Review — NEVER THE SAME AGAIN: Life, Service and Friendship in Liberia edited by Susan Greisen, et al

 

 

Peace Corps memoir collection

Never the Same Again: Life, Service, and Friendship in Liberia
Editor Susan Greisen (Liberia 1971-73) & (Tonga 1973-74)
Sidekick Press
May 2022
254 pages
$8.99 (Kindle); $20.95 (Paperback)

 

Review by: D.W. Jefferson (El Salvador 1974-76; Costa Rica 1976-77)

Kudos to editors Susan E. Greisen, Susan Corbett and Karen E. Lange for putting together a wonderful collection of true stories about Liberia, Peace Corps and friendship. The book was published in honor of the 60th anniversary of Peace Corps in Liberia. All of the authors are members of Friends of Liberia (FOL), a nonprofit originally formed by returned Peace Corps Volunteers who served in that country.

There are 63 stories in all, some are poems, though the majority are prose short stories. The book includes a map of Liberia, so you can see where each author lived and worked. There is also an abridged timeline which is useful for relating an individual story to national events taking place in Liberia at the time. The stories are divided into three groups representing Building a Foundation (The Early Years), Turbulent Times, and Rebuilding Hope (The Latter Years). Sadly, like many Peace Corps countries, Liberia has experienced repeated civil unrest and disease outbreaks including Ebola and COVID-19.

Storytelling has a long tradition throughout Africa. Elders have used stories to share their wisdom and knowledge through the generations, passing along their history, traditions and lessons. This anthology continues that tradition through stories about relationships that illuminate a cross-cultural awareness we can learn from and share with others.

I would love to see an anthology like this one created for every country which has hosted Peace Corps volunteers. I’ve yet to meet an RPCV who does not have at least one or two good stories to tell about their host country and folks they worked with and lived with. Count me in if you want to do a story collection for El Salvador or Costa Rica!

The book also includes a glossary of terms, a list of resources, and discussion questions. Therefore it is perfect for reading in a school or book club environment. Proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to FOL for the benefit of humanitarian programs in Liberia.

Review D.W. Jefferson was a Peace Corps agriculture volunteer in El Salvador (1974-76) and Costa Rica (1976-77). A blog about his Peace Corps years is at: dwjefferson.blogspot.com He is currently retired from a career in computer software engineering.

 

19 Comments

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    • Hello Joanne,
      You are not the first RPCV to state this. I hope it can serve as a model so that our PC stories and service will not be forgotten. Let us show the world how we can all be global citizens.

  • I have never been to Liberia, however, one can get a beautiful window into the lives of those who served, as well as the souls who call Liberia home. Wonderful compilation of writings!

    • Hello Katharine,
      We hope that our stories and poems can bring you as close as to Liberia and her people as possible without ever going there. That was our goal. We tried to touch all the senses of the reader. We wanted the readers to feel what the authors felt. Which is the reason for the name of the book…Never the Same Again. Thank you, Katherine, for spreading the word of our stories through you ministry work and the powerful takeaways that lie within each one written.

  • Although I never fulfilled my dream of being in the Peace Corps, I never gave up my dream to serve in Africa. I have now visited Liberia three times, started three schools there, and have many Liberian friends. It is incredible to read about everyone’s experiences in this country since 1959. It shows people’s love and heart to embrace this culture of wonderful loving people. I am so encouraged by everyone’s stories in this book because I know from my experience alone, that I am “Never the Same Again!”

    • Terri,
      Even though you never did become a Peace Corps volunteer you certainly have dedicated your life to service. And despite the fact of never having landed foot in Liberia, you connected with a most incredible Liberian here in the US. That, in turn, lead you to your committed program in Liberia, ESORM. You have now been to Liberia numerous times. I cannot thank you enough for committing yourself to telling William’s story of escaping Liberia in our Anthology. I’ve read it numerous times and cannot read it once without crying. We all have to understand the plight of fleeing war. Thank you to you and William.

  • NEVER THE SAME AGAIN captures the spirit of sixty-three RPCV lives that were changed forever by the experiences of Peace Corps. Friends of Liberia (FOL) celebrated the 60th anniversary of Peace Corps sharing these unique stories. The book is a treasure of heartfelt recollections of life, service, lasting friendships, and so much more.
    As a RPCV from the early years in Bolivia, reading this anthology motivates me to continue telling my stories of the profound impact of Peace Corps on my life.
    Many thanks to the editors: Susan Greisen, Susan Corbett, Karen Lange.

    Geri Marr Burdman
    RPCV Bolivia (1962-64)

    • Hello Geri, it is so wonderful to have met you, at least on the phone, via this wonderful website. Our conversation inspired me to write more. Often as a writers we often don’t know how many hearts and minds we have actually touched. Your message to me tells it all. Thank you so very much.

  • Never The Same Again is a wonderful collection of stories and poems that capture life in Liberia over the past sixty years. Lives were changed for volunteers and Liberians and the friendships and stories share the full range of emotions experienced by all. Never The Same Again is a very moving read and you will want to have your tissue box at hand. We are fortunate these editors and authors took the time during Covid to produce this beautiful book.

    • Hello Sally,
      The love and passion from everyone who contributed to this wonderful anthology is beyond what I ever could have imagined. Even though I have combed through each of these stories and poems numerous times as an editor, they still elicit my emotions as if I were reading them for the first time. Thanks for your comments and I hope it will encourage others to experience 60 years of Liberian history in this unprecedented anthology.

  • NEVER THE SAME AGAIN is an engaging book containing 63 heartfelt stories of life and service in Liberia. As a RPCV who served in the late 60s, the stories in this anthology resonate within me my Peace Corps experiences of decades past.

  • I posted this review on Amazon. Congratulations to the authors and editors of this terrific anthology of Peace Corps service and experiences.

    5 out of 5 stars

    “Deep and fascinating stories, beautifully presented”

    The history of this book, how it evolved as described in the introduction, is as interesting as the stories that recount the experiences and emotions of the 63 Peace Corps Liberia volunteers who contributed their memories to this beautiful anthology. The expansiveness of the collection is evidenced by the stories’ titles: One Health…One World, Into the Rainforest, and If You Really Want to be of Service are some favorites. Most of the contributors are first-time published writers, and the editing is superb. I recommend this book for anyone who has a fascination with the world, and Africa in particular, and to those who are considering Peace Corps service and want to gain a real-world perspective of its challenges and remarkable joys.

    • Hello Steve, as RPCV from Russia, your input and thoughts make it even more valuable. We really appreciate you attending our Washington DC book launch. I’m sure you could feel the palpable love in the room as we listened to the stories of Liberia. I’ve never met a group of people so touched by the same memories and experience of our past. Never the Same Again will endure the passage of time.

  • I just finished Never the Same Again. My curiosity about Peace Corps volunteers was aroused by reading In Search of Pink Flamingos: A Woman’s Quest for Forgiveness and Unconditional Love by Susan Greisen. Who are these Peace Corps people? Where are they now? The individual vignettes tell of the work, the people, and the experiences in Liberia. The stories were too short – I wanted more! Each story includes a short bio of the author. It is amazing what all these people did after their PC stint. So many continued to give in some way from education in the US and abroad to foreign service. They are truly a generous, caring group. Thanks for sharing these stories.

  • What an amazing collection of stories about daily life in Liberia! Very hard to put this book down – each story (or poem) is a gem. If you’ve never been to Liberia (or to West Africa), reading this book will give you an intimate and colorful glimpse into what life there is all about – so full of challenges yet lots of fun and laughter Highly recommended!

  • These are stories that will resonate with anyone who has lived and worked outside the USA. They reveal the depth of the relationships that folks who served in Liberia came to know . These authors shared laughter, tragedies, heartaches, exotic foods, fascinating adventures and so much more with their hosts. Their hosts eventually became their close friends. I ‘ d love to find similar collections from other countries. Highly recommended !

  • A wonderful anthology by fifty authors who are in some way connected to the small
    West African country of Liberia. The collection relates the fascinating accounts of experiences of people who have been touched by the people of Liberia in some way. “Heart felt accounts of adversity and acceptance, illness and healing, escape from war, and improbable reunion”.
    A very worthwhile read.

  • Yesterday, I received a “Thank you” letter from a dear friend. I had recommended buying “Never the Same Again”. She had read my short story and the other contributions in one seating. WOW was her response!!! Everyone needs to buy and read the book and pass the word to others.

    • Yes, the response to our anthology has been heartwarming. I just read the reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. The word is spreading about this unprecedented book of historical non-fiction telling our journey to Liberia over a 60-year span of time. Thank you.

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