Peace Corps Writers

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REVIEW — Renewable by Eileen Flanagan (Botswana 1984-86)
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Paul Theroux (Malawi 1963-65) Learning About Africa
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New books by Peace Corps writers — October 2015
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Maureen Orth (Colombia 1964-66) Writes About the Virgin Mary in National Geographic Magazine
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A Writer Writes:The Lesson of the Machi by David C. Edmonds
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Our RPCV Trappistine Martha Driscoll (Ethiopia 1965-67)
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Review: Breathing the Same Air by Gerry Christmas (Thailand 1973–76; Western Samoa 1976–78)
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HOBGOBLIN IS REPUBLISHED (Just When You Thought You Were Safe After Halloween)
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More About Paul Theroux (Malawi 1963-65)
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Bob Shacochis (Eastern Caribbean 1975-76) "The Mending Fields"

REVIEW — Renewable by Eileen Flanagan (Botswana 1984-86)

Renewable: One Woman’s Search for Simplicity, Faithfulness, and Hope Eileen Flanagan (Botswana 1984-86) She Writes Press March 2015 186 pages $16.95 (paperback), $9.95 (Kindle) Reviewed by Julie R. Dargis (Morocco 1984-87) • When Eileen Flanagan arrived in Botswana in 1984, “the same year that Apple introduced the Macintosh and Daryl Hannah starred in Splash with Tom Hanks,” global warming had yet to hit the global scene. Yet, that same year, as I arrived to my Peace Corps site in the south of Morocco, the population had been experiencing a severe drought. So much so, when the rains finally came with abandon, my students rejoiced for days. Twenty-five years later, as a result of global warming, Flanagan would be reporting similar news from her village in Botswana. Flanagan had entered the village of Bobonong atop a dusty road, rattling past round huts of mud and dung in a rusted-out Ford pickup . . .

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Paul Theroux (Malawi 1963-65) Learning About Africa

Former Associate Director of the Peace Corps, as well as a college president and Senator from Pennsylvania, Harris Wofford, tells how Paul Theroux (Malawi 1963-65) once told him how he  (Paul) read The Heart of Darkness and declared, “I want to go there!” Well, in Sunday, November 15, 2015 New York Times Book Review, Theroux in an interview responding to the question: If you had to name one book that made you who you are today, what would it be? has this reply: “Bring ’em Back Alive, by Frank Buck which I read when I was perhaps 10, made me want to leave home, go to Africa, and take risks in the bush. It’s a children’s book, not well written and probably full of whoppers, but it got my pulse racing. My life as a writer, as a man, began when I left home and spent the next six years . . .

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New books by Peace Corps writers — October 2015

To purchase any of these books from Amazon.com, click on the book cover, the bold book title, or the publishing format you would like — and Peace Corps Worldwide, an Amazon Associate, will receive a small remittance that will help support the site and the annual Peace Corps Writers awards. • Sierra Leone: Inside the War (History and Narratives) by James Higbie (Sierra Leone 1969–73) and Bernard S. Moigula Underdown October 2014 454 pages $9.99 (Kindle) • Mata Naveena (novel) by Will Michelet [Richard Michelet Grimsrud, Jr.] (India 1965–67) Peace Corps Writers September 2015 310 pages $12.00 (paperback) •

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Maureen Orth (Colombia 1964-66) Writes About the Virgin Mary in National Geographic Magazine

In its December 2015 issue National Geographic carries a cover story by Maureen Orth (Colombia 1964-66) that calls the Virgin Mary, “the most powerful woman in the world”. Award-winning journalist Orth, also a special correspondent for Vanity Fair, has been wandering the world and telling unexpected stories since her days as a PCV. In this article, she has taken a journey through some of the most famous Marian apparitions (including the alleged apparitions of Medjugorje) while mixing the stories of those who benefit from such intercession of the Virgin Mary as well as the process followed by the Church to recognize the supernatural occurrences or not. At one point in the article, Orth also includes a brief reference to the role of Mary in Islam because, although it is little known in the Muslim world, there is also a reverence for whom they also considered the holiest woman: Mary. You can read the whole story here: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2015/12/virgin-mary-text

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A Writer Writes:The Lesson of the Machi by David C. Edmonds

A Writer Writes The Lesson of the Machi By David C. Edmonds (Chile (1963-65) Mapuche village near Chol Chol, Arauca, Chile September 1964 Friday-The drums wake me again. Now what? Another funeral for some poor child? A wedding? No, the village Machi, who performs all healing and religious rituals, is going to offer another lesson for the young girls. I don’t know the details because things that happen here don’t always make sense. So when I see the Machi’s seventeen-year-old daughter, Ñashay, passing by my little dirt-floor ruca with a pale of milk, I ask her what is going on. “It is called the Lesson of Two Loves,” she tells me in her broken way of speaking Spanish, standing there on the mud walkway in her head dress and shawl, all four feet, ten inches of her. “What is the Lesson of Two Loves?” “Yes, the Lesson of Two Loves. . . .

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Our RPCV Trappistine Martha Driscoll (Ethiopia 1965-67)

Mother Martha Driscoll, O.C.S. O., (Ethiopia 1965-67) graduated from Georgetown University School of Foreign Service (at that time, women were not allowed in the undergraduate A&S College) and joined the Peace Corps. After Training at the University of Utah, she went to Ethiopia  as a secondary school teacher in Addis Ababa, where, as a wonderful singer and actress, she also “starred” in several play productions staged by British Ex-pats in the city. After her tour, she returned to New York City and Staten Island where she had grown up, and worked for awhile in New York before going to Boston and earning an MFA in Theater from Brandeis University. It was during this period, she told me, that she began to question what she wanted to do with her life, and on a trip to Europe she visited and then entered a monastery in Italy where she took her religious . . .

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Review: Breathing the Same Air by Gerry Christmas (Thailand 1973–76; Western Samoa 1976–78)

Breathing the Same Air: A Peace Corps Romance Girard R. Christmas (Thailand 1973–76; Western Samoa 1976–78) Lulu April 2015 366 pages $22.99 (paperback), $8.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Tino Calabia (Peru1963–65) • “I never looked at the Peace Corps as a two- or three-year excursion into the Valley of Riotous Romance,” writes Gerry Christmas, a Volunteer in the late 1970s.  And from Christmas’ epistolary memoir Breathing the Same Air: A Peace Corps Romance, his three-year tour in Thailand followed by two years in Samoa proved neither riotous nor a steamy, bodice-ripping romance. In 330 pages, 68 letters (49 to his mother and father) trace the on-again, off-again travails of Volunteer Christmas’s love sparked by a woman named Aied in Thailand. Later, 6,200 miles away in Samoa, his heart still pines for her. Through it all, his mounting success teaching English would match his success as a writer, one especially adept in . . .

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HOBGOBLIN IS REPUBLISHED (Just When You Thought You Were Safe After Halloween)

Hobgoblin (reissued) John Coyne Dover Publications September 2015 330 pages $11.99 (Kindle) $14.95 (paperback) coming in November To purchase Hobgoblin from Amazon.com, click on the book cover, the bold book title or the publishing format you would like — and Peace Corps Worldwide, an Amazon Associate, will receive a small remittance that will help support this site and its annual writers awards.

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More About Paul Theroux (Malawi 1963-65)

(This is a short essay I wrote years ago about Theroux and his ‘Peace Corps Experience’  and I am reposting it now to continue the discussion of his latest book.) Living on the Edge: Paul Theroux • He went — in the way the Peace Corps rolls the dice of our lives – to Africa as a teacher. “My schoolroom is on the Great Rift, and in this schoolroom there is a line of children, heads shaved liked prisoners, muscles showing through their rags,” he wrote home in 1964. “These children appear in the morning out of the slowly drifting hoops of fog-wisp. It is chilly, almost cold. There is no visibility at six in the morning; only a fierce white-out where earth is the patch of dirt under their bare feet, a platform, and the sky is everything else.” How many of us stood in front of similar classrooms . . .

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Bob Shacochis (Eastern Caribbean 1975-76) "The Mending Fields"

This is one of my favorite short pieces written by an RPCV….a wonderful writer, Bob Shacochis (Eastern Caribbean 1975-76)!  He wrote this piece years ago for an NPR “All Things Considered” segment I managed to arrange to recognize the 25th anniversary of the Peace Corps. • I was assigned to the Island of Saint Kit in the West Indies. Once on an inter-island plane I sat across the aisle from one of my new colleagues, an unfriendly, over-serious young woman. She was twenty-four, twenty-five . . . we were all twenty-four, twenty-five. I didn’t know her much or like her. As the plane banked over the island, she pressed against the window, staring down at the landscape. I couldn’t see much of her face, just enough really to recognize an expression of pain. Below us spread an endless manicured lawn, bright green and lush of sugarcane, the island’s main source of income. . . .

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