Book Reviews

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

1
Review — THE WARM HEART OF AFRICA by Jack Allison (Malawi)
2
Review — YOUNG AMERICANS by Peter S. Rush (Cameroon)
3
Review — SOUND MACHINE by Lawrence Lihosit (Honduras)
4
Review — IN SEARCH OF PINK FLAMINGOS In Search of Pink Flamingos by Susan E. Greisen (Liberia & Tonga)
5
Review — FLAMENCO IN THE TIME OF MOONSHINE AND MOBSTERS by David Edmonds (Chile)
6
Review — THE TOUGHEST JOB I EVER LOVED by Jonathon Shacat (Gabon)
7
Review — NOT EXACTLY RETIRED by David Jarmul (Nepal, Moldova)
8
Review — 101 ARABIAN TALES by Randolph Hobler (Libya)
9
Review — BETWEEN INCA WALLS by Evelyn Kohl La Torre (Peru)
10
One RPCV View — Elizabeth Kallman’s THE DEATH OF IDEALISM

Review — THE WARM HEART OF AFRICA by Jack Allison (Malawi)

  The Warm Heart of Africa: An Outrageous Adventure of Love, Music, and Mishaps in Malawi Jack Allison (1966 – 69) Peace Corps Writers June 2020 224 pages $14.95 (paperback), $6.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by: Charles F. “Chic” Dambach (Colombia 1967-69) • Jack Allison is legendary in Peace Corps circles, and The Warm Heart of Africa is the engaging story of one of the most remarkable Peace Corps Volunteers ever. The narrative is a marvelous combination of frustration, success, humor, humanity, music, medicine, and culture. Allison served in Malawi from 1967 to 1969. Along the way he wrote and performed the number-one hit song in Malawi and Newsweek magazine reported that he was more popular in the country than the president. Unfortunately, that publicity angered the president who tried to deport him and shut down the entire Peace Corps program! Prior to Peace Corps service, Allison overcame an impoverished and dysfunctional . . .

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Review — YOUNG AMERICANS by Peter S. Rush (Cameroon)

  Young Americans by Peter S. Rush (Cameroon 1972-73) Prior Manor Press 310 pages September 2020 $14.99 (paperback), $7.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Sue Hoyt Aiken (Ethiopia 1962-64) • I suspect the author’s experience as a policeman informed him about the drug business in all it terrorizing, criminal based, bribery infested, and dehumanizing process. If even a fraction of what is described is true, it is no wonder drug trafficking has never been successfully controlled. The underlying story, however, is the impact sexual abuse of children has on them for the rest of their lives.  Children, who have no power over what is happening to them . . . even from those who are meant to love and protect them. For Tommy, images, constantly waking him up at night, have led him to a life of turmoil,  trouble, and eventually to a dangerous game he hopes will fulfill his dreams. His . . .

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Review — SOUND MACHINE by Lawrence Lihosit (Honduras)

  Sound Machine: Flat-Top Guitars’ Materials & Care by Lawrence Lihosit (Honduras 1975-77) Self-published 70 pages May 15, 2020 $9.95 (paperback)   Reviewed by Alan Schwartz (NRPCV) • The title of this compact book cuts right through pretensions as in “The Art of…” /  “The Craft of…” / or the “How to…” tiresome millions. Lawrence Lihosit has written a guide to the way a guitar works. Sound Machine: Flat-top Guitars’ Materials & Care explains it all from the construction to the mechanisms to where to store it at home or how to do so when you’ll be away. He starts with how sound is produced inside the instrument when you strike a string, then provides the nomenclature for all the parts of the instrument, explains the function of the various woods used and/or combined in the body or neck of the guitar All this in an unpretentious, lively style loaded with solid . . .

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Review — IN SEARCH OF PINK FLAMINGOS In Search of Pink Flamingos by Susan E. Greisen (Liberia & Tonga)

  In Search of Pink Flamingos By Susan E. Greisen (Liberia 1971-73; Tonga 1973-74) Penchant Press International, LLC 247 pages 2020  $15.95 (paperback) Reviewed by Cynthia Mosca (Ethiopia 1967-69) • When a friend finds out I was in the Peace Corps, I often hear, “Oh, I thought about that. I even filled out the application.” Susan Greisen’s book, In Search of Pink Flamingos, is filled with heart-stopping adventures in Africa. She writes candidly of her journey from a strict Catholic upbringing on a farm in Nebraska to her new home in the small village of Zorgowee, Liberia. Susan is the only Peace Corps Volunteer and the only white person in this town of about a thousand people. Here she found affection and respect both of which were denied her in her Nebraska family home. I’m recommending her well-written book to all my friends, especially those who never sent in those . . .

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Review — FLAMENCO IN THE TIME OF MOONSHINE AND MOBSTERS by David Edmonds (Chile)

  Flamenco in the Time of Moonshine and Mobsters David C. Edmonds (Chile 1963–65) St. Petersburg Press December, 2019 375 pages $18.95 (paperback), $18.00 (Kindle) Review by: D.W. Jefferson (El Salvador 1974–76; Costa Rica 1976–77) • Are you looking for a fun read for this Summer of the Corona Virus Pandemic? Then the latest historical novel by David Edmonds may be for you. Modern day Flamenco dancer Amy Romano drives her Prius into a huge southern Florida sink hole and emerges in 1932. Like Alice going down the rabbit hole, Amy emerges in a whole different world. Except in her case it is the Ybor City neighborhood of Tampa during the Great Depression, complete with moonshine, mobsters and G-men! Flamenco in the Time of Moonshine and Mobsters is 375 pages yet is a surprisingly quick read due to the short chapters, filled with action, 99 of them. I found myself . . .

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Review — THE TOUGHEST JOB I EVER LOVED by Jonathon Shacat (Gabon)

  The Toughest Job I Ever Loved: A Peace Corps Memoir Jonathon  Shacat (Gabon 1998–2000) Amazon 2017 181 pages $9.99 (paperback), $4.99 (Kindle Reviewed by D.W. Jefferson (El Salvador 1974–76; Costa Rica 1976–77) • Jonathon Shacat, who is now a journalist, has self-published a well written memoir of his Peace Corps experience in Gabon, central Africa. He was a fish culture extension agent, helping villagers build clay-lined ponds and raise tilapia, from 1998 to 2000. I’ll get my gripes out of the way first. The book does not contain any maps of Gabon, any photos, or even page numbers! But it is an entertaining account that maintains its upbeat tone through incidents involving eating grubs and insects, mixing antelope blood with rice, a machete wound, a bout with Dengue fever and ridding himself of round worms. Though the author’s Peace Corps experience was almost a quarter century after my own, like . . .

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Review — NOT EXACTLY RETIRED by David Jarmul (Nepal, Moldova)

  Not Exactly Retired: A Life-Changing Journey on the Road and in the Peace Corps David  Jarmul (Nepal 1977–79; Moldova 2016–18) Peace Corps Writers March 2020 300 pages $15.00 (paperback); $9.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Sue Hoyt Aiken (Ethiopia 1962 to 64) •     This journey takes place over many years in the lives of the author and of his wife, Champa. It reflects some of their separate lives prior to meeting in Nepal and finally where their intertwined life led them. It begins where so many Peace Corp Volunteer stories begin: as young adults called to adventure. David traveled to Nepal with a friend and while there committed to be a volunteer. Many years later, after children, careers, and grandchildren, David in his second tour as a volunteer was once again reminded that President Kennedy’s dream was to set the Peace Corps apart from USAID by serving the world’s . . .

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Review — 101 ARABIAN TALES by Randolph Hobler (Libya)

  101 Arabian Tales: How We All Persevered in Peace Corps Libya by Randolph W. Hobler (Libya 1968–69) Coming to LuLu in August Review by D.W. Jefferson • Randy Hobler has taken on the herculean task of writing a comprehensive history of the Peace Corps in Libya, and a collective memoir of 101 Libya PCVs (102 including the author/editor). He began by interviewing as many Libya RPCVs as he could find, along with asking them for any journals or letters from their Peace Corps years, to go along with his own. He then managed to meld all of that information into an engaging collection of tales covering everything about the Peace Corps involvement in Libya, from the training of Libya I, to the termination of Libya III  before they left their training sites in the U.S. for Libya, when Muammar Ghaddafi kicked out Peace Corps. Mr. Hobler began his project . . .

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Review — BETWEEN INCA WALLS by Evelyn Kohl La Torre (Peru)

    Between Inca Walls: A Peace Corps Memoir By Evelyn Kohl La Torre (Peru 1964-66) She Writes Press 256 pages August 2020 $16.95 (paperback); $8.99 (kindle)   Reviewed by Mark D. Walker (Guatemala 1971-73) • The book is well written as the president of the National Association of Memoir Writers Linda Joy Myers describes, “Evelyn LaTorre creates a masterful portrait of place — from the Montana hills to the peaks of Perú — and illustrates how place shapes us. The many lovely metaphors and descriptions throughout the book invite the reader to see through the eyes of an innocent girl as she discovers exotic, lively cultures; absorbs the colors, sounds, passion, and intensity of that new world; and allows it to change her life path.” One scene in Cusco, Peru provides a myriad of details which gave a real sense of this exotic community, Scores of small dark, leather-skinned . . .

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One RPCV View — Elizabeth Kallman’s THE DEATH OF IDEALISM

  The Death of Idealism: Development and Anti-Politics in the Peace Corps by Meghan Elizabeth Kallman (NPCV) Columbia University Press 293 pages April 2020 $28.00 (paperback); $15.39 (kindle); $110.00 (hardback) • ONE RPCVs VIEW Marnie Mueller (Ecuador 1963-65) As I read Meghan Elizabeth Kallman’s book, THE DEATH OF IDEALISM: Development and Anti-Politics in the Peace Corps, all I could think was, of course, idealism was challenged by the experience of being in the Peace Corps. It should have been, if you accept the definition of Idealism as: the practice of forming or pursuing an ideal unrealistically, as in the idealism of youth. Kallman’s book is an erudite, complex treatise on the many ways that idealism was “killed” in Peace Corps Volunteers over the organization’s six-decade history. I’m afraid I can only speak for myself and a few others of my early 1960s cohort in this review, a microcosm in relation to . . .

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