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:
Rush, Norman*: Mating** (1991)
* Peace Corps Director, Botswana 1978-1983
** 1991 National Book Award for Fiction, 1992 Maria Thomas Fiction Award
Discussion: Wednesday, June 12, 2019, 6:30-8:00 pm. Location at the home of Ann and Roger Crockett, 1922 NE 12th Ave in Portland, 801-388-8235. Feel free to bring snacks to share.
Review: © Library Journal: As in Whites, Rush’s first collection of stories, this novel juxtaposes the relationship of two white Americans in Botswana against village life in that country. A woman anthropologist narrates her pursuit of and life with Nelson Denoon, a utopian socialist who set up an experimental matriarchal culture among poor African women in a remote area. Having met Denoon at a party, the anthropologist undertakes a dangerous trek alone through the Kalahari to Tsau, the site. After she gains the acceptance of the women, she is permitted to join Denoon, and their love story develops, interspersed with incidents in the village. Though there is plenty of action and interaction among the characters, this is largely a novel of ideas and anthropological information. The humor is at a sophisticated level, as is the vocabulary.
McMahon, Tyler*: Dream of Another America (2018)
* RPCV El Salvador (1999-2002)
Discussion: Tuesday, July 2, 2019, 6:30-8:00 pm. Location at the home of Bill Stein, 4308 SE Lexington St in Portland, 503-830-0817. Participating in our discussion will be Tyler McMahon, the book’s author, via Skype. Feel free to bring snacks to share.
Review: © Kirkus Review: A Salvadoran father attempts the perilous journey to America while his wife and son stay behind in El Salvador to await his return. McMahon (Kilometer 99, 2014, etc.) spins a beautiful but heartbreaking tale of the classic migrant story, one of sacrifice, danger, and small victories for those who have left and those still at home. Jacinto, his wife Mina, and their 13-year-old son Wilmer live in a small rural town in El Salvador, still reeling from the destructive civil war that left thousands dead and many more permanently changed. Wilmer has asthma, which is a life-threatening condition in their small Salvadoran town that lacks electricity and clean running water. After a particularly serious asthma attack, Jacinto accepts a local smuggler’s expensive offer to get him to the United States, where he hopes to work and save enough to buy the medicine Wilmer needs. Jacinto faces an enormous setback early on, when his group gets lost in the Mexican desert, resulting in five deaths and his capture. He prepares to be bussed back to El Salvador, but in a strange twist of events, he finds himself with a second chance to cross the border into America. Back home in El Salvador, Mina and Wilmer attempt to maintain their livelihoods without Jacinto and without any updates on his whereabouts. The smuggler that arranged Jacinto’s original journey demands an exorbitant interest on their down payment and Wilmer is bullied at school by those who believe his father is dead. Without Jacinto to bring in an income and to stand up for his family, hope for Mina’s and Wilmer’s survival gradually deteriorates. These two parallel stories collide at a moment when all three appear to have little left to lose. Their story of suffering and sacrifice is devastating yet also embedded in love. Every sacrifice made on behalf of a loved one is a testament to human resilience and the fight for a better life. McMahon’s contribution to the body of immigrant literature is entrenched in questions of nationality, poverty, and family. He achieves a storytelling feat by creating an incredibly realistic narrative that is as poignant as it is breathtaking.
Roy, Arundhati: The Ministry of Utmost Happiness (2017)
Discussion: Thursday, August 8, 2019, 6:30-8:00 pm. Location at the home of Mimi Sanders, 318 SW Palatine Hill Rd (big yellow church) in Portland, 503-293-6195. Feel free to bring snacks to share.
Review: © Publishers Weekly: Appearing two decades after 1997’s celebrated The God of Small Things, Roy’s ambitious, original, and haunting second novel fuses tenderness and brutality, mythic resonance and the stuff of front-page headlines. Anjum, one of its two protagonists, is born intersex and raised as a male. Embracing her identity as a woman, she moves from her childhood home in Delhi to the nearby House of Dreams, where hijra like herself live together, and then to a cemetery when that home too fails her. The dwelling she cobbles together on her family’s graves becomes a paradoxically life-affirming enclave for the wounded, outcast, and odd. The other protagonist, the woman who calls herself S. Tilottama, fascinates three very different men but loves only one, the elusive Kashmiri activist Musa Yeswi. When an abandoned infant girl appears mysteriously amid urban litter and both Anjum and Tilo have reasons to try to claim her, all their lives converge. Shifting fluidly between moods and time frames, Roy juxtaposes first-person and omniscient narration with “found” documents to weave her characters’ stories with India’s social and political tensions, particularly the violent retaliations to Kashmir’s long fight for self-rule. Sweeping, intricate, and sometimes densely topical, the novel can be a challenging read. Yet its complexity feels essential to Roy’s vision of a bewilderingly beautiful, contradictory, and broken world.
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.