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.
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:
Betancourt, Ingrid: Even Silence Has an End: My Six Years of Captivity in the Colombian Jungle (2010)
Discussion: Tuesday, February 7, 2017, 6:30-8:00 pm. Location at the home of Mari Levesque, 1946 SE 22nd Ave in Portland, 503-858-0621. Feel free to bring snacks to share.
Synopsis: Ingrid Betancourt tells the story of her captivity in the Colombian jungle, sharing teachings of resilience, resistance, and faith. Born in Bogotá, raised in France, Betancourt at age 32 gave up a life of comfort and safety to return to Colombia to become a political leader in a country that was being slowly destroyed by terrorism, violence, fear, and hopelessness. In 2002, while a candidate in the Colombian presidential elections, she was abducted by the FARC. She spent the next six and a half years in the depths of the jungle as their prisoner. Chained day and night for much of her captivity, she succeeded in getting away several times, always to be recaptured. The facts of her story are astounding, but it is Betancourt’s indomitable spirit that drives this very special account, bringing life, nuance, and profundity to the narrative.
French, Howard W.: China’s Second Continent: How a Million Migrants are Building a New Empire in Africa (2014)
Discussion: Tuesday, March 7, 2017, 6:30-8:00 pm. Location at the houseboat of Liz Samuels, 3737 NE Marine Dr in Portland. Someone will be there to let people in the gate from 6:15 to 6:30. Park anywhere in the Rose City Yacht Club parking lot. At 6:30 we will walk together to the venue. Call 503-701-6218 if you arrive later. Feel free to bring snacks to share.
Review: © Booklist: Although several recent books have discussed, in variously alarmist fashion, China’s recent incursions into Africa in pursuit of resources and profit, former New York Times journalist French (A Continent for the Taking, 2004) has the advantage of significant personal experience in both Africa and China. He also speaks Mandarin, so he can converse directly with some of the million or so members of the Chinese diaspora in Africa. They are a diverse lot—doctors, engineers, farmers, entrepreneurs, lobbyists, laborers, and prostitutes, among others—and accounts of their experience are often absent from analyses of Chinese-African relations, which typically focus on infrastructure building and resource grabbing. Interacting with Chinese and Africans in Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Namibia, and elsewhere, French capably illustrates that although the Chinese omnipresence in Africa may be a form of soft imperialism, it is also a result of the crushing pressures—lack of space, merciless business competition, pollution—of modern Chinese society. For many Chinese, he suggests, Africa means opportunity and relative freedom that cannot be had at home. If French is sympathetic to the plight of many Chinese immigrants, however, he remains critical of their casual racism and general callousness about their African hosts. And as he laments the seeming inevitability of corruption and environmental degradation, French’s disappointment in his cherished continent is palpable.
Moehl, John*: Phobos & Deimos: Two Moons, Two Worlds (2016)
* RPCV Cameroon (1974-1980)
Discussion: Thursday, April 6, 2017, 7:00-8:30 pm. Location at the home of Carole Beauclerk, 1500 SW Park Ave in Portland. 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. Participating in our discussion–in person–will be John Moehl, the book’s author! Feel free to bring snacks to share.
Synopsis: Many of us live dual lives, as though we live in two worlds. This divergence is perhaps greatest for those embedded in what may be called “multiculturalism.” Multicultural people, with their unique life experiences, are migrating around the globe, carrying their own baggage while they face the demands of living in new and strange lands. The short stories in this collection look at the daily tests facing people, frequently in Africa, as they struggle to survive, often in a rapidly changing world. These observations are made through the lens of an outsider–someone from a different culture, with different habits, seeing and learning how these trials are met–seeing and learning that people, regardless of ethnicity, share a common humanity that makes taking these tests poignant and, at times, a true reflection of the human condition. The stories focus on farmers and families, business and traditional leaders, the poor and the rich as they move through life’s pathways, not knowing the changes in store for tomorrow. The stories tell tales of sadness and success, while underscoring the common denominators we all share. The stories may be seen as representing a different world, but they most likely represent the whole world.
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 or through the form below: