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 2016, we hosted 24 different authors – in person, by phone, or via Skype.
Here are our next three book discussions:
Luz, Susan*, with Marcus Brotherton: The Nightingale of Mosul: A Nurse’s Journey of Service, Struggle, and War (2010)
* RPCV Brazil 1972-1975
Discussion: Tuesday, November 14, 2017, 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: © Booklist: Colonel Luz of the Army Nurse Corps has enjoyed a long, happy marriage to the son of one of the original “Band of Brothers.” She also enjoyed hard-won success in the Peace Corps, as a nurse in an inner-city high school and at a hospital for the criminally insane, in the Army Reserve, and in being there for three nephews with cystic fibrosis. Then in 2006 she went to Iraq and combined public health and psychiatric work with handling a steady stream of casualties from combat and terrorist incidents. And she became the unofficial morale officer, responsible for, among other things, organizing a vocal group among the nurses, in which capacity she earned the moniker that entitles her book. Another Nightingale, the one who founded modern nursing, would have approved of Luz’s work; the army’s approval took the form of the Bronze Star. Readers will most likely approve of her addition to knowledge of the humane aspects of the Iraq War.
Paradiso, Dante*: The Embassy: A Story of War and Diplomacy** (2016)
* RPCV Kenya (1993-1995)
** Winner of 2017 Paul Cowan Non-Fiction Award
Discussion: Tuesday, December 19, 2017, 7:00-8:30 pm. Location at the home of Jane and Mike Waite, 7008 Kansas St in Vancouver WA, 360-314-4117. Participating in our discussion will be Dante Paradiso, the book’s author, via Skype from Hong Kong. Feel free to bring snacks to share.
Review: © Kirkus Reviews: Paradiso (The Pure Life, 2005) tells the story of how the staff of the American Embassy in Monrovia attempted to halt the second Liberian civil war. By the summer of 2003, “the Liberian civil war had lasted three years, or thirteen, or twenty-three, depending on how you counted.” As two different rebel armies approached Monrovia from different directions, the government of the corrupt, violent president Charles Taylor was struggling to hold onto power. The capitol was filled with militias loyal to Taylor, including units composed of child soldiers, whose unpredictable behavior made them as fearsome to the local populace as the rebels on the city’s outskirts. When word reached Liberia that an international criminal court was seeking to indict Taylor for war crimes, the fragile situation exploded: the rebel armies attacked and plunged Monrovia into heated combat. The last bastion of reason and hope for the city was U.S. Ambassador John William Blaney III and his team, holed up in the American Embassy. As the neighborhoods around them descended into chaos, this disparate group of diplomats, soldiers, and contractors worked to broker a cease-fire and provide a beachhead for the West African peacekeeping force that was attempting to restore order. Paradiso’s book tells a story about people who took on the seemingly impossible task of keeping all hell from breaking loose. He has a novelist’s sense of pacing and character, assembling the story from the perspectives of the various people involved—from those who witnessed the events from the embassy offices to others in the streets of the capital. Paradiso’s prose captures the surreal landscape of his subject, although he takes pains not to exoticize or romanticize the various groups involved: “The world press, which otherwise ignored the country, was quick to run images of child fighters dressed in lurid wigs and wedding dresses, wearing necklaces of human fingers.” Overall, this book offers an engaging story that will be unfamiliar to many American readers as well as a nuanced look at the grittiness and complexity of war and diplomacy. A compelling account of an obscure international crisis.
Marks, Mary Dana*: Walled In, Walled Out: A Young American Woman in Iran (2017)
* RPCV Iran (1964-1966)
Discussion: Wednesday, January 17, 2018, 6:30-8:00 pm. Location at the home of Jackie and Mike Spurlock, 4101 SW Hillsdale Ave in Portland, 503-827-4126. Participating in our discussion will be Mary Dana Marks, the book’s author, via Skype. Feel free to bring snacks to share.
Synopsis: When Mary joins the Peace Corps the shah reigns in Iran and John F. Kennedy has left his mark on the world. Sent to Kerman, a conservative city on the Iranian plateau, she teaches English to high school girls. In the classroom, or walking through the bazaar amid turbaned Baluchi tribesmen and chanting Sufi dervishes, she is the exotic one. The adobe walls that seclude women exclude her, a bareheaded foreigner. Woven throughout are dusty travels from the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea, colorful feasts, rich history and hidden romance. Walled In, Walled Out recounts her convoluted, often humorous journey from ignorance to understanding in a country where the people speak with many voices.
Most of our books are selected by an annual survey; the last one was conducted in November 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, please contact Bill Stein, at 503-830-0817 or bookclub AT crpca.org.