Book Reviews

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

1
Review — MAR-A-LAGO by Laurence Leamer (Nepal)
2
Review — USE YOUR OWN VOICE by Dorthy Herzberg (Nigeria)
3
Review — MORE THAN BIRDING by Harriet Denison (Tanzania)
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Review — THE INNOCENCE OF EDUCATION by Earl Carlton Huband (Oman)
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Review — A GAME IN THE SUN by John Coyne (Ethiopia)
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Review — FARISHTA by Patricia McArdle (Paraguay)
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Review — LADYBOY AND THE VOLUNTEER by Susanne Aspley (Thailand)
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Review — BROOKLYN, NY TO BOCAIUVA, BRAZIL by Franklin Rothman (Brazil)
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Review — TACOMA STORIES by Richard Wiley (Korea)
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Review — ADORABLE AIRPORT by Jacqueline Lyons (Lesotho)

Review — MAR-A-LAGO by Laurence Leamer (Nepal)

    Mar-a-Lago: Inside the Gates of Power at Donald Trump’s Presidential Palace Laurence Leamer (Nepal 1965-67) Flatiron Books Publisher 304 pages January 29, 2019 $27.99 (hardcover), $14.99 (Kindle). $32.45 (Audiobook)   Reviewed by Leita Kaldi Davis (Senegal 1993-96) • Mar-a-Lago provides history and insights into President Donald J. Trump that many readers say one must read if one wants to understand the great leader. Leamer’s research includes thirty-six pages of notes, a bibliography and an index, so you know he’s done his homework. Perhaps even more important, Leamer and his wife have lived in Palm Beach since 1994, and have had front row seats for the Donald Trump show since he turned his Mar-a-Lago estate into a club. Leamer never became a member of the club, but he has friends who are members, so he has had access to the tennis courts and dining room, and was able to . . .

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Review — USE YOUR OWN VOICE by Dorthy Herzberg (Nigeria)

    Use Your Voice! Political Poetry and More by Dorothy Herzberg (Nigeria 1961-63) CreateSpace 74 pages May 2018 $10.00 (paperback   Review by D.W. Jefferson (El Salvador 1974–76; Costa Rica 1976–77) • If you, like me, have been struggling to find your voice during the presidency of Donald Trump, this little volume of poetry may help. As the title suggests, author Dorothy Crews Herzberg has not only found her voice, she is using it to express her sentiments toward the President and his unconventional and often decidedly unpresidential behavior. Herzberg was born in 1935, so she has been observing our democracy for a very long time, and through many crises, including World War II. In the Preface to this book of poems she states, “I feel the election of 2016 has profoundly shaken the values, structure, and essence of democracy.” While she states her belief that our democracy will survive . . .

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Review — MORE THAN BIRDING by Harriet Denison (Tanzania)

    More Than Birding: Observations from Antarctica, Madagascar, and Bhutan Harriet Denison (Tanzania 1966–67) Peace Corps Writers November 2018 318 pages $15.00 (paperback); $7.99 (Kindle) Review by Fritz Snyder (Tanzania, 1965–66) • Harriet Denison, a Peace Corps Volunteer with me in Tanzania (she wrote about her adventures there in Leopards at My Door, also published by Peace Corps Writers), visited three of the most interesting places on the planet: Antarctica, Madagascar, and Bhutan. She traveled with birding groups each time, but her interests range to the history and varied wildlife of each location. Her descriptions and experiences nicely take the reader to these exotic places where few of us will actually go. Altogether Harriet has been on 16 international birding expeditions. Her trip to Antarctica 2001 was her first. It is a delightful saga for those of us who have seen the movie “March of the Penguins”  — which is nearly . . .

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Review — THE INNOCENCE OF EDUCATION by Earl Carlton Huband (Oman)

    The Innocence of Education by  Earl Carlton Huband (Oman 1975-78) (Peace Corps poetry) 31 pages Longleaf Press November 2018 $10.00 (paperback) Reviewed by Tony Zurlo (Nigeria 1963-65) • Taking a lazy walk in the park, I stopped and observed a crystal clear pond, the sun reflecting brightly off the smooth surface. When my friend asked me to describe the pond, I paused at each of his questions. What was the shape of the pond? Rectangular, round, oblong, diamond? How about the shore line? Sandy or rocky? White or tan?  Were there fish in the pond? How about the . . . “Alright, already,” I interrupted. I’ll go back for a second reading. This is how I reacted to Earl Carlton Huband’s new chapbook, The Innocence of Education. My academically-trained eyes failed to discover the pure poetry of his book. Deposited in a remote fishing village in the Sultanate of Oman, Huband must shift . . .

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Review — A GAME IN THE SUN by John Coyne (Ethiopia)

    A Game in the Sun and Other Stories John Coyne (Ethiopia 1962–64) Cemetery Dance August 2018 $40.00 (hard cover)  Reviewed by Andreas Martin (Ethiopia 1965–68) • A Game in the Sun and Other Stories is a fascinating collection of material by John Coyne. John has had considerable success as a writer of novels and short stories in the horror genre, as well as a number of books on the topic of golf, (together, horror and golf make a pretty good description of my golf game). This particular collection spans nearly 60 years and consists of twelve stories previously published in mystery and horror magazines and anthologies. In addition, there are two recent original pieces appearing for the first time in print. John has led a varied life and these stories reflect some of his background. I was particularly taken by the stories set in Ethiopia because John and I . . .

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Review — FARISHTA by Patricia McArdle (Paraguay)

    Farishta by Patricia McArdle (Paraguay 1972–74) Riverhead Books 401 pages Riverhead Books 2011 $16.00 (paperback), $4.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Bill Preston (Thailand 1977-80) • In the Prologue to Farishta, we learn that twenty-one years earlier young career diplomats Angela Morgan and husband Tom were posted to Beirut. There, Tom was killed in a terrorist bombing of the U.S. Embassy; Angela, pregnant at the time, was injured and subsequently lost the child. Devastated, Angela was posted back to the State Department in Washington, DC. As the novel opens, Angela, now forty-seven and having worked at a series of unfulfilling dead-end positions at the State Department, learns that she is soon to be posted for a year with a British Army unit at a Provisional Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Mazār-i-Sharīf, Afghanistan. The PRT was a remote military outpost that conducted surveillance patrols in the northern provinces. Having hoped for an . . .

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Review — LADYBOY AND THE VOLUNTEER by Susanne Aspley (Thailand)

    Ladyboy and the Volunteer (Peace Corps Memoir) by Susanne Aspley (Thailand 1989–91) Peace Corps Writers November 2014 288 pages $13.99 (paperback), $2.99 (Kindle Reviewed by Dean Jefferson (El Salvador 1974–76; Costa Rica 1976–77) • Ladyboy and the Volunteeris a novel masquerading as a memoir. The protagonist, Susan, describes her adventures and misadventures as a Peace Corps Volunteer stationed in a rural village in Thailand in the 1990s. She gets to know many of the locals, but none is more interesting than Christine who helps support her family in the village by working as a prostitute in the city. Christine is a “ladyboy,” the term Thais use to describe transgender people born male, but dressing and living as females. The book is written in a conversational style, allowing the reader to experience emotionally what the protagonist is living. The imagery is vividly descriptive and at times raw. Because it . . .

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Review — BROOKLYN, NY TO BOCAIUVA, BRAZIL by Franklin Rothman (Brazil)

    Brooklyn, NY to Bocaiúva, Brazil: A Peace Corps Love Story Franklin D. Rothman (Brazil 1967–69) (Peace Corps memoir) Peace Corps Writers May, 2016 248 pages $14.95 (paperback) Reviewed by Almaz Zewdie Sullivan (Ethiopia 1996–98) • Franklin D. Rothman’s book, Brooklyn, NY to Bocaiúva, Brazil: A Peace Corps Love Story, brings back a lot of memories.  From the start, any Peace Corps Volunteer will relate to aspects of his story. Frank’s chance encounter with Lena, who is Brazilian, at the theater brings back positive memories of how open we tend to be as PCVs and travelers in general. He and Lena meet, they click and immediately the couple begins the exciting challenge of finding commonalities and building a relationship. Despite the differences in their upbringing, it is inspiring to read a story of how a love can flourish.  It is refreshing to see the level of commitment and the positive energy on . . .

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Review — TACOMA STORIES by Richard Wiley (Korea)

    Tacoma Stories by Richard Wiley (Korea, 1967-69) Bellevue Literary Press, 2019 270 pages $16.99 (paperback)   Reviewed by Ann Neelon (Senegal 1978-79) • In town to cash in on the NBA buzz generated by Murray State University’s versatile point guard Ja Morant, a writer from Sports Illustrated recently characterized Murray, Kentucky as “a city of 17,741 tucked into the state’s southwest corner, where on any given day you might find a horse pulling a passenger cart down 12th Street.” As someone who was incensed by the manufactured hokeyness of this comment — in 27 years in Murray, I have yet to spot a horse and cart on our main drag — I may constitute the ideal audience for Richard Wiley’s Tacoma Stories, a linked collection that gives poignant testimony to Tacoma’s gravitas as a place despite or perhaps even because of its general failure to achieve billing over . . .

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Review — ADORABLE AIRPORT by Jacqueline Lyons (Lesotho)

    Adorable Airport By Jacqueline Lyons (Lesotho 1992–95) Barrow Street Press 90 pages $16.95 (paperback)   Reviewed by Mark Brazaitis (Guatemala 1991-93) • What could be cuter than contemplation? Quick: describe an airport with an adjective that begins with “A.” Awful? Agonizing? Aggravating? Did anyone say “adorable”? Jacqueline Lyons did. And Adorable Airport, her fourth book of poems, makes a strong case for the unexpected title. From its cover, a painting of the inside of an airport with its gentle greens and blues, its escalators and baggage carousels, and its contented characters, Lyons’ book appears aimed at children. But only a very precocious child would understand and appreciate Lyons’ sophisticated and enchanting musings on time, seasons, love, and, yes, airports. Like Lyons’ book, an airport is a stop between places, between going and coming, between home and holiday. Adorable Airport suspends time in order to reflect on it the . . .

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