Wanderlust Satisfied

wanderlust-satisfiedby Kay Gillies Dixon (Colombia 1962–64)
A Peace Corps Writers Book
$12.00 (paperback), $3.99 (Kindle)
176 pages
December 2013

KAY HAD ALREADY LEFT her family and friends speechless when she departed for Peace Corps training. Explaining further that her first full-time job is in a red light district in Colombia, South America, was impossible.  Nonetheless, Kay is determined to follow her dreams, to risk and explore this big world full of mystery.

Reared in a small town in western Pennsylvania, Kay’s story begins there in the 1950s during simpler times. A long distance telephone call was a big deal! Television sets displayed only three channels. It was the social revolution of the 1960’s that enabled Kay to exit this environment to explore places she had only read or heard about.

Her story takes us from her early years through her Peace Corps experience during its formative years with yet another twist. When she marries Kevin, who shares her wanderlust, together, they move their family to Saudi Arabia and live there for five years.

In addition to her Peace Corps experience, Kay Gillies Dixon holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Juniata College, an Associate in Science degree in computer information systems from Cape Cod Community College and a Master of Science in Training and Development from Lesley University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. She and Kevin currently resides in Spokane, Washington.

Letters from Ghana 1968–1970

letters-ghana-120A Peace Corps Chronicle
by Jon Thiem (Ghana 1968–1970)
A Peace Corps Writers Book
$12.99 (paperback), $10.99 (Kindle)
268 pages
November 2013

THESE LETTERS OF THE LATE ’60s offer raw, immediate impressions of the daily routines, hard living, and cross-cultural labyrinths experienced by teachers in equatorial Ghana. Composed during the author’s Peace Corps service, they bear the living marks of their own genesis. These are not memoirs informed by hindsight, but naive testimonies, fresh and ignorant of the future, filled with astonishment.

Thiem’s SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) background gives this collection, unlike many others, a lot of political content, which takes in U.S. Vietnam policy, government changes in Ghana, school politics, village power struggles, and controversies about Peace Corps’ mission. The correspondence also tracks the efforts of Thiem and his colleague “Ohene” Owoahene to collect and translate Akan poetry, an endangered oral tradition.

The letters by writers other than Thiem make this a truly polyphonic — sometimes cacophonic — collection. There are texts by other Peace Corps Volunteers and correspondents from the U.S. The eloquent voices of Ghanaian nationals — teachers, students, politicians, and villagers — are “heard” in the letters and transcribed audio tapes.

Among other distinctive features of Letters from Ghana 1968–1970 are an incisive introduction and individual commentaries that situate the letters in their historical, geographical, and personal contexts. The book includes a map, glossary, timeline, and 29 photos.

Read the PCW announcement of Letters from Ghana 1968–1970
See the website for Letters from Ghana 1968–1970

Big Charlene’s Weight-Loss Supper Club and Taxi Dancing

big-charlene(A Twisting Creek Mystery)
by R J Huddy (Morocco 1981–83)
A Peace Corps Writers Book
$12.95 (paperback), $2.99 (Kindle)
256 pages
November 2014

HOW DID I WIND UP in a Kentucky jail cell? I can’t put all the blame on Angela Van Landingham. She had her own brand of wickedness — I’m not talking here about her frilly pink handcuffs and tantric love collars — but she’s not the one who made me fat. I did that to myself. And how did being fat land me in jail? Because I didn’t go to Mexico, as I’d planned. That’s where I was headed when I fled from New York, only I made a little detour. If I’d stayed on course and made it to the border, everything would be different now. But I was fat, and I didn’t go to Mexico. And now look where I am.

Okay, so I robbed her restaurant. She deserved that. But I didn’t kill her.

Read Richard Lipez’s review of Big Charlene’s . . .

Little Women of Baghlan

little-women-baglan-120The Story Of A Nursing School For Girls In Afghanistan, The Peace Corps, And Life Before The Taliban
by Susan Fox
A Peace Corps Writers Book
$16.00 (paperback), $4.00 (Kindle)
358 pages
October 2013

Little Women of Baghlan is the true account of an ordinary young woman who answers the call to service and adventure during an extraordinary time in world history. Her story rivals the excitement, intrigue, and suspense of any novel, unfolding against the backdrop of changing social mores, the Cold War, the Peace Corps, and a country at the crossroads of China, Russia, India, Pakistan, and Iran.

Jo Carter lands in Kabul, Afghanistan on March 21, 1968, with instructions to start a nursing school for Afghan girls. She keeps a daily journal, and over the next two years, she fills every page. Nearly a half century later, her words are a window to the past — when Afghanistan was on the cusp of becoming a modern nation. That country is gone, buried under layers of recent events, and there is little evidence to indicate such a time or place ever existed.

“. . . the story of a love affair on a number of levels . . . certainly not least, a love affair with Afghanistan itself. Yet Little Women of Baghlan is not written with any particular agenda, geopolitical or religious; it is rather, quite simply, the story of how a group of ordinary Americans interact with the citizens in a village called Baghlan. Fox accomplishes this with attention to detail, sensitivity, and with extraordinary grace.”

—Dr. Michael Spath, Professor of Comparative Religion and Middle East Studies, Indiana University-Purdue University

Read more about Little Women of Baghlan

How To Write A Novel in 100 Days

how-write-120With tips about agents, editors, publishers and self-publishing
by John Coyne (Ethiopia 1962–64)
A Peace Corps Writers Book
$15.00 (paperback), $4.00 (Kindle)
238 pages
September 2013

HOW TO WRITE A NOVEL IN 100 DAYS is a practical, inspirational and dependable guidebook that will skillfully coach the first-time novelist from idea to publishable manuscript. Bestselling author and veteran writing teacher John Coyne guides the beginning or experienced novelist with a proven daily formula that he has used to write and publish a dozen widely read novels. Packed with advice, tips, encouragement, tasks, wisdom, questions and inspiration from Day 1 to Day 100, Coyne’s easy-to-follow manual will steer writers of all abilities to a finished, full-length, publishable manuscript in as little as four months.

Africa’s Embrace

africas-embrace-120by Mark Wentling (Honduras 1967–69, Togo, 1970–73;
PC Staff, Togo, Gabon and Niger, 1973–77)
A Peace Corps Writers Book
$16.78 (paperback), $14.34 (Kindle)
348 pages
September 2013

Africa’s Embrace is author Mark Wentling’s fictional account about a young man named David, who abruptly leaves his home in Kansas in order to follow his destiny in Africa. Upon arrival, he is renamed “Bobovovi.”

Bobovovi does his best to make his goodwill prevail, but his humanitarian work is fraught with unforeseen, unusual challenges. He moves from one surprising adventure to another, telling an African story unlike any the reader has ever heard before. Africa changes him in unimaginable ways, and those changes are inculcated into the reader in order to teach a wide variety of lessons, helping the reader in better understand Africa and Africans

Although Africa’s Embrace is literary fiction, it is, in actuality, a thinly-veiled autobiographical account of the author’s three years of working in an African village back in the 1970s that combines magical realism with a colorful description of the practical challenges of living and working in Africa.

Africa’s Embrace is a must read for anyone interested in Africa, as well as the cross-cultural experience and practical challenges of living on the continent. Those who are trying to help people anywhere — through work with an NGO, in the private sector, volunteer or other manner — will find this book to be an eye-opener. Africa’s Embrace is also aimed at all former, actual, and soon-to-be Peace Corps Volunteers and Foreign Service employees. It also may be helpful to those working for non-governmental and international development assistance organizations around Africa. Additionally, the book will be of great use to university African studies departments, as well as English-speaking Africans.

Wentling has worked and visited all fifty-four African countries, and Africa’s Embrace is the culmination of four decades of thinking about the continent.

Read more about Africa’s Embrace
Read John Coyne’s interview with Mark Wentling
Read Jack Allison’s review of Africa’s Embrace

The Ravenala

ravenala-100A romantic novel
by Jackie Zollo Brooks (Madagascar 1997–99)
A Peace Corps Writers Book
$16.00 (paperback), $13.33 (Kindle)
296 pages

September 2013

The Ravenala of the title is the so-called “travelers’ tree” found only in Madagascar. A traveler cutting into the palm’s branches can receive a refreshing drink of cool water; one who is lost can follow the ravenala’s alignment, always on an east/west axis. This travelers’ tree serves as the main metaphor for the novel, suggesting that travel refreshes us and may very likely point us in a different direction!  In this exotic land, Vivian, an older American, who teaches English in the coastal town of Fort Dauphin, finds a vibrant new sensibility in everything she sees, smells, hears, and tastes. Her family back in America write letters, pleading with her to return home to her life in New England.

When Con, a British economist, falls in love with her, Vivian must decide between the claims made by his love and her family’s in contrast to those of living a solitary life where she is free to be herself.

Jackie Zollo Brooks served in the Peace Corps as an English Teaching Supervisor in Madagascar from 1997 - 1999. She receive a B.A. in Drama from Tufts University, a Master’s degree from Antioch University, and a doctorate from the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University where she was a Teaching Fellow in the Graduate Writing Program. Today she lives and writes overlooking the harbor in Gloucester, MA

Read more about The Ravenala

Calling New Delhi for Free (and other ephemeral truths of the 21st century)

calling-new-delhi1by Susan Kramer O’Neill (Venezuela 1973–74)
A Peace Corps Writers Book
$10.00 (paperback)
140 pages
July 2013

Read more about Calling New Delhi for Free
Read Mary-Ann Tirone Smith’s review of Calling New Delhi for Free
Read John Coyne’s interview with Susan O’Neill

Glimpses through the Forest: Memories of Gabon

glimpses-forestby Jason Gray (Gabon 2002–04)
A Peace Corps Writers Book
$14.95 (paperback)
288 pages
May 2013

SITUATED IN CENTRAL AFRICA, the nation of Gabon is a vibrant and mysterious place full of rich history, diverse culture, and stunning biodiversity. In the midst of the African rainforest, a Peace Corps volunteer from Montana is thrust into a new life of adventure and discovery. From close encounters with forest elephants to classroom teaching challenges, this vivid retelling of one man’s experiences takes readers on an extraordinary journey through daily life, cultural events, and ongoing conservation efforts, and shares his love affair with a country that will forever own a piece of his heart. This new book by Jason Gray leaves us with a powerful impression of having shared in his experiences. Gray’s underlying reverence for Gabon and its people comes out strongly in this recounting of his three years of work there with the Peace Corps and World Wildlife Fund International, and shows the importance of understanding other cultures while enhancing individual awareness of the global community. Glimpses through the Forest: Memories of Gabon is an engaging read for eco and cultural travel enthusiasts, conservationists, nature lovers, and other adventure seekers.

Read more about Glimpses through the Forest and Jason Gray
Read John Coyne’s interview with Jason
Read Susi Wyss’ review of Glimpses through the Forest

Peace Corps in Panama: Fifty Years, Many Voices

pc-panamaedited by Meredith W. Cornett (Panama 1991–93)
A Peace Corps Writers Book
$10.00 (paperback), $3.99 (Kindle)
196 pages
April 2013

A GROUP OF UNARMED VILLAGERS  defends the life of an American woman when she is threatened by an angry mob. Hogs get seasick as they travel by dugout canoe in coastal waters. A young priest awakens in the night to find his thatched hut on fire. You can’t make this stuff up! Peace Corps in Panama: Fifty Years, Many Voices brings together the collective wisdom, humor, and heartbreak of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers across five decades of service. More than 30 authors and poets reflect on their overseas experiences and how it changed their lives.

Read Barbara Joe’s review of Peace Corps in Panama
Read John Coyne’s interview with Meredith Cornett

Connecting Two Worlds: An Environmental Journey From Peace Corps To Present

connecting-2-worldsby Anthony Simeone (Upper Volta 1971–73)
A Peace Corps Writers Book
$19.95 (paperback)
146 pages
March 2013

HE ASKED TO CLOSE THE DOOR of my mud-brick house so that he could speak to me in private. He was clearly nervous about what he wanted to discuss. He cautiously proceeded to ask his troubling question. “Was it possible for his friend to dig a well so deep that he would fall through the other side of the earth?”

As a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Sahel of West Africa, many similar questions and images remain vividly alive to me. Forty years later, as I piece together my experiences I compare the people and the environment then with our world now, and I no longer believe such questions are naïve and amusing. Today, as we begin to experience greater uncertainty in ecosystem health and sustainability, as we begin to experience the demands on everything from oil to water, I have begun to see the convergence of two worlds that had once seemed so very far apart. Global resource depletion continues to worsen as growing consumption from rapid population expansion disrupts nature’s natural balance. The stories in Connecting Two Worlds from my life in sub-Saharan Africa are used to show that what was strange and different to me so many years ago is not so obvious today. Similar to the life and death experienced daily in the Sahel, it is now time for the planet to awaken to the daily impact of our unrelenting assault on global sustainability.

Read Mike Tidwell’s review of Connecting Two Worlds

Africa On My Mind: Educating Americans for Fifty Years, Living Peace Corps’ Third Goal

africa-on-my-mindby Angene Wilson (Liberia 1962–64)
A Peace Corps Writers Book
$10.00 (paperback)
210 pages
February 2013

PEACE CORPS EXPERIENCE AS A TEACHER in Liberia from 1962 to 1964, hooked Angene Wilson on Africa. Her engaging new book is an anthology/memoir that includes different kinds of writing about Africa over a fifty-year span. Africa on My Mind focuses on both what Angene Wilson learned from teaching in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Ghana, taking teachers to Nigeria and traveling to other parts of Africa such as Malawi and South Africa, and how she used what she learned to teach Americans about Africa.

Read Julie Dargis’ review of Africa on My Mind

Hard As Kerosene

hard-as-kerosine2by Aaron Barlow (Togo 1988–90)
A Peace Corps Writers Book
$9.95 (paperback), $1.99 (Kindle)
268 Pages
January 2013

WHOSE WAR IS IT when they are shooting at you?

Burkina Faso and Mali in the 1980s, two countries in an uneasy relationship marked by spasms of violence, are the backdrop for this tale of descent and, possibly, redemption. An American follows his Peace Corps girlfriend to West Africa but finds something wildly different from what he had expected, ending up staying for four years amid the chaos of a changing continent.

Starting in the coastal nation of Togo before moving up into the Sahel and into the towns at the edge of the Sahara itself, this tale takes Paul Cassamude through loss and learning to the point of leaving, showing the dangers of expatriate life in third-world countries as well as possibilities found there for personal growth.

Read Brendan Held’s review of Hard as Kerosene
Read John Coynes interview with Aaron Barlow