Archive - June 2010

1
Writers From the Peace Corps: The Lost Generation, Part Nine
2
Writers From the Peace Corps: The Lost Generation, Part Eight
3
Why Did You Join the Peace Corps?
4
Where Did The Three Goal of the Peace Corps Come From?
5
Review of Larry Lihosit's South of the Frontera
6
An RPCV Sit-In at the Peace Corps
7
What Did Kennedy Say Anyway at U of M?
8
Brazaitis Reviews The Alchemist's Kitchen by Susan Rich
9
Conlon reviews The Gardener by S.A. Bodeen
10
Whatever Happened to Mr. Steve?

Writers From the Peace Corps: The Lost Generation, Part Nine

As Others See Us On September 9, 2001, on the 40th anniversary of the agency, The Washington Post reported that the Peace Corps community is “churning out enough works – thousands of memoirs, novels, and books of poetry – to warrant a whole new genre: Peace Corps Literature.” Also in 2001, Book Magazine wrote in the March/April issue about the literary movement of Peace Corps writers, quoting Paul Theroux, Bob Shacochis and Kent Haruf. Then there is the review that appeared in the November 2001 issue of Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy about the collection of Peace Corps stories that were published in Living On The Edge. The reviewer was Patrick Shannon of Penn State University and he wrote. “None of the contributors are protagonists in their chapters, but each chapter is based on some event that the writer witnessed, experienced, or heard about. By telling the stories, the . . .

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Writers From the Peace Corps: The Lost Generation, Part Eight

Poetry in the Peace Corps The intense cross cultural experience of the Peace Corps has produced in many PCVs a deep well of sentiment that has found its way, perhaps too easily, into poetry. Fortunately, this intense experience has also been a rich source of material for many fine published poets including Charlie Smith, Mark Brazaitis, Susan Rich,  Philip Dacey, Sandra Meek, Ann Neelon, Paul Violi, Keith Carthwright, Florence Chard Dacey,Lisa Chavez, Chris Conlon, John Flynn, Margaret Szumowski, Virginia Gilbert, Tony Zurlo, and many others. Poets, I believe, have been best able to explain the values of the Peace Corps experience as it relates to writing. Margaret Szumowski, who served in Uganda and Ethiopia, puts it this way: “I think the poet gains a great deal. She absorbs the sounds of other languages, takes in imagery never seen before, observes the way families operate compared to her own experience, sees the struggle other . . .

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Why Did You Join the Peace Corps?

“Why did you join the Peace Corps?” People are still asking that question as we approach the half century of the agency. Back in May of 1966, Joseph Colman, who was then the Acting Associate Director of the Peace Corps for Planning, Evaluation, and Research, published a paper in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences and recently Marian Beil asked if I knew about this paper. I tracked down a copy of Colman’s paper that reports on several studies of motivation for joining the agency. One was a 1962 study of 2,612 applications’ replies to a motivational question on the application form; another a 1963 interview study of why people who apply later decline a specific invitation to enter training; and the third was a 1964 interview study of college seniors and their interest in the Peace Corps. Colman’s paper concludes [not surprisingly] that Volunteers . . .

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Where Did The Three Goal of the Peace Corps Come From?

Quiz any RPCV or PCV and they’ll tell you the three goals of the Peace Corps. While the wording varies from one publication to the next, these are the goals: (1) Contribute to the development of critical countries and regions; (2) Promote international cooperation and goodwill toward the country; (3) Contribute to the education of America and to more intelligent American participation in the world.  Now, those are the stated goals, and I know that they have been tweaked with by staff and PCVs over the last 49 + years. For example, “living at the level of the HCNs” is often stated as Goal # 2. But the question is, who came up with these goals and why only three? Or why not just one? Well, at the famous Mayflower Hotel when the task force began to draft the proposal to give JFK that would define what “Peace Corps” was, a . . .

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Review of Larry Lihosit's South of the Frontera

Peter Chilson’s recent fiction collection, Disturbance-Loving Species, won the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference Bakeless Prize in Short Fiction and Peace Corps Writers’ 2008 Maria Thomas Fiction Prize. He is the author of the travelogue Riding the Demon: On the Road in West Africa, which won the nonfiction award from the Association of Writers and Writing Programs. His essays have twice appeared in Best American Travel Writing. Peter has also published in Creative Nonfiction, Ascent, The American Scholar, TheSmartSet, Audubon, The North American Review, Gulf Coast, and High Country News, where he was an editor. He teaches writing and literature at Washington State University and is working on a book about borderlands in Africa. • South of the Frontera: A Peace Corps Memoir by Lawrence F. Lihosit (Honduras 1975-77) iUniverse $22.95 313 pages March 2010 Reviewed by Peter Chilson (Niger 1985–87) IN 1975 LARRY LIHOSIT LOST HIS JOB and took off . . .

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An RPCV Sit-In at the Peace Corps

Thomas F. Roeser is (or was) a radio talk show host in Chicago, a right winger, who has a blog: www.tomroeser.com. A couple years back he wrote about the Peace Corps as he was the agency’s PR person in 1970 when a band of RPCVs took over the building. I have heard and read various accounts of this happening, but here’s Tom’s take from his blog of the day and night the RPCVs sat in at the Peace Corps. I’ve edit it down some for length. In May, 1970, a week after the Kent State shootings in Ohio, more than 100,000 anti-war demonstrators converged on Washington to protest the shooting of the students as well as the Nixon administration’s incursion into Cambodia. Police ringed the White House with buses to block the demonstrators from getting too close to the mansion. Early in the morning before the march, Nixon met with protesters . . .

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What Did Kennedy Say Anyway at U of M?

Picking on this old bone of the early days of the Peace Corps and “how the Peace Corps came about,” I called the Kennedy Library to get exactly what Kennedy said at 2 a.m. on October 14, 1960, on the steps of the Michigan Union at the University of Michigan. What he said did not launch a thousand ships, but so far, it has launched 185,000 Americans. Here is a transcript of Kennedy’s extemporaneous remarks. “How many of you who are going to be doctors are willing to spend your days in Ghana? Technicians, or engineers–how many of you are willing to work in the foreign service and spend your lives traveling around the world? On your willingness to do that, not merely to serve one year or two years in the service, but on your willingness to contribute part of your life to this country I think will depend . . .

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Brazaitis Reviews The Alchemist's Kitchen by Susan Rich

Reviewer Mark Brazaitis is the author of The Other Language: Poems (2009), winner of the ABZ Poetry Prize. He is also the author of three books of fiction, The River of Lost Voices: Stories from Guatemala, winner of the 1998 Iowa Short Fiction Award; Steal My Heart, a novel that won the Maria Thomas Fiction Award given by Peace Corps Writers; and An American Affair: Stories, winner of the 2004 George Garrett Fiction Prize. An audio version of one of his recent stories, “I Return,” is featured on the Cimarron Review’s Audio Library (http://cimarronreview.okstate.edu/169_sample3.html). • The Alchemist’s Kitchen by Susan Rich (Niger 1984–86) White Pine Press $16.00 96 pages May 1, 2010 Reviewed by Mark Brazaitis (Guatemala 1991–93) DON’T READ Susan Rich’s latest book on an empty stomach. Although The Alchemist’s Kitchen contains a wide, intelligent, and thought-provoking variety of poems, it does food better than most of the restaurants . . .

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Conlon reviews The Gardener by S.A. Bodeen

Christopher Conlon is a writer of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, and an editor. His first book of verse, Gilbert and Garbo in Love, won the 2004 Peace Corps Writers Prize for Best Poetry Book, while his Midnight on Mourn Street was a finalist for the Horror Writers Association’s 2008 Bram Stoker Award in the category of 1st Novel. As an editor, Conlon won the 2009 Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in an Anthology for his Richard Matheson tribute volume, He Is Legend, which is being reprinted by Tor in trade hardcover this September. Visit him online at ChristopherConlon.com. • The Gardener (Young Adult) by S.A. Bodeen (Tanzania 1989-90) [Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen] Feiwel and Friends May 2010 233 pages $16.99 Reviewed by Christopher Conlon (Botswana 1988-90) WHAT IS “Young Adult” literature, anyway? Many think of Young Adult books simply as novels for kids, like the old “Juvenile” category some of us oldsters . . .

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Whatever Happened to Mr. Steve?

Most PCVs are thrown into classrooms as teachers to learn on the job, and surprisingly some Volunteers are very good. In my years as an Associate Peace Corps director (APCD) in Ethiopia I saw more than a few PCVs become great teachers. But there were also those who were painful to watch from the back of the room. Still, you never know how they might influence kids. We had a PCV teacher in Ethiopia who was stationed in a village called Debark. It was a one-man town on the Gondar road, isolated from other Volunteers and up high at the foothills of the rough Simian Mountains, north of Lake Tana, north of Gondar. What this PCV liked to do most was roam these hills above the village and often, when I arrived for a staff visit, I would find him gone off camping in the mountains. And when he was . . .

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