Author - John Coyne

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RPCV Tony D'Souza Fights to Save the Post's Book World
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Peace Corps POD Books
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Ask Not….
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President Obama Hear Our Call
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Wofford Praised as Father of National Service
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China RPCVs create fund for beloved PC staff member
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The Peace Corps Marches in Inaugural Parade
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Once in Afghanistan
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RPCV Road Trip in China

RPCV Tony D'Souza Fights to Save the Post's Book World

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.

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Peace Corps POD Books

There is an interesting front-page story in the New York Times today, Wednesday, January 28, 2009, about the growth of self-published books. The growth in self-published (or POD books, i.e., print-on-demand books) comes at a time, the article says, when “traditional publishers look to prune their booklists and rely increasingly on blockbuster best sellers.” A new study by the National Endowment for the Arts reports that while more people are reading literary fiction, fewer of them are reading books. According to Cathy Langer, lead buyer for the Tattered Cover bookstores in Denver, “People think that just because they’ve written something, there’s a market for it. It’s not true.” The article has a few great success stories. Lisa Genova wrote a novel about a woman with Alzheimer’s disease. It was turned down by 100 literary agents. She paid $450 to iUniverse to publish the book and sold copies to independent bookstores. . . .

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Ask Not….

The New York newspapers, as well as other papers, and cable news stations, have been spinning stories on “what happened with Caroline?” Did she or didn’t she want to be the next senator from New York? Why did she bail at the last moment just when her number was about to be called by Governor Paterson, or was she edged off stage by Paterson’s people? The governor certainly has suffered from the ineptness of his senatorial decision-making. Well, now right-winger, Blue Dog Democrat, Iraq war supporter, friend of Al D’Amato, daughter of a GOP lobbyist Kirsten Gilibrand, is the new senator-designate from New York – a woman who supports all “right-leaning” positions on gay marriage, immigration and gun rights, will take over Hillary’s seat. But what about the Camelot’s kid, the last of our royal family, early supporter of President Obama, a woman who never spoke up in politics, but . . .

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President Obama Hear Our Call

For over twenty years, Congress has been voting to double the size of the Peace Corps. They vote yes, then they don’t vote on the separate bill to fund the increase. What is important is not that the Peace Corps is bigger, but that more Americans have the opportunity to serve, and that host countries learn what Americans are really like. President Obama has the opportunity to make change happen with the Peace Corps. Peace Corps Volunteers are a different breed of Americans. They come into a village or community and live at the level of the people. They learn the language and they learn the host culture. They unpack their bags and they stay for two years. They become part of a village, a community, a host family. They learn more than they teach or give. Then they return home to America and teach Americans about the village where . . .

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Wofford Praised as Father of National Service

I first met Harris Wofford at Georgetown University in the summer of ’62 when I went to Washington D.C. for Peace Corps Training to Ethiopia. Striding across the quadrangle, his jacket hooked Kennedy-like over his shoulder, and carrying a brown briefcase wedged with folders and papers, Harris introduced himself as our Peace Corps Director. He was working at the White House then, going to late night meetings on civil rights with JFK, then coming to jog with us in early morning PT training, and all the while talking endless about the Peace Corps being a “university in dispersion.” He envisioned a Gandhi-like world where everyone would volunteer for something to help man kind, and we’d all gather around campfires later at night for great-book-discussions on the poems of Robert Frost and the writings of Solzhenitsyn. Harris hasn’t stopped talking since. We had monthly book seminars in Ethiopia over those two . . .

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China RPCVs create fund for beloved PC staff member

Zhan Yimei, who was a beloved and long-time employee in the Peace Corps office in China, died after a battle with lung cancer. She had worked since 1993 for the Peace Corps and was a staff member with enormous responsibilities, serving as the main conduit of messages between Chinese officials and the Peace Corps. (In many instances, at least in the early days, Chinese officials refused to communicate directly with the Peace Corps.) She also played a key role in drafting the country agreement that enabled Peace Corps to go into that country, which was one of the few positives attached to President Bill Clinton’s visit in 1998. She ran the program for a year in 2003-04, when the Peace Corps was evacuated because of SARS. There was no American who worked for Peace Corps/China as long as Zhan Yimei did. Zhan Yimei lacked the benefit of Peace Corps health . . .

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The Peace Corps Marches in Inaugural Parade

I heard from Stephen Buff (Ethiopia 1964-66) who is one of 200 marchers selected by the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Washington, D.C, to represent Peace Corps volunteers in the Inaugural Parade on January 20, 2009. Members of the Peace Corps Community will carry the flags of the 139 countries where nearly 200,000 Peace Corps Volunteers have served during the 48-year history of the agency. Representatives of the Peace Corps Community have applied for each Inaugural Parade in recent history and last participated in 1997. Notable marchers will include Senator Harris Wofford, Ethiopia Peace Corps Director with the first group to the Empire. Wofford will be marching with two grandsons, and children and grandchildren of the agency’s first director, Sargent Shriver.

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Once in Afghanistan

I watched a documentary yesterday entitled “Once in Afghanistan” that was produced by Jill Vickers (Afghanistan 1968). The documentary was done by Jill’s company Dirt Road Documentaries, and it is about 17 women who survive 3-months of Training (36 started) on an Indian reservation in Arizona and then they went to Afghanistan to vaccinate woman against small pox. The film is basically a series of quick interviews of these women. They recall themselves as young woman fresh out of college and off on this new adventure, the Peace Corps. It is a wonderful case history; it is a long conversation; it is a reflection of another time and place, and it is a look at how these women-now in their sixties — had their lives shaped and changed by having once upon a time been Peace Corps Volunteers. For those of us who made similar journeys there is not a . . .

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RPCV Road Trip in China

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 . . .

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