Literary Type

News of writers who have served in the Peace Corps.

1
THE WETBACK AND OTHER STORIES by Ron Arias (Peru) due out in September
2
Franklin Rothman (Brazil) publishes BROOKLYN, NY to BOCAIUVA, BRAZIL
3
Andy Martin (Ethiopia) still explaining American English to the world
4
FIVE AGAINST THE SEA by Ron Arias (Peru)
5
Lost Letter From Maria Thomas (Ethiopia)
6
KINGDOMS IN THE AIR by Bob Shacochis (Eastern Caribbean)
7
B.A. East’s (Malawi) new novel: TWO PUMPS FOR THE BODY MAN
8
HuffPost publishes essay by Betsy Small Campbell (Sierra Leone)
9
Rob Schmitz (China) writes STREET OF ETERNAL HAPPINESS
10
Peter Hessler’s (China) Peace Corps memoir to be made into a movie

THE WETBACK AND OTHER STORIES by Ron Arias (Peru) due out in September

In the title story of The Wetback and Other Stories by Ron Arias (Peru 1963–65), Mrs. Rentería shouts, “David is mine!” as she and her neighbors gather about the dead but handsome young man found in the dry riverbed next to their homes in a Los Angeles barrio. “Since when is his name David?” someone asks, and soon everyone is arguing about the mysterious corpse’s name, throwing out suggestions: Luis, Roberto, Antonio, Henry, Enrique, Miguel, Roy, Rafael. Many of the pieces in this collection take place in a Los Angeles neighborhood that used to be called Frog Town, now known as Elysian Valley. Ron Arias reveals the lives of his Mexican-American community: there’s Eddie Vera, who goes from school yard enforcer to jail bird and finally commando fighting in Central America; a boy named Tom, who chews his nails so incessantly that it leads to painful jalapeño chili treatments, banishment . . .

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Franklin Rothman (Brazil) publishes BROOKLYN, NY to BOCAIUVA, BRAZIL

  IN JUNE 1969, just three months prior to his Peace Corps project termination conference in Brazil, Frank meets a young Brazilian girl with beautiful blue eyes at a James Bond movie, and twelve days later he asks her to marry him. • Brooklyn, NY to Bocaiúva, Brazil tells the story of the unlikely chain of circumstances which led to Frank meeting Lena. The author traces these circumstances all the way back to his childhood in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn, where he experiences the closeness of his extended Jewish family and the warmth of Puerto Ricans with whom his father came into contact. A homestay with a family in Mexico, in 1964 as part of his undergraduate major in Spanish, heightens his fascination with Latin American culture. Frank tells in a lighthearted manner of his adventures and blunders while hitching rides around Europe in the summer of 1966 . . .

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Andy Martin (Ethiopia) still explaining American English to the world

It is impressive what creative things PCVs do in the classroom to teach and have their students understand — in English — what in the world we Americans are saying. It is more impressive when an RPCV, some fifty years after his tour, is still experimenting with new devices to help foreign students in the US learn our particular (and peculiar) language, this time using the Internet and social media. Meet Andy Martin (Ethiopia 1965–68) who lives in New York City and has come up with two ingenious ways to explain to non-English-speakers our humor and the way we Americans talk among ourselves. As Andy wrote me . . . • When I came home from Ethiopia after three years in the Peace Corps teaching ESL, I had no desire or intent to teach ESL — or anything else. I mostly wanted to play rock and roll and join the revolution. I played at both of these for . . .

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FIVE AGAINST THE SEA by Ron Arias (Peru)

  In 1988 Ron Arias (Peru 1963-65), Senior Writer for People Magazine, interviewed five Costa Rican fishermen as they were rescued by a Japanese fishing boat in the Pacific after five months lost at sea and wrote a cover story for People.  They had drifted closer to Japan than Costa Rica in Central America. This was a weekend fishing event for these friends, which turned into five months of near death on a day by day basis. Their small day boat, the Cairo, was not equipped for five months at sea, no water, and only the basic food for a weekend. But they had each other and believed their families would be waiting; they had to survive! The men collected rain water to drink, caught fish and birds for food. Ron’s cover story became a book about their ordeal, Five Against the Sea and was translated into Spanish as Cinco contra el Mar. Costa . . .

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Lost Letter From Maria Thomas (Ethiopia)

  The Peace Corps Writers’ Maria Thomas Fiction Award is named after the novelist Maria Thomas [Roberta Worrick (Ethiopia 1971–73)] who was the author of a well-reviewed novel, Antonia Saw the Oryx First,  and two collections of short stories — Come to Africa and Save Your Marriage and African Visas — all set in Africa. Roberta and Tom Worrick were married with a young son when they went to Ethiopia as a married couple with the Peace Corps. After their tour, they continued to live and work in Liberia and again to Ethiopia. This time Tom was working for US AID. In addition to her life as a wife, mother, and PCV, Roberta Worrick was a wonderful writer. Her stories appeared in Redbook, Story and The New Yorker. She was a Wallace E. Stegner Fellow and received an Overseas Press Club’s commendation for reportage in Harper’s. She was coming into her own as a literary figure when . . .

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KINGDOMS IN THE AIR by Bob Shacochis (Eastern Caribbean)

  From the Internet: Kingdoms in the Air: Dispatches from the Far Away brings together the very best of Bob Shacochis’s culture and travel essays in one live-wire collection that spans his global adventures and his life passions; from surfing, to his obsession with the South American dorado, to the time he went bushwhacking in Mozambique. In the titular essay “Kingdoms,” the longest work in the collection, Shacochis ventures to Nepal with his friend, the photographer Thomas Laird, who was the first foreigner to live in Nepal’s kingdom of Mustang as the forbidden Shangri-la prepared to open its borders to trekkers and trade. When the two men return a decade after Laird first lived there, Shacochis observes in brilliantly evocative prose both the current cultural and political landscape of the country, and the changes with which his friend has to reconcile. Replete with Shacochis’s signature swagger, humor, and crystalline wisdom, . . .

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B.A. East’s (Malawi) new novel: TWO PUMPS FOR THE BODY MAN

  In Two Pumps for the Body Man by B.A. East (Malawi 1996–98) protagonist Jeff Mutton walks the diplomatic beat protecting American officials in Saudi Arabia. An expert with guns, knives, grenades, and rockets, he’s survived assaults and sieges, stabbings and chokeholds, car bombs, carjackings, criminal hits, and countless other enemy threats. But instinct tells Mutton the menace he now faces dwarfs all these killers combined. Part soft-boiled noir, part literary satire, Two Pumps for the Body Man is an unserious look at a serious situation, a grim reminder that no matter how high the barricade, how sharp the razor wire, there is no front line to the War on Terror. And the enemy is everywhere, even within. • B.A. East grew up in Connecticut, studied writing, journalism, and literature at Central Connecticut State University, and after graduation studied education at the University of New Haven. Ben then joined the Peace Corps and spent two years teaching . . .

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HuffPost publishes essay by Betsy Small Campbell (Sierra Leone)

Huffington Post has published If You Plant Rice, You Get Rice by Betsy Small Campbell (Sierra Leone 1984–87) — an essay about her country of service, the diamond war, and the children of war. She is currently working on a book about her time in the Peace Corps called Before, Before.

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Rob Schmitz (China) writes STREET OF ETERNAL HAPPINESS

ROB SCHMITZ (China 1996-98) first arrived in China in 1996 as a Peace Corps Volunteer in rural Sichuan province. He is now the China correspondent for American Public Media’s “Marketplace,” the largest business news program in the U.S. In 2012, he exposed fabrications in Mike Daisey’s account of Apple’s Chinese supply chain on “This American Life.” The work was a finalist for the 2012 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award. He has won two national Edward R. Murrow Awards and an award from the Education Writers Association for his reporting on China. Schmitz maintains a blog — Chinopoly— and in May, his first book, Street of Eternal Happiness: Big City Dreams Along a Shanghai Road, will be published. • In an interview with Adam Minter, author of Junkyard Planet, on his blog Shanghai Scrap, Rob talks about how the Peace Corps lead him into journalism. Scrap: How does one go from Peace Corps volunteer to China Bureau . . .

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Peter Hessler’s (China) Peace Corps memoir to be made into a movie

Chinese Lu Chuan will direct and produce River Town, the Tristine Skyler adaptation of the memoir River Town: Two Years On The Yangtze, by New Yorker staff writer Peter Hessler. Jamie Gordon and Courtney Potts of Fugitive Films are producing. This Peace Corps memoir by Peter, his first book, will depict a celebrated American writer’s journey to China for the long-awaited Chinese publication of his memoir, triggering memories from 20 years earlier when he taught English literature as a PCV to Chinese college students while on the brink of a nation’s unprecedented change. Lu’s film credits include The Missing Gun, Kekexili: Mountain Patrol, City Of Life And Death and The Last Supper. He last directed  Of The Ghostly Tribe, which grossed $106 million in mainland China within its first weeks of release. He is in postproduction on Born In China for Disney, which will be released this summer in China and April 2017 in the U.S. In addition to being a staff . . .

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