An interview with Will Lutwick (Fiji 1968–70) about his book Dodging Machetes: How I Survived Forbidden Love, Bad Behavior, and the Peace Corps in Fiji that was published in May of this year by Peace Corps Writers.


Will, where did you go to college?

I got my BA from Duke in ‘67, then an MBA from the University Michigan in 1968.

What was your job in the Peace Corps, Will?

lutwick-pcv1For the first six months credit union co-op, wholesale food co-op. Last 14 months: working for the Fiji government doing marketing: pushing passion fruit and handicrafts (tapa cloth, cannibal forks, war clubs et. al.) to the American market, and internal marketing of oranges from the most remote island  (Rotuma) to the largest, most populous island (Viti Levu). My language training was in Hindi as 51% of the population then was Indian (mostly descendants of indentured servants who opted to stay in Fiji) although the majority of Fiji PCVs learned the native Fijian language.

Where was your Peace Corps site?

dodging-machetesMy co-op site was in Lautoka, the second largest city in Fiji. Then I moved to the capital, Suva, which had a population of 70,000, where it rained about 130 inches per year. The Australian and New Zealand cruise ships would stop there for a few hours so their passengers could stock up on duty-free electronics. A somewhat Westernized life style there. All my PCV friends from the bush would come in on the weekends to party and crash at my flat. It was in Suva that I had a liaison with an Indian secretary from my office that forms the central plot of Dodging Machetes: How I Survived Forbidden Love, Bad Behavior, and the Peace Corps in Fiji.

What are you doing now, have done since the Peace Corps?

After leaving the Peace Corps in 1970 I moved to San Francisco and have been there most of the years since, except for five years, 1982-87, in Boston. Had a career in marketing, financial administration, and business systems design mostly in the public sector (non-profits, City of Oakland). Currently writing and working with my wife on her leadership training and executive coaching business.

How would you describe your Peace Corps book?

Well, the best way might be to just quote the jacket copy for Dodging Machetes. It goes like this:

Will Lutwick, a quirky misfit, gets an MBA at 22, but soon realizes he and the American corporate world are a horrid mismatch. He joins the will-lutwick-1102111Peace Corps and is sent to the Fiji Islands, the quintessential tropical paradise. Will finds himself attracted to prohibited pulchritude when Rani Gupta, a beautiful, rebellious 20-year-old from a traditional Hindu family, begins working in his office. Dating is taboo in Fiji’s large Indian community, and an interracial couple would be unprecedented. But Rani and Will soon discover their mutual attraction impossible to resist. Their liaison is clandestine, but word gets out, and a cultural firestorm engulfs Rani’s community. The two lovers are under constant threat of attack, and violence ensues. Will must confront his personal demons about courage and commitment, while Rani is treated like a pariah by her people. Will the besieged lovers stay together, or will a hostile world tear them apart?

In between the dramatic scenes, this seriocomic memoir is savvy and often hilarious. Lutwick deliciously skewers his own behavior and satirizes the people, practices, and protocols he encounters in Fiji and in back-story about his youth.

In between the dramatic scenes, this seriocomic memoir is savvy and often hilarious. Lutwick deliciously skewers his own behavior and satirizes the people, practices, and protocols he encounters in Fiji and in back-story about his youth.

Will Lutwick has woven his provocative insight with the dramatic events of a singular, but timeless, forbidden-love story. The result is “Dodging Machetes”–a story-driven page-turner from an exceptional writer.

Thanks, Will, the book is getting great reviews and it isn’t like other Peace Corps tales, that’s for sure! You might start a trend in Peace Corps literature.