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:
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.
Park, Yeonmi, with Maryanne Vollers: In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom (2015)
Discussion: Monday, November 7, 2016, 6:30-8:00 pm. Location at the home of Anne Kimberly, 4261 SE Alder St in Portland, 503-234-4094. Feel free to bring snacks to share.
Review: © Kirkus Reviews: The latest in an increasing number of narratives of escape from North Korea. Human rights activist Park, who fled North Korea with her mother in 2007 at age 13 and eventually made it to South Korea two years later after a harrowing ordeal, recognized that in order to be “completely free,” she had to confront the truth of her past. It is an ugly, shameful story of being sold with her mother into slave marriages by Chinese brokers, and although she at first tried to hide the painful details when blending into South Korean society, she realized how her survival story could inspire others. Moreover, her sister had also escaped earlier and had vanished into China for years, prompting the author to go public with her story in the hope of finding her sister. The trauma underlying Park’s story begins in her hometown of Hyesan, North Korea, just across the Yalu River from China. There, the state-supported economy had collapsed, leaving the people to fend for themselves. The author survived the famine of the 1990s thanks to the black-market trading of her enterprising parents. In an oppressed, heavily censored society where one is not allowed to think for oneself and “even the birds and mice can hear you whisper,” the police hounded the family and eventually nabbed the father for smuggling. Rumors that North Korean women could find jobs in China lured the women to agree to be smuggled across the river, where rape and hideous exploitation awaited from the hands of a network of Chinese human traffickers. In a fluid narrative facilitated by co-author Vollers (Lone Wolf: Eric Rudolph: Murder, Myth, and the Pursuit of an American Outlaw, 2006, etc.), Park offers poignant details of life in both North Korea and South Korea, where the refugees were largely regarded as losers and failures before they were even given a chance. An eloquent, wrenchingly honest work that vividly represents the plight of many North Koreans.
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: