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WHILE OUR COUNRTY leaps on and off a collision course with Iran, Americans forget we have not always been enemies. In the 1960s, Persia evokes images of colorful carpets and glamorous royalty. The shah reigns, the word ayatollah is rarely spoken, yet the secret police wield uncompromising power. Leaders of the 1979 Iranian Revolution are in elementary school when Mary answers John F. Kennedy’s call to “ask what you can do for your country” and joins the Peace Corps.
The setting is Kerman, a conservative southern city, where she teaches English to high school girls. In the classroom or walking through the bazaar, Mary is the exotic one. But the adobe walls that seclude women from prying eyes exclude her, a bareheaded foreigner. Her every move is scrutinized; Mary’s youthful indiscretions nearly get her ejected from the city.
Woven throughout this adventure are dusty travels from the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea, colorful feasts, rich history, and hidden romance. Walled In, Walled Out recounts Mary’s convoluted, often humorous journey from ignorance to understanding in this place that mixes mirage and harsh reality, a country where the people speak with many voices.
Read John Krauskopf’s review of Walled In, Walled Out
Sami the Wooly: The Most Beautiful Dog In The World
by Jay Hersch (Colombia 1964–66)
Peace Corps Writers
$12.50 (paperback), $9.99 (Kindle)
The intimate relationship between a Siberian Husky and his extended family.
(A Peace Corps novel)
by Stephen F. Dexter. Jr. (Togo 1988–91)
Peace Corps Writers
February 12, 2017
JOINING THE PEACE CORPS and moving half a world away to serve in a developing country wasn’t the hard part. Coming home was.
When Rick “Oly” Olymeyer returns to America in the early ’90s after serving in the Peace Corps in Togo, West Africa, he thought he’d be able to jump right in, readjusting to a life of relative ease with “regular” Americans. He never thought he’d become the proverbial fish out of water, distanced even from his own family as he hops from temp job to temp job, searching for meaning and a place in society.
But he soon discovers the painful difficulty of finding his purpose in an American economy and culture that can’t possibly understand the dynamics of the life passionately devoted to service he’d lived in a village in Africa.
After an encounter with a professor eventually leads to his involvement in a dispute between land developers and the descendants of freed slaves, Oly’s two worlds collide. He has Samantha, whom he met in Togo, as his touchstone, but is she enough to help him ground himself as a citizen of current-day America while preserving his love for the Africa he left behind?