Literary Type

News of writers who have served in the Peace Corps.

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Rachel Cowan (Ecuador), innovative rabbi, is dead at 77
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Weekend Book Quiz
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Winner of the 2017 Maria Thomas Fiction Award
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A GAME IN THE SUN AND OTHER STORIES by John Coyne (Ethiopia)
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NATURE’S POETRY by Eldon Katter (Ethiopia)
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Emily Arsenault’s (South Africa) new mystery — THE LAST THING I TOLD YOU
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“Downsizing Books” by John Coyne (Ethiopia)
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Jenny Phillips (Lesotho), writer and award-winning filmmaker, dies at 76
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Joanna Luloff (Sri Lanka) reads from REMIND ME AGAIN WHAT HAPPENED
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Paul Theroux (Malawi): On travel and travel writing from BBC

Rachel Cowan (Ecuador), innovative rabbi, is dead at 77

  Rabbi Rachel Cowan in 2006. She converted to Judaism in 1980 and became a leader who emphasized egalitarian small-group circles rather than large temple services. Photo: Mat Szwajkos/Getty Images byJoseph Berger  New York Times Sept 1, 2018 • Rabbi Rachel Cowan, a Mayflower descendant who converted to Judaism and became a prominent innovator in three nontraditional movements in that faith, died on Friday at her home in Manhattan. She was 77. The cause was brain cancer, her family said. Rabbi Cowan was a leader in helping couples navigate the shoals of mixed marriage, injecting contemplative practices like meditation and mindfulness into religious life, and designing “healing services” to comfort the sick and dying. After she learned of her cancer more than two years ago, her friends held twice-weekly services of songs, psalms and readings for her, and a flavor of that so-called healing movement was evident in one service. . . .

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Weekend Book Quiz

  Weekend Book Quiz Who wrote the books with the first sentences listed below, and that are based on their Peace Corps Experience, Travel, and Living the Life of an RPCV? • #1. They took us in the Land Rover, Mike and me, with Kim Buck driving. We had planned to leave that morning, as it was a good four hours’ drive, although it was only about sixty miles from Mbeya. #2. I got my Peace Corps application at the post office in Red Bluff, California, put it on the table in the kitchen, and walked around it for ten days without touching it, as though it were primed to detonate—as indeed it was—trying to convince myself that for a forty-eight-year-old farmer the idea of Peace Corps service was impractical and foolhardy. #3. The widow opens my door without knocking. A trail of Flying Horse-brand cigarette smoke enters behind her. . . .

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Winner of the 2017 Maria Thomas Fiction Award

  Dead Cow Road: Life on the Front Lines of an International Crisis by Mark Wentling (Honduras 1967–69, Togo 1970–73; PC Staff: Togo, Gabon, Niger 1973–77) Page Publishing March 2017 506 pages $24.95 (paperback), $9.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Bob Criso (Nigeria 1966-67, Somalia 1967-68) •   Dead Cow Road is an ambitious work of historical fiction told through the eyes of a Foreign Service worker assigned to Somalia during the political struggles and famine crisis in 1992. Mark Wentling combines real and fictional events with real and fictional characters to weave an engrossing and complex tale unfolding during a chaotic time in a desperate country. With over 45 years experience living and working in Africa with the Peace Corps, USAID, US Foreign Service, Care and World Vision, Wentling is well-equipped to be writing about it. He has the rare distinction of having lived or worked in all fifty-four African countries. Ray Read . . .

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A GAME IN THE SUN AND OTHER STORIES by John Coyne (Ethiopia)

  I set this story, “Game in the Sun” —  one of three “Peace Corps” stories in my collection of ten short stories in this book — in Dessie, Ethiopia. At the time — and this was about 1965 —  there was an American couple running a religious mission in Dessie. I knew them slightly, and they were well known to the PCVs in the town. They were, I believe, a a nice couple and nothing like the missionaries in this story. Also, to my recollections, there were no Peace Corps couples in Dessie. — JC •  A Game in the Sun Betsy was not allowed to play croquet with her husband and the Reverend, so she sat in the shade of the trees at the top of the mound. The mound overlooked a lush African rainforest which grew thick and dense to the edges of the Mission Compound. The . . .

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NATURE’S POETRY by Eldon Katter (Ethiopia)

      Nature’s Poetry  is an engaging, though none too rigorous, informal compilation of the author’s poetry and art. Black and white illustrations appear on almost every page. The nature drawings are snapshots from the author’s sketchbooks, some dating back to his Indiana youth and others recording his experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Harar, Ethiopia in the 1960s. Eldon was Chair of the Department of Art Education and Crafts and Professor of Art Education at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania. He was also editor of SchoolArts magazine for 11 years and president of the National Art Education Association. In the 1950s he taught art in Park Ridge, Illinois and later in Needham, Massachusetts. As Peace Corps volunteers in the 1960s, Eldon and his wife, Adrienne, taught at a teacher training school in Harar, Ethiopia and then worked for the Teacher Education in East Africa Project in Kampala, Uganda. . . .

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Emily Arsenault’s (South Africa) new mystery — THE LAST THING I TOLD YOU

    Emily Arsenault’s (South Africa 2004-06) new novel is a psychological thriller about the murder of a psychologist in a quiet New England town and his former patient whose unreliable thread will keep you guessing. until the shocking end. I hear myself whispering. Not again. Not again. Why did I ever come back here? Surely because of you. Because I thought of something I’d always meant to tell you. Because you were the only one I ever really wanted to tell it to… Therapist Dr. Mark Fabian is dead—bludgeoned in his office. But that doesn’t stop former patient Nadine Raines from talking to him—in her head. Why did she come back to her hometown after so many years away? Everyone here thinks she’s crazy. And she has to admit—they might have good reason to think so. She committed a shockingly violent act when she was sixteen, and has never really . . .

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“Downsizing Books” by John Coyne (Ethiopia)

  When I was growing up on a farm in Illinois all six of us kids (I was the youngest) waited for the Saturday Evening Post to arrive in Wednesday’s mail so we’d have stories to read over the weekend. After dinner, whichever of my three sisters was washing the dishes that night would prop a book up against the kitchen window so she could read as she scrubbed. Since my job was to dry, I couldn’t pull off that trick. But I loved books too, and before I learned to read, my oldest sister would read to me whatever Jane Austen or Brontē novel she had gotten from the village library. We read so many books, in fact, that soon my older siblings had gone through everything deemed “age appropriate” by the librarian, Mrs. Butterfield. So one day she refused to let my sister Eileen check out the book she’d chosen. My mother, an . . .

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Jenny Phillips (Lesotho), writer and award-winning filmmaker, dies at 76

  Thanks for the ‘heads up’ from Susan Zawalich. • Jenny Phillips, writer and award-winning filmmaker, dies at 76 by Bryan Marquard Boston Globe staff JULY 13, 2018 Mrs. Phillips sought Fidel Castro’s help in securing documents of Ernest Hemingway. In an Alabama prison, one of her several far-flung outposts of compassion and creativity, Jenny Phillips recorded her conversations with lifers and death row inmates — those discarded in “the dustbin of humanity,” she would later say. Back home in Concord, she played the tapes as she drove, letting their voices fill her car and spark her imagination. “They wanted people to know their stories so they wouldn’t be forgotten,” Mrs. Phillips, who turned those initial encounters into an award-winning documentary, recalled a few years later, in 2008. “They also wanted their stories to somehow help other people. As well as a wish to be remembered, there’s a wish to be useful.” Drawn . . .

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Joanna Luloff (Sri Lanka) reads from REMIND ME AGAIN WHAT HAPPENED

  This summer and fall Joanna R. Luloff (Sri Lanka 1996–98) will read from her novel Remind Me Again What Happened (Algonquin Books, 2018) at the locations listed below . She describes the book this way: After Claire, a journalist working in Tamil Nadu, contracts encephalitis and loses much of her memory, she becomes reliant on her estranged husband and best friend to return to an understanding of herself. In 2012, she published the collection  The Beach at Galle Road: Stories from Sri Lanka (Algonquin Books), which won the  Peace Corps Writers Maria Thomas Fiction Award in 2013. • Monday, July 16, 7 p.m. Harvard Book Store with Heather Abel 1256 Mass Ave, Cambridge, MA 02138 Tuesday, July 17, 7:30 p.m. Words 179 Maplewood Ave, Maplewood, NJ 07040 Wednesday, July 18, 7 p.m. RJ Julia Booksellers 768 Boston Post Road, Madison, CT 06443 Thursday, July 19, 7 p.m.    Savoy Bookshop 10 Canal St, Westerly, RI 02891 Wednesday, July . . .

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Paul Theroux (Malawi): On travel and travel writing from BBC

  The godfather of contemporary travel writing tells us about the trip that made him fall in love with the world, as well as a reborn Hawaii and the influence of his son, Louis. by Alexander Bisley BBC/Travel 14 June 2018 • Paul Theroux (Malawi 1963-65) is the godfather of contemporary travel writing, known for his transporting, first-person classics such as Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, Deep South, The Tao of Travell and Dark Star Safari. “Travel in an uncertain world. . . has never seemed to me more essential, of greater importance or more enlightening.” In his new collection of travel essays, Figures in a Landscape, Theroux is once again bracingly perceptive and enticing on places and people. He is ever captivating on Africa, the continent that gave him a lifelong love of travel. Hawaii, one of his two homes ─ and where he conducts this interview from ─ is a particularly . . .

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