Book Reviews

A look at books published by fellow RPCVs that hopefully you will want to read.

1
Review — MY PEACE CORPS, MY VIETNAM WAR by Jack Boyd (Kenya)
2
Review — GOATS and other stories by Martin Ganzglass (Somalia)
3
Review — DISCOVERING TUNISIAN CUISINE by Judith Dwan Hallet (Tunisia) et al
4
Review — HISTORY SHOCK: When History Collides with Foreign Relations by John Dickson (Gabon)
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Review — MARIANTONIA by Robert Forster (Honduras)
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Review — THIS RED LAND by Arthur Dobrin (Kenya)
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Review — JACKSON’S KENYA by Otto Wiegand (Kenya, Paraguay)
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Review — NAKHON PHANOM by James I. Jouppi (Thailand)
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Winner of the 2021 Peace Corps Writers Maria Thomas Fiction Award
10
New York Times review of CREATIVE TYPES by Tom Bissell (Uzbekistan)

Review — MY PEACE CORPS, MY VIETNAM WAR by Jack Boyd (Kenya)

  My Peace Corps, My Vietnam War Jack  Boyd (Kenya 1967–68) Independently published, 2020 186 pages $24.00 (paperback), $7.00 (Kindle) Reviewed by Kevin M. Denny (Malawi 1964-66) • I was eager to review Jack Boyd’s book My Peace Corps, My Vietnam to see how his experience with both Peace Corps and Vietnam compared with my own. I served in Malawi from 1964 to 1966 as a health educator while Boyd was in Kenya as a teacher from 1967 to 1968. What I came to appreciate was what a difference two years could make! In my case I had been accepted into the Peace Corps in Spring of 1964 and arrived in Malawi in July just when that the country was celebrating its new independence. from Queen Elizabeth II. At that time there was no consideration among male PCVs as to how the ongoing Vietnam war would alter our lives. I can . . .

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Review — GOATS and other stories by Martin Ganzglass (Somalia)

  Goats: And Other Stories Martin Ganzglass (Somalia 1966–68) Peace Corps Writers March, 2021 305 pages $10.00 (paperback) Reviewed by D.W. Jefferson • Martin Ganzglass was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Somalia   from 1966 to 1968. He has published a number of works of fiction and nonfiction, including six in an American Revolutionary War series. This collection of short stories includes a wide range of characters, narrators, and settings. The title story, “Goats,” starts out appearing to be historical fiction but ends with a twist that is pure sci-fi. The first story, “Bridges,” is set in the era of the Viet Nam War, but others are set in the 21st century. In addition to the ten regular stories, there is a section called lagniappe (pronounced lan-yap) at the end of the book. According to the author, a lagniappe is an old Louisiana tradition in which shopkeepers give customers a . . .

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Review — DISCOVERING TUNISIAN CUISINE by Judith Dwan Hallet (Tunisia) et al

  Discovering Tunisian Cuisine Judith Dwan Hallet (Tunisia 1964–66), Raoudha Guellali Ben Taarit, and Hasna Trabelsi; photographs by Judith Dwan Hallet and Stanley Ira Hallet (Tunisia 1964 – 1966) Spirit of Place/Spirit of Design, Inc December 2019 148 pages $36.00 (hardcover) Reviewed by Vana Prewitt (Liberia 1983–86; Peace Corps Response/S.t Lucia 2016 • Discovering Tunisian Cuisine is as much a table-top photo book as cookbook, and sized appropriately so at 9″x12″. One can see the artist’s eye in the exquisite photos of food, scenery, and people. The authors admitted to struggling over the photos until they got it right. It is a nice balance of interesting history, beautiful photos, family recipes, and stories. As a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, I especially appreciated the insights to culture and history as it revolves around food. For example, there are three theories about the origins of Brik, a traditional dish of North Africa that looks a whole . . .

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Review — HISTORY SHOCK: When History Collides with Foreign Relations by John Dickson (Gabon)

  History Shock: When History Collides with Foreign Relations by John Dickson (Gabon 1976-1979) University Press of Kansas 248 pages June 2021 $26.49 (Kindle); $34.95 (Hardcover) Review by Eric Madeen (Gabon 1981-83) • John Dickson’s recently released book History Shock: When History Collides with Foreign Relations is ambitious and makes good on its ambitions: to delineate where and when America’s foreign policy “spills across national boundaries.” Indeed: how this book spills across the world map! As he notes, recently no other country blundered as much and easily as the United States, resulting in countless faux pas, cross-cultural insensitivities, outright missteps and innumerable aggressions, all adding up to obstructions of cooperative efforts on mutual interests. There’s much ground covered with chapters on Mexico and Canada (both partly concern “Forgotten Wars” there and the shocking reminder that the United States seized half of Mexico’s territory as a result of wars instigated by . . .

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Review — MARIANTONIA by Robert Forster (Honduras)

  Mariantonia: The Lifetime Journey of a Peace Corps Volunteer Robert L Forster (Honduras 1971–73) Peace Corps Writers 2021 218 pages $19.99 (paperback); $6.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by: Donald E. Dirnberger (Eastern Caribean-22/Antigua, West Indies 1977–79) • Building bridges is a thought formed into words by the narrative memoir of fellow RPCV Robert L. Forster in his book Mariantonia – The Lifetime Journey of a Peace Corps Volunteer. Inspired by the vision of John F. Kennedy, who eloquently challenged our generation to seek out bold new frontiers by going forth to serve as men and women dedicated to the progress and peace of developing countries. In a time of turmoil JFK spoke of opportunity and optimism that somehow touched the very soul of those who would answer his call. Robert was one of them. Interwoven into his book he tells of life before, during, and after his Peace Corps days, both . . .

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Review — THIS RED LAND by Arthur Dobrin (Kenya)

  This Red Land By Arthur Dobrin (Kenya 1965-67) Nsemia Inc. Publishers 340 pages January 2018 $9. 99 (Kindle); $12.40 (Paperback) Reviewed by Stephen Foehr (Ethiopia 1965-67) • A body falls from the sky and splats on a London street. The Kenyan passport associated with the dead man is an amateur fake. The name in the passport cannot be found in any Kenyan government database. A young boy living in a Kenyan market town drops out of school to attend the University of the Street. He joins tribal conflicts between the Maasi and the Kisii. A Black family in Brooklyn tries to improve their situation and smacks into the wall of housing discrimination. A young White girl, bright, ambitious, big plans for life, a firebrand for equality learned on the knee her fellow-traveler father is slapped down by the reality of capitalistic USA. A young Kenyan girl, bright, ambitious, big . . .

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Review — JACKSON’S KENYA by Otto Wiegand (Kenya, Paraguay)

  PCV Life in Kenya Jackson’s Kenya: A Peace Corps Story Richard Otto Wiegand (Kenya 1970–74, Paraguay 1977–79) Independently published (www.safari-shamba-books.com), 2020 288 pages $25.00 (paperback), $9.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Robert E. Gribbin (Kenya 1968–70) • I have long been awaiting a good Peace Corps memoir from Kenya. At last, one arrived in author Wiegand’s remembering his years in Kenya in the early 1970s. Otto Wiegand was a dairy expert charged with improving animal husbandry in a half dozen of the Settlement Schemes in the trans-Nzoia region between Eldoret and Kitale. As do most memoirs this one follows a hazy chronological order. The author recounts some events or anecdotes from the ’70s and then updates them with a later observation or comment about how things changed or didn’t. His Kenyan history of what went on around him is broad brushed, and accurate. It is not hard for the reader to . . .

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Review — NAKHON PHANOM by James I. Jouppi (Thailand)

  Nakhon Phanom: The Domino That Did Not Fall (and my Thai hometown) James I. Jouppi (Thailand 1971–73) Liberty Hill Publishing, 2021 450 pages $30.99 (paperback), $2.99 (Kindle), $8.66 (hardcover) Review by D.W. Jefferson • If you want to learn about the Peace Corps in Thailand and in particular about the period of the early 1970s this is an extensively researched memoir you will find useful. An engineer, the author, has an engineer’s eye for detail. Myself, I was surprised to find that Peace Corps remained in Thailand throughout the Vietnam War period. Mr. Jouppi’s book is 411 pages, 79 chapters, maps, a glossary of terms, a list of acronyms, an appendix, a bibliography and 128 endnotes. To fully appreciate how well researched the book is, I recommend reading the endnotes! This is the fourth book this author has written and the third memoir of his experiences in Thailand. His . . .

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Winner of the 2021 Peace Corps Writers Maria Thomas Fiction Award

  Streets of Golfito: A Novel by Jim LaBate (Costa Rica 1973-75) Mohawk River Press 252 pages October 2020 $9.99 (Kindle); $19.95 (Paperback Review by James W. Skelton, Jr. (Ethiopia 1970-72) • Jim LaBate has crafted an exceptional Peace Corps novel that takes place in Golfito, Costa Rica, the same town in which he served as a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) in the 1970s. One of the main characters is, coincidentally, named Jim, a prospective PCV, who has just arrived in Costa Rica in 1974 to train for his assignment as a Sports Promoter. While attending in-country orientation in San Jose, one of the Peace Corps administrators advises Jim to change his name if he really wants to immerse himself into the culture. The PC official’s reasoning is that Costa Ricans seem to accept the PCVs more readily if they use a name that’s familiar to them. So, Jim adopts the . . .

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New York Times review of CREATIVE TYPES by Tom Bissell (Uzbekistan)

  This Sunday’s New York Times, December 26, 2021, has a review of Tom Bissell’s (Uzbekistan 1996) Creative Types And Other Stories. written by Zachary Lazar. Reviewing Tom’s collection, Lazar sums up: “Vigilantes, bullies, expats: To tell you the “subjects” of these stories is to tell you almost nothing about the experience of reading them, their stylistic flair, the unpredictability of their movements. They reminded me of how fiction can be not just a form of escape but a way to get lost in the actual strangeness of this world, those crooked roads that lead us through flashes of horror, delight and sudden recognition.” Creative Types and Other Stories By Tom Bissell (Uzbekistan 1996) Pantheon 225 pages March 2021 $12.99 (Kindle); $25.95 (hardback), $14.70 (Audible)

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