misspelled on a mailing label, he riffs on . . .

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Review — A HERO FOR THE PEOPLE by Arthur Powers (Brazil)

A Hero for the People: Stories of the Brazilian Backlands Arthur Powers (Brazil 1969-73) Press 53 170 pages 2013 $17.95 (paperback), $.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Patricia Taylor Edmisten (Peru 1962-64) • I prefer novels to short stories, but I loved this book. Arthur Powers’ love for Brazil and its people began with his Peace Corps service in Brazil in 1969. Later Powers worked for the Catholic Church in the eastern Amazon region, where he organized subsistence farmers and rural worker unions. The author has received a Fellowship in Fiction from the Massachusetts Artists Foundation, three annual awards for short fiction from the Catholic Press Association, and the 2012 Tuscany Press Novella Award for this book, A Hero for the People, his first collection of short stories. The book’s subtitle, Stories of the Brazilian Backlands, is fitting. All of the stories are located in Brazil’s backlands, although some take place more than . . .

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Review of Matthew A.Hamilton’s (Armenia 2006-08; Philippines 2008-10) The Land of the Four Rivers

The Land of the Four Rivers: My Experience as a US Peace Corps Volunteer in Armenia (2006-2008) by Matthew A. Hamilton (Armenia 2006-08; Philippines 2008-10) Červená Barva Press $7.00 42 pages 2012 Reviewed by Mark Brazaitis (Guatemala 1991-93) • As Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, we all, I feel confident saying, have at least a couple of photographs documenting our service.  (Some of us doubtless have crates-or iPhones-full of them.) Because we were there, because we know the people and the settings in the photographs, we have a particular attachment to them. They call up full and rich and even complicated memories and associations. To us, each photograph is worth more than a thousand words. Each is a mini-novella, a long poem. But anyone who didn’t have the experiences we had and is seeing the photographs cold knows only what is in front of their eyes. A photo of the family we . . .

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Review of The South American Expeditions, 1540-1545 by Álvar Núñez Cabeza de VacaTranslated with notes by Baker H. Morrow (Somalia 1968-69)

The South American Expeditions, 1540-1545 by Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca Translated with notes by Baker H. Morrow (Somalia 1968-69) University of New Mexico Press $39.95 240 pages 2011 Reviewed by Ann Neelon (Senegal 1978-79) As Shakespeare wrote in Julius Caesar, “The evil that men do lives after them./The good is oft interred in their bones.” Thus my guess is that if you can name a Spanish conquistador at all, it’s most likely Hernan Cortés, who succeeded in subjugating all of Mexico between 1519 and 1526.  Cortés famously sank his own ships in Veracruz, on the east coast of Mexico, after hanging two of his men for getting cold feet about schlepping with him across three mountain ranges to scope out Aztec gold in Tenochtitlán.  As Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca’s The South American Expeditions, 1540-1545 gives evidence, though, not every conqueror is a study in ruthlessness.  Translated with notes . . .

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Review — Sendero by John Rouse

Sendero: The Path Back by John G. Rouse III (Peru 1966-68; staff: Ecuador APCD 1971-72; DR Republic APCD 1972-74) CreateSpace $7.80 (paperback) ; $2.99 (Kindle) 310 pages 2012 Reviewed by Tess De Los Ríos (Panama 2003–06) • IN JOHN ROUSE’S FIRST NOVEL,  Sendero, he delivers a fast-paced, satisfying plot with details and emotions to which many RPCVs can relate. From the opening chapter describing a ceremonial human sacrifice in the 1400s to uncovering possible government involvement in the supposed accidental death of the central character’s best local friend when he was a Peace Corps Volunteer, down to the last chapter when all is redeemed, Rouse’s writing kept me feeling that something big was just about to happen. Sendero has all the aspects of a quality novel-suspense, romance, sincerity, betrayal, even a car chase between good guys and bad guys. The main character, Petrini, finds himself in a rough patch of . . .

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Review of David Koren’s Far Away in the Sky

Far Away in the Sky A Memoir of the Biafran Airlift by David L. Koren (1964-66) Createspace, $17.99 Kindle: $8.60 332 pages 2012 Reviewed by Dick Hughes (Nigeria 1962-64) In 1962, when I was in Peace Corps training at UCLA for a teaching job in Nigeria, the official U.S. message was that we were headed for Africa’s “showcase of democracy,” as my Nigeria IV friend Joanne McNeese Mills put it with appropriate irony. How much better the promise of that newly formed nation than that of Ghana, then under the sway of U.S.- educated Kwame Nkrumah, who was flirting with our cold war Soviet and Chinese rivals; and who, god help us, had this crazy idea of forming a unity of African states. Wonder where that idea came from? We all know how that turned out.  Nkrumah was overthrown in a military coup in 1966 that, some have said, was . . .

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Review — Larry Lihosit’s Peace Corps Experience: Write and Publish Your Memoir

Peace Corps Experience: Write and Publish Your Memoir Lawrence F. Lihosit (Honduras 1975-77) !Universe $23.95;Trade $13.95;Kindle $3.03 127 pages 2012 Review by Leita Kaldi Davis (Senegal 1993–96) As Jane Albritton (India 1967-69) writes in her Foreword to Lawrence Lihosit’s Peace Corps Experience: Write and Publish Your Memoir, “This book is no idle gift, but a gift-wrapped challenge.” Albritton should know, as Series Editor of the daunting, but brilliantly successful Peace Corps at 50 project. The point of Lihosit’s book is that it is vitally important to write about your Peace Corps experience, not only for your own gratification, but for posterity, because the countries we served in are changing rapidly, and a Volunteer’s experience gives great insight into far-flung places at different points in history. The history of Peace Corps is not a set of dry dates and names of Washington men in suits, but a grand parade of testimonials by . . .

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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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