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2014

Long Ago and Far Away

long-ago-150by John Coyne (Ethiopia 1962–64)
A Peace Corps Writers Book
$18.00 (paperback), $9.99 (Kindle)
342 pages
July 2014

Was it an accident, or murder?  Four decades later, the answer still matters.

LONG AGO AND FAR AWAY, John Coyne’s 13th novel, revolves around the mysterious death of a young woman in Ethiopia in 1973. The story spans four decades and three continents, and follows the lives of four people from their early twenties to their late fifties through a series of flashbacks. Set in the diverse locations of Ethiopia, New York, Washington, Spain, and the Mid-West, Long Ago and Far Away tells of  lovers driven apart by the death of their friend, and the blame they cast on each other and themselves for that tragedy. The story dramatizes the couple’s careers, marriages, families, divorces, and changes in fortune through the years with the main plot focusing on the present day, when they circle back to find each other, and set out to confront the man who knows the truth about their friend’s death.

Read more about Long Ago and Far Away

Read Kathleen Coskran’s review of Long Ago and Far Away

Dancing with Gogos: A Peace Corps Memoir

dancing-gogosby Gary P. Cornelius (South Africa 2012–13)
A Peace Corps Writers Book
July 2014
282 pages
$13.00 (paperback)

Dancing with Gogos is the story of one man’s effort to make a difference in a collection of Zulu villages in rural South Africa, while fulfilling a life-long dream of serving in the United States Peace Corps. It’s the story of learning a new language, of immersing oneself in a different culture, of leaving a love 15,000 kilometers behind and discovering the unexpected chance to find a new one half a world away. It’s the story of South Africa’s history of apartheid and the effects of that sorry legacy on tens of millions of black Africans who to this day struggle to leave behind 500 years of oppression. Gary Cornelius and 35 other would-be Volunteers find themselves in a remote village in Mpumalanga Province as “trainees” for nine weeks of grueling learning before they can be sworn in as Volunteers in “CHOP” – Peace Corps South Africa’s Community HIV-AIDS Outreach Program – to assume front-line positions in the battle to reduce spread of the disease in a country with one of the highest rates in the world. It’s an adventure none will ever forget.

Living with the Pinatubo Aetas: A Peace Corps Philippines Journal

living-puntaboby Richard C. Schneider (Philippines (1969–71, 1974–77)
A Peace Corps Writers Book
$9.99 (paperback)
156 pages
July 2014

As a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) assigned to the Philippines, Rich Schneider lived in the remote mountain village of Villar from June 1969 through June 1971, and worked with Pinatubo Aetas, an indigenous people, to increase their rice yield. The Aetas lived in permanent dwellings on a government reservation each assigned about 0.6 hectare (1.5 acres) of land suitable for planting rice. They had given up slash-and-burn agriculture, and on this land started traditional rice farming.

Rich’s assignment was to assist the Aetas increase their rice yield per hectare from 30 to 80 cavans (1 cavan = 50 kilograms) using the improved rice varieties and enhanced cultivation practices developed at the International Rice Research Institute.

Immersed in the Pinatubo Aetas’ culture for two years, Rich had expected to haul water from a spring, sleep in a Nipa hut, read by kerosene lantern, and hike long distances. He learned to eat beetle larvae, sleep under a mosquito net, stay away from insurgent activity, and to speak Tagalog. What he didn’t expect to find was a people who would share what little they had with a tall, well-intentioned Volunteer before taking care of themselves.

Living with the Pinatubo Aetas was compiled from notes, letters to his family, discussions with other PCV’s and tape recordings, and tells Rich’s story of his life during his two years in the Philippines. After reading this journal, the reader will better understand the daily life of a PCV, the customs of Filipinos, and, more specifically, the traditions of the Pinatubo Aetas.

Read more about Living with the Pinatubo Aetas

When the Whistling Stopped

when-whistling(novel)
by David J. Mather (Chile 1968–70)
Peace Corps Writers
274 pages
June 2014
$12.95 (paperback), $6.95 (Kindle)

Tom Young, the central character in Mather’s first novel, One for the Road,  continues to lament the death of his Chilean fiancé whom he met at as Peace Corps Volunteer thirty years earlier, and he decides to returns to southern Chile. There he learns that thousands of black-necked swans have disappeared from the area. It is an environmental disaster. What’s going on!

He meets a young couple, Amanda and Carlos, who suspect a new paper mill is poisoning the waters of the swans’ refuge, and they have set out to prove it. Financially strapped, the amoral mill owner can’t let them succeed in their investigation, and will do anything to stop them, including murder.

At the same time, Tom meets middle-aged Lilia, who is tortured by the memory of being raped when she was twelve years old, and he feels a stirring for her that he hasn’t felt since his fiancée’s tragic death. She too is attracted to him, and together they are soon caught up in the mill owner’s violent attempts to silence Amanda and Carlos, with disastrous results.

The tragic, surprising, and, finally, hopeful twists and turns of this fast-paced, environmental drama make it difficult to put down.

Read our interview with David Mather

Africa’s Release: The Journey Continues

africas-release(novel)
by Mark Wentling (PCV Honduras 1967–69, 1970–73; PC Staff Togo, Gabon & Niger 1973–77)
A Peace Corps Writers Book
May 2014
232 pages
$9.76 (paperback); $4.99 (Kindle)

The residents of Gemini, Kansas, had grown used to the odd man who went by the name of JB and roamed their community in a befuddled state, but when he abruptly disappeared, the townspeople found themselves facing uncomfortable questions. Perhaps JB’s elderly brother and sister, who were recluses, knew what had happened to him, but they spoke to no one, and seemed intent on taking JB’s secret, if indeed they knew his secret, to the grave with them.

Little did the townsfolk know that JB’s ramblings had all been for a purpose: to transport him back to the African village he left many years before, and he has returned to the old baobab tree that years ago had swallowed him up— an event that elevated him to the level of demigod in the eyes of the remaining African villagers.

Journey to another time and place in Mark Wentling’s magical new novel, Africa’s Release – the second in his African trilogy — as JB’s life and the dark discoveries in his ramshackle home are made public.

Read Leita Kaldi’s review of Africa’s Release

Posted in Paraguay

posted-paraguayby Eloise Hanner (Afghanistan 1971-73, Paraguay 1999–2000)
A Peace Corps Writers Book
$14.95 (paperback), $4.99 (Kindle)
262 pages
April 2014

In their late forties, Eloise and Chuck Hanner decided they wanted to do something new and challenging for the second half of their lives. To the amazement of their friends and family, they walked away from their stock-brokerage careers and joined the Peace Corps — again. Twenty-five years before, they had gone to Afghanistan as volunteers and had loved it. They had thought it would be fun to do it again when they were older. But, Eloise and Chuck discover that it’s one thing to join the Peace Corps as carefree college graduates and quite another to go as middle-aged business professions, obligated to family and accustomed to stateside amenities. Hanner’s humorous and insightful tale will take you on a tropical journey to the middle of South America–to a small village called General Artigas, where life delivers unexpected adventures, adversities and friendships.

Read Leita Kaldi’s review of Posted in Paraguay
Read more about Posted in Paraguay

Cannons for the Cause: A Novel of the American Revolution

cannons-cause1by Martin R. Ganzglass (Somalia 1966–68)
A Peace Corps Writers Book
$12.99 (paperback)
338 pages
March 2014

CANNONS FOR THE CAUSE IS A NOVEL about the early days of the American Revolution. It is a gripping story of friendships formed, families divided, first loves, and of loyalty, courage and patriotism.

In the brutal winter of 1775–1776, sixteen-year-old Will Stoner is one of many teamsters hauling heavy cannons more than 300 miles from Ft. Ticonderoga in upstate New York to Cambridge, Massachusetts. The train of wagons and sleds struggles across the partially frozen Hudson River and through a blizzard in the steep Berkshire mountains, to bring the desperately needed artillery to General Washington, preparing to attack the British in Boston.

Cannons for the Cause places Will in the midst of actual — but little known — historical events including a race riot in Cambridge between the Marblehead Mariners, the first integrated unit of the Continental Army, and a militia of backwoods riflemen; and the stealthy night time occupation of Dorchester Heights.

With a solid sense of time and place, the tension mounts as the Continental troops on the Heights await a British assault, while the citizens of British occupied Boston continue to suffer terribly from hunger, cold, small pox, and the cruelty and greed of Loyalist militias.

Read Thomas Coyne’s review of Cannons for the Cause

The Early Years of Peace Corps in Afghanistan: A Promising Time

early-years-pc-afgby Frances Hopkins Irwin (Afghanistan 1964–67) and Will A. Irwin (Afghanistan 1966–67)
A Peace Corps Writers Book
$17.00 (paperback); $6.00 (Kindle)
312 pages
February 2014

A conversation with first Peace Corps/Afghanistan Director Robert L. Steiner, who brought a knowledge of Persian language and culture from growing up in Iran to setting up the program, frames the story of The Early Years of Peace Corps in Afghanistan: A Promising Time. A Foreword by former Deputy Minister of Education Saif Samady, who in an earlier role at the Ministry cooperated with Steiner on programming, notes his very special experience of working with Volunteers. Contributions from a dozen Volunteers and other staff, and records from government and personal archives expand the story. In addition, an 80-page section includes pieces written by Volunteers during this period for newsletters, and training materials that are now difficult to find.

Paradise in Front of Me: Realizing Life’s Beauty in An Unexpected Place

paradise-front-meby Kevin G. Finch (Honduras 2004–06)
A Peace Corps Writers Book
$12.95 (paperback), $4.95 (Kindle)
260 pages
January 2014

IN A COLLECTION OF inspirational, heartbreaking, and comical short stories, author Kevin Finch takes readers on a journey through life in a small town in the mountains of southeast Honduras, one of the world’s most impoverished countries. Although its name means “paradise,” the town is a place of extreme poverty where people struggle daily against incredible hardships. In 2004, newlyweds Kevin and Cristina Finch embark upon a two-year adventure as Peace Corps Volunteers in El Paraíso. Assigned to counter the growing AIDS epidemic gripping the country,Kevin and Cristina arrive full of hope and optimism. The harsh realities of life in El Paraíso quickly mount, and the couple finds themselves frustrated, discouraged, and angry. Just as they are ready to give up, strange changes begin to transpire. Through a variety of remarkable characters, humorous events, and life-changing experiences, Paradise in Front of Me describes a surprising journey that captures life’s beauty in extraordinary ways. It is the story of how lives can be transformed when individuals change the way they view their world. Perhaps paradise does exist where one least expects.

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