An RPCV writer who has published many, many successful books is writing one now on people who never seem to get sick. He is looking to interview them and he asked me if there is anyone in the community who while overseas discovered ways or herbs or methods that have kept them healthy. If you know of anyone let me know. Thanks.
Archives for Literary Type
In the early years of the Peace Corps, the agency provided each household of Volunteers with a book locker. The books were meant to provide leisure reading for the PCVs, and then to be left behind in schools, villages, and towns where the Volunteers served. There is some mystery as to who had the idea for the book lockers; one rumor has it that it came from first Peace Corps Director Sargent Shriver’s wife, Eunice.
Surely those books were a wonderful resource to any of the PCVs who thought of writing about the incomparable life they were living.
Since 1961 PCVs and Peace Corps Staff have been writing the story of their lives in the developing world, as well as writing about the world beyond the Peace Corps. Among the more than 1000 writers who have served in the Peace Corps have written and published their books. Many of the books have been about the experience, others are travel books, works of fiction, and academic studies.
So, with a nod to the famous Peace Corps Book Locker, our site is offering Peace Corps writers the opportunity to have their books featured on the Book Locker.
In the days ahead we will list books of all types: novels, non-fiction, poetry, photography, essays, self-help, Peace Corps experience, books that have nothing to do with the Peace Corps - both commercial and self-published and available for sale.
If you are interested in joining the Book Locker and featuring your books for sale, let me know. Meanwhile check out the first books that are now up on the site.
Peter Hessler (China 1996-98) author of River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze, and a writer for The New Yorker, will be talking about “Writing in China” on Friday, March 20, at an anthropology conference in Santa Fe. He will be speaking at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center. Peter is scheduled for a session that begins at noon on Friday in the Sweeney Room of the Center. The session is open to the public. When you get to the Convention Center ask directions at the Registration Desk in the Lobby. And try and hang around and say hello to Peter, tell him you’re also an RPCV.
The Last Days of Old Beijing: Life in the Vanishing Backstreets of a City Transformed by Michael Meyer (China 1995–97) is the one of three books cited by Richard Bernstein, a former Time Magazine correspondent in China, in a long essay/review entitled “The Death and Life of a Great Chinese City” in The New York Review of Books, March 26, 2009 issue.
After his Peace Corps tour, Mike Meyer spent three years living in a single room of an old courtyard house, using a public toilet and a public bath and out of this has come his fascinating portrait of life in a narrow backstreet of Beijing that vanished to make way for the Olympics Games.
Bernstein makes the point that Michael is “no sentimentalist or preservationist ideologue. He writes, “It can’t be forgotten that life is a lot better for most people in the new Beijing, but then he quotes Feng Jicai, saying in Meyer’s book, ‘I often say that on the entire earth, there isn’t a nation that could, in the name of the Olympics, destroy its own cities, and its own history.”
Trying to save that history, at least in prose, is RPCV Michael Meyer. Read his book, published by Walker last year, and you’ll see what I mean.
Ron Singer (Nigeria 1964-67) will be part of a poetry reading at the Celebration of Small Press Month and the Release of Poetic Voices Without Borders 2 on Wednesday, March 18, 2009, at 6:30 PM. It is being held at The New York Center for Independent Publishing, 20 West 44th St. (between 5th & 5th Avenues).
Poetic Voices Without Borders 2, is an international anthology featuring more than 150 poets, including Philip Levine, Rita Dove, Joy Harjo, Naomi Shihab Nye and Ron Singer. Since his Peace Corps days, Ron has written poetry, fiction, satire, journalism about Africa , and librettos for two operas. His essay-review on The Caine Prize for African Writing appeared in the Summer 2007 Georgia Review, and a second printing of his chapbook, A Voice for My Grandmother (Ten Penny Players), was issued in Fall 2007. Check Ron out at: www.ronsinger.net.
Nominations are due for our Peace Corps Books of last year. Nominations are now being accepted by Peace Corps Writers for its awards for best books published during 2008 and written by PCVs, RPCVs, and Peace Corps staff. Do you have a favorite to nominate? Or did you write a book that you would like to have considered? Check out the categories:
Please recommend your candidates for the following categories:
- Paul Cowan Non-Fiction Award
- Maria Thomas Fiction Award
- Award for Best Poetry Book
- Award for Best Travel Writing
- Award for Best Children’s Book
- And for the best short piece that best describes the Peace Corps experience, the Moritz Thomsen Peace Corps Experience Award
About 20 years ago Efrem Sigel (Ivory Coast 1964–66) wrote me. He has been publishing short stories over the years, three of which were set in West Africa. He also raised a family, went to work, and kept thinking of writing a book. Well, he did and he his back with The Disappearance [Permanent Press 2/09] that right off the press received three excellent reviews in industry publications: a starred review and an interview in Publishers Weekly, Booklist (a key publication for libraries), and LibraryThing.com, a website for serious bookies. And it got an Indie Next Notable Book award from independent booksellers who belong to the American Booksellers Association.
In the February 9, 2009, People Magazine review, Sue Corbett wrote:
One idyllic summer day Joshua and Nathalie Sandler return from an errand in their Massachusetts hamlet to find their home empty. Their son Daniel, almost 14, has vanished. As anxious hours become hellish days and weeks, Nathalie, a cellist, withdraws while Joshua obsesses over suspects. Mystery turns the pages but it’s Sigel’s insights into the manifestations of grief that elevate this above most kid-gone-missing tales.”
You can catch Efrem reading from his book this month and next. He is going to be interviewed on WSBS (Great Barrington) on Feb. 18 and on WVOX (New Rochelle) on Feb. 25. He is reading and signing books at the Pelham Jewish Center, Feb. 15, at the New Rochelle Public Library on April 19 and at Hevreh of Southern Berkshire, Great Barrington, later in the spring, and at a Berkshire bookstore during the summer. A podcast interview with him will be available in the second half of February at FascinatingAuthors.com. Meanwhile, check out Efrem’s website at EfremSigel.com
One hundred authors, ranging from novelist Tony D’Souza (Cote d’Ivoire 2000-02; Madagascar 2002-03) to Salon.com editor Joy Press, signed the National Book Critics Circle petition to save the Washington Post Book World’s stand-alone section. Nevertheless, as GalleyCat reported, the section closed this week. The Book World section will still exist online. While some see the closure as an opportunity for online reviewers, the NBCC’s post embodies the fear and anxiety that some feel about the state of the traditional book review. Author Amanda Vaill told mediabistro.com GalleyCat:
For too long, newspapers all across the country have made these sections advertising ghettos for publishers and booksellers, and have insisted that the revenues thus generated should be the section’s only means of support. I wouldn’t be the first to wonder why newspapers don’t demand that sports teams and venues support sports sections.
There is an absolutely wonderful essay in the current New Yorker (January 12, 2009) by Peter Hessler (China 1996-98) about a car trip he and another RPCV, Mike Goettig (China 1996-98), took to the Tibetan Plateau in 2002. This road trip took place a few years after they were Volunteers, and at the time Peter was working as a freelance writer in China, Goettig owned a bar in the southwest of the country and the two of them would get together for little adventures.
The piece is entitled “Strange Stones,” which is, Peter writes, “a Chinese term for any rock whose shape looks like something else,” and focuses on one incident on their trip north. The essay, however, is really about being a Peace Corps Volunteer, and about some of the strange, wonderful, and dear people we meet because of that experience. For Peter, it was meeting up and becoming great friends with Mike Goettig, a kid from Worthington, Minnesota, who is one of those guys who has a heart of gold and if something goes wrong, it will certainly go wrong for him. We all knew PCVs just like Mike Goettig during our tours.
The piece also — though not written this way — is one the best Peace Corps recruitment pieces I’ve read (and, believe me, I’ve read a lot!). Peter isn’t selling the Peace Corps, but he does so by just recounting his trip and musing about his time in China, his time away from America, and what that experience meant to him and how it changed his life.
You have to read the article. Buy the magazine or see if you can find The New Yorker on line. Here are two short paragraphs of Peter’s Letter From China.
At some level, I came away with a deep faith in the transformative power of the Peace Corps: everybody I knew had been changed forever by the experience. But these changes were of the sort that generally made people less likely to work for the government. Volunteers tended to be individualists to begin with, and few were ambitious in the traditional sense. Once abroad, they learned to live with a degree of chaos, which made it hard to have faith in the possibility of sweeping change.
Many of my peers in China eventually became teachers. It was partly because we had been educational volunteers, but it also had to do with the skills we developed — the flexibility, the sense of humor, the willingness to handle anything an eighth grader could throw at us.
There is much more in “Strange Stones” about China, the Chinese, Mike Goettig, the Peace Corps, and about Peter. It is about two RPCVs on the road to the Tibetan Plateau, but in some ways, for having been Volunteers, we had already been on that road ourselves.
About Peace Corps Writers
All Peace Corps, all the time — book reviews, author interviews, essays, new books, scoops, resources for readers and writers. In other words — just what we’ve been doing with our newsletter RPCV Writers & Readers from 1989 to 1996, and our website Peace Corps Writers from 1997 to 2008! — John Coyne, editor; and Marian Haley Beil, publisher (both Ethiopia 1962–64)
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