Book Club

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CRPCA’s Book Club gatherings are open to all who have read that month’s book. Typically we start out discussing the book, and inevitably someone relates a theme in the book to their own experiences or other readings, so the conversation takes an interesting turn. Our Book Club discusses books of broad interest set in Peace Corps countries. We discuss fiction and nonfiction, books by Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and authors from around the world, and works that incite emotions from fury to laughter. We also love author appearances! Between 2010 and 2014, we hosted 13 different authors – in person, by phone, or via Skype. In 2015, authors Gary Cornelius, Rajeev Goyal, Michael Heyn, and Stanley Meisler are joining our discussions of their books.

Book club books are announced about three months before the book club meeting date. A complete list of all scheduled books is available to CRPCA members from our book club coordinator using the contact form below. The next three books up for discussion will be:

March 2015 Book Club Selection

Dancing with Gogos
Cornelius, Gary*: Dancing with Gogos (2014)

* RPCV South Africa (2012-2013)

Discussion: Tuesday, March 10, 2015, 6:30-8:00 pm. Location at the home of Jenny Tsai, 2646 NW Overton St in Portland. Participating in our discussion–live in person–will be Gary Cornelius, the book’s author! Feel free to bring snacks to share.

Synopsis: Dancing with Gogos is the story of one man’s effort to make a difference in a collection of Zulu villages in rural South Africa, while fulfilling a life-long dream of serving in the United States Peace Corps. It’s the story of learning a new language, of immersing oneself in a different culture, of leaving a love 15,000 kilometers behind and discovering the unexpected chance to find a new one half a world away. It’s the story of South Africa’s history of apartheid and the effects of that sorry legacy on tens of millions of black Africans who to this day struggle to leave behind 500 years of oppression. Gary Cornelius and 35 other would-be volunteers find themselves in a remote village in Mpumalanga Province as “trainees” for nine weeks of grueling learning before they can be sworn in as volunteers in “CHOP” – Peace Corps South Africa’s Community HIV-AIDS Outreach Program – to assume front-line positions in the battle to reduce spread of the disease in a country with one of the highest rates in the world. It’s an adventure none will ever forget.

Where to find it:
Libraries: Clackamas Co
Vendors: Amazon |

April 2015 Book Club Selection

The Springs of Namje
Goyal, Rajeev*: The Springs of Namje: A Ten-year Journey From the Villages of Nepal to the Halls of Congress (2012)

* RPCV Nepal (2001-2003)

Discussion: Tuesday, April 14, 2015, 7:00-8:30 pm. Location at the home of Mike Waite, 7008 Kansas St in Vancouver WA, 360-314-4117. Note the later than usual start; traffic congestion out of Oregon should be lighter by 6:30. Participating in our discussion–via Skype–will be Rajeev Goyal, the book’s author! Feel free to bring snacks to share.

Review: © Booklist: Goyal, the son of Indian immigrants, joined the Peace Corps and was assigned to teach English in the small village of Namje in eastern Nepal. In this very frank memoir of the hardships, failures, and successes, he recalls dealing with the discomforts of the caste system and learning that supposedly ignorant villagers had skills and knowledge helpful to developing their communities and nations. He is brutally honest about the unintended consequences of well-meaning efforts, such as building a water pump system to pull water up the mountain, a project that likely brought the villagers into contact with Maoist rebels. When his service ended, Goyal remained involved in issues of development, including boosting funding for the Peace Corps. He tells the story of his 10-year journey as attorney and activist, walking the halls of Congress, shaking hands and securing promises for more funding at a time of budget cutting, eventually securing an additional $60 million for the Peace Corps. An honest and inspiring look at the hard work and reward of development efforts.

Where to find it:
Libraries: Multnomah Co | Washington Co
Vendors: Powell’s | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

May 2015 Book Club Selection

Spirit Rising
Kidjo, Angélique, with Rachel Wenrick: Spirit Rising: My Life, My Music (2014)

Discussion: Tuesday, May 12, 2015, 6:30-8:00 pm. Location at the home of Liz Samuels, at Rose City Yacht Club, 3737 NE Marine Dr in Portland. Someone will be at the gate to let your vehicle in between 6:20 and 6:40; if you arrive earlier or later please call 503-799-4255. We will gather either on the Samuels’ houseboat or in the Club House. Feel free to bring snacks to share.

Review: © Library Journal: Kidjo’s memoir brims with the same joy, exuberance, and wisdom exhibited in her music while adding depth and insight into her art and life and the triumph of making connections through music. She grew up in Benin (West Africa), with a family full of songs and love. In order to continue to create her music, Kidjo fled a dictatorship and moved to France, where she struggled to support herself and against the “coolness toward African immigrants.” She studied music, got married, and built on her interest in human rights. Through many collaborations-with Carlos Santana, Ziggy Marley, and Branford Marsalis, to name only a few-across cultures, styles, and countries, she details how she combines the music of Africa with music from the diaspora, extracted through slavery, constructing unique combinations and blending modern and traditional, roots and technology, jazz, and more with drums and complex rhythms at the center. She outlines how she has used her notoriety, as well as her predilection to speak her mind, to visit and advocate for women and children through UNICEF and her own foundation.

Where to find it:
Libraries: Ft Vancouver | Multnomah Co | Washington Co
Vendors: Powell’s | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Most of our books are selected by an annual survey; stay tuned for our next survey in mid-2015. We schedule additional books when an author offers to meet with us. If you are interested in learning more about CRPCA’s book club, upcoming books or author events, please contact our book club coordinator, Bill Stein, at 503-830-0817 or bookclub AT or through the form below: