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, or books which were authored by Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs). We discuss fiction and nonfiction works by authors from around the world, and we love author appearances! Between 2010 and 2015, we hosted 18 different authors – in person, by phone, or via Skype. In 2016, authors James Beebe, Tyler McMahon, Edith Mirante, Tim Schell, Kilong Ung, and Ellen Urbani 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:
Ung, Kilong: Golden Leaf: A Khmer Rouge Genocide Survivor (2009)
Discussion: Tuesday, August 2, 2016, 6:30-8:00 pm. Location at the home of Mari Levesque, 1946 SE 22nd Ave in Portland, 503-858-0621. Participating in our discussion–in person–will be Kilong Ung, the book’s author! Feel free to bring snacks to share.
Synopsis: This is a first-hand account of the life of Kilong Ung who grew up in Battambang, Cambodia and whose life dramatically changed in 1975 when the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia. Told from the eyes of the boy that he was, this is an honest, real account that takes the reader through Kilong’s experiences as if one were actually there, without any need for embellishment of the story. This book gives the readers an insight that no history book could. It provides not just an insight into the Khmer Rouge and the terrible extermination of two million people but an insight into humanity, how it is possible for a people to be subjected to mass cruelty and hardship by a ruling power, and yet how an individual against the odds could endure this and do what it took to survive, even as tragedy befell his family. Kilong saw himself as a leaf, a golden leaf, at the mercy of mercurial winds. Yet through fortune and the help of others he survived against the odds, and was able to come to America, penniless and unable to speak English. The tale follows how he adapted to the new culture and made himself a success. The story is filled with humorous incidents as he adapts to American culture as well as poignant emotional times where he grapples with the demons of the past, struggling to overcome the terrible experiences and memories, even as he gains material success in American life. Then when an opportunity for revenge presents itself he is faced with a moral dilemma that will decide his life. Kilong has painstakingly composed a chronicle of his life over countless hours, testing the limits of his emotions. Much of this book was written in an unlikely environment; Starbucks café, whom Kilong publicly thanks for “providing power outlets, public restrooms, soft music, and Americano-inspired recoveries from writing blocks.”
Eire, Carlos N.M.: Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy* (2003)
* 2003 National Book Award for Nonfiction
Discussion: Wednesday, September 14, 2016, 6:30-8:00 pm. Location at the home of Teri Kaliher, 4841 SW Richardson Dr in Portland, 503-246-7103. Feel free to bring snacks to share.
Review: © The New Yorker: At the start of the nineteen-sixties, an operation called Pedro Pan flew more than fourteen thousand Cuban children out of the country, without their parents, and deposited them in Miami. Eire, now a professor of history and religion at Yale, was one of them. His deeply moving memoir describes his life before Castro, among the aristocracy of old Cuba—his father, a judge, believed himself to be the reincarnation of Louis XVI—and, later, in America, where he turned from a child of privilege into a Lost Boy. Eire’s tone is so urgent and so vividly personal (he is even nostalgic about Havana’s beautiful blue clouds of DDT) that his unsparing indictments of practically everyone concerned, including himself, seem all the more remarkable.
Schell, Tim*: The Drums of Africa (2007)
* RPCV Central African Republic (1978-1979)
Discussion: Wednesday, October 5, 2016, 6:30-8:00 pm. Location at the home of Rosemary Furfey, 7022 SW 33rd Ave in Portland, 971-302-0691. Participating in our discussion–-in person-–will be Tim Schell, the book’s author! Feel free to bring snacks to share.
Synopsis: Tim Schell’s first novel, THE DRUMS OF AFRICA, is a gripping and timely tale of two young Americans, Val and Glen, arriving in Africa as Peace Corps volunteers in the 1970s, filled with altruism, naivete and a thirst for adventure. As the line between adventure and catastrophe narrows, Schell masterfully creates a mosaic of cultural perspectives and ethical tensions between faith and its lack, politics and revolutionary coups, lust and love set against an exotic backdrop rife with sorcerers, priests, corrupt politicians, poachers, coffee farmers, Peace Corps workers and prostitutes, a place leading each character inward to unexpected self-revelation and self-sacrifice. A richly panoplied novel, alive with sensuous detail and compelling narrative, THE DRUMS OF AFRICA is both an adventure tale and a philosophical rumination on the power of crisis and contradiction to test and ultimately transform ideals, laws, ancient instincts, faith and the challenges presented by human love met by human courage.
Most of our books are selected by an annual survey; stay tuned for our next survey in late 2016. 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 crpca.org or through the form below: