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 parts of the world in which Peace Corps Volunteers have served. 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 Greg Alder, 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:

October 2015 Book Club Selection

Iran Awakening
Ebadi, Shirin*, with Azadeh Moaveni: Iran Awakening: A Memoir of Revolution and Hope (2006)

* Winner of 2003 Nobel Peace Prize

Discussion: Tuesday, October 13, 2015, 6:30-8:00 pm. Location at the home of Jackie Spurlock, 4101 SW Hillsdale Ave in Portland, 503-827-4126. Feel free to bring snacks to share.

Review: © Booklist: Most Americans date troubles with Iran to the 1979 overthrow of the shah and the 444-day U.S. embassy hostage drama. Iranians date the friction back to 1953, when the U.S. orchestrated a coup that removed beloved Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh. Ebadi recalls that period as the beginning of shifting politics that would erode basic freedoms and notions of human rights in Iran. Raised to believe in gender equality, Ebadi became a judge but was demoted to secretary when the Islamic Revolution under Ayatollah Khomeini demanded subservience of women. Ebadi estimates that five million Iranians, feeling oppressed by the revolution, left the country, draining valuable resources and leaving bitterly separated families. Ebadi lost her profession, her friends, and her country but was determined to stay and speak out against oppression. She eventually returned to public life as a human-rights lawyer taking on the defense of women, children, and dissidents. Ebadi offers a very personal account of her life and her fight for human rights in Iran.

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

November 2015 Book Club Selection

The Orphan Master's Son
Johnson, Adam: The Orphan Master’s Son* (2012)

* Winner of 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

Discussion: Thursday, November 12, 2015, 7:00-8:30 pm. Location at the home of Carole Beauclerk, 1500 SW Park Ave in Portland, 503-780-2722. Note the change of date and time from our usual schedule! On-street parking in downtown Portland is free beginning at 7:00 pm. Feel free to bring snacks to share. We will gather in the building’s community room.

Review: © Booklist: Pak Jun Do lives with his father at a North Korean work camp for orphans. In a nation in which every citizen serves the state, orphans routinely get the most dangerous jobs. So it is for Jun Do, who becomes a tunnel soldier, trained to fight in complete darkness in the tunnels beneath the DMZ. But he is reassigned as a kidnapper, snatching Japanese citizens with special skills, such as a particular opera singer or sushi chef. Failure as a kidnapper could lead directly to the prison mines. But in Johnson’s fantastical, careening tale, Jun Do manages to impersonate Commander Ga, the country’s greatest military hero, rival of Dear Leader Kim Jong Il and husband of Sun Moon, North Korea’s only movie star. Informed by extensive research and travel to perhaps the most secretive nation on earth, Johnson has created a remarkable novel that encourages the willing suspension of disbelief. As Jun Do, speaking as Ga, puts it, people have been trained to accept any reality presented to them. Johnson winningly employs different voices, with the propagandizing national radio station serving as a mad Greek chorus. Descriptions of everyday privations and barbarities are matter of fact, and Jun Do’s love for Sun Moon reads like a fairy tale. Part adventure, part coming-of-age tale, and part romance, The Orphan Master’s Son is a triumph on every level.

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

December 2015 Book Club Selection

Long Walk to Freedom
Mandela, Nelson*: Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela (1995)

* Winner of 1993 Nobel Peace Prize

Discussion: Tuesday, December 8, 2015, 6:30-8:00 pm. Location at the home of Bill Stein, 4308 SE Lexington St in Portland, 503-830-0817. Feel free to bring snacks to share.

Review: © Library Journal: This is an articulate, moving account of Mandela’s life from his “country childhood” following his birth on July 18, 1918 to his inauguration as president of South Africa on May 10, 1994. Mandela traces the growth of his understanding of the oppression of the blacks of South Africa; his conviction that there was no alternative to armed struggle; his developing belief that all people, black and white, must be free for true freedom; and the effect that his commitment to overthrowing apartheid had on his family, who “paid a terrible price.” Over a third of Mandela’s memoir tells of his 27 years in prison, an account that could stand alone as a prison narrative. He ends his book with the conclusion that his “long walk” for freedom has just begun: “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

Where to find it:
Libraries: Clackamas Co | 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: