PPCA’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 love author appearances! Between 2010 and 2019, we have hosted or will host 34 different authors – in person, by phone, or via Skype.
Here are our next three book discussions:
Hill, Lawrence: Someone Knows My Name (2007)
Discussion: Wednesday, February 13, 2019, 6:30-8:00 pm. Location at the home of Peggy McClure, 5480 SW 18th Dr in Portland, 503-453-2089. Feel free to bring snacks to share.
Review: © Publishers Weekly: Stunning, wrenching and inspiring, the fourth novel by Canadian novelist Hill (Any Known Blood) spans the life of Aminata Diallo, born in Bayo, West Africa, in 1745. The novel opens in 1802, as Aminata is wooed in London to the cause of British abolitionists, and begins reflecting on her life. Kidnapped at the age of 11 by British slavers, Aminata survives the Middle Passage and is reunited in South Carolina with Chekura, a boy from a village near hers. Her story gets entwined with his, and with those of her owners: nasty indigo producer Robinson Appleby and, later, Jewish duty inspector Solomon Lindo. During her long life of struggle, she does what she can to free herself and others from slavery, including learning to read and teaching others to, and befriending anyone who can help her, black or white. Hill handles the pacing and tension masterfully, particularly during the beginnings of the American revolution, when the British promise to free Blacks who fight for the British: Aminata’s related, eventful travels to Nova Scotia and Sierra Leone follow. In depicting a woman who survives history’s most trying conditions through force of intelligence and personality, Hill’s book is a harrowing, breathtaking tour de force.
Luloff, Joanna*: The Beach at Galle Road: Stories from Sri Lanka (2012)
* RPCV Sri Lanka (1996-1998)
Discussion: Tuesday, March 26, 2019, 7:00-8:30 pm. Location at the home of Carole Beauclerk, 1500 SW Park Ave in Portland. Participating in our discussion will be Joanna Luloff, the book’s author, in person. On-street parking in downtown Portland is free beginning at 7:00 pm. Upon arrival, call 503-780-2722 to be buzzed in, then turn right into the building’s lobby and then take an immediate left into the community room. Feel free to bring snacks to share.
Review: © Kirkus Review: In her debut, Luloff weaves a montage of stories into a cohesive whole as she explores the roles of tradition and family and the destructive power of war through the lives of each character. With simplicity, the author, a former Peace Corps volunteer, gives voices to those who’ve been touched, however remotely, by a conflict that lasted for decades and destroyed the fabric of a country. Mohan, Janaki and their two daughters live a comfortable family-oriented life in Baddegama, a village in southern Sri Lanka, and pay scant attention to the struggle occurring between Tamil insurgents and the Sinhalese government. The skirmishes are taking place in the northern section of their country, so it’s had little impact on their lives. But not so for Lakshmi, Janaki’s older sister: Her husband, Sunil, a Tamil sympathizer, disappeared from the streets of Colombo in 1987, and now Lakshmi is returning to her family, a person incontrovertibly different from the girl Janaki once knew. Peace Corps volunteer Sam, a boarder in Janaki’s home, falls in love with a student from the north and insists on staying in the country even though his visiting parents pressure him to leave. And other volunteers, whether for altruistic reasons, adventure or escape, journey to Sri Lanka to find purpose or refuge along the beautiful beaches or in mountain retreats. Like Lucy, who manages an International Aid rest home, some discover that fulfilling a desire for adventure can lead to witnessing unimaginable horrors. Perhaps the most affecting tale is the story of Nilanthi, a brilliant young teaching candidate and the object of volunteer Sam’s love. When the violence causes her program to shut down, she returns home to her parents, three brothers and best friend, Sunitha. What follows is a study of societal barriers, family dynamics and individual strength. Each story is subtly presented and, for the most part, disturbingly believable.
Wrong, Michela: I Didn’t Do It For You: How the World Betrayed a Small African Nation (2005)
Discussion: Tuesday, April 9, 2019, 7:00-8:30 pm. Location at the home of Jane and Mike Waite, 7008 Kansas St in Vancouver WA, 360-314-4117. Feel free to bring snacks to share.
Review: © Foreign Affairs: Wrong has written a penetrating history of Eritrea, starting with Italian colonialism, working her way through the 30-year struggle against Ethiopian occupation, and ending with independence, the pointless 1998 border war with Ethiopia, and the current dispiriting drift toward a police state. Her major theme is the raw deal the Eritrean nation has gotten from the rest of the world for much of the modern era. Italy, Britain, the United States, the Soviet Union, and, of course, Ethiopia, have all exploited the country or ignored the welfare of its people. Few Americans know, for example, that the U.S. Army long ran a large intelligence base there, Kagnew Station, that housed over 4,000 people — at a time when Eritrea was an integral (albeit contested) part of Ethiopia and Washington had little regard for its national aspirations. Wrong has an eye for the telling anecdote, and the book’s many vignettes, rich characters, and empathetic writing make for excellent reading.
Most of our books are selected by an annual survey, featuring curated options from books widely available in local libraries. We schedule additional discussions when an author of a non-self-published book offers to meet with us. If you are interested in learning more about PPCA’s Book Club, please contact Bill Stein, at 503-830-0817 or bookclub AT crpca.org.