Book Club

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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, 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:

March 2016 Book Club Selection

Kilometer 99
McMahon, Tyler*: Kilometer 99 (2014)

* RPCV El Salvador (1999-2002)

Discussion: Tuesday, March 8, 2016, 6:30-8:00 pm. Location at the home of Peggy McClure, 5450 SW 18th Dr in Portland, 503-453-2089. Participating in our discussion–via Skype–will be Tyler McMahon, the book’s author! Feel free to bring snacks to share.

Review: © Booklist: In his second novel (after How the Mistakes Were Made, 2011), McMahon once again focuses on an adventurous young woman, this time a Peace Corps volunteer in El Salvador. Hawaiian-born Malia has come to El Salvador with a newly minted engineering degree, and she throws herself into helping a rural village build an aqueduct to bring much-needed water to the villagers. She spends her weekends with her boyfriend, Ben, surfing the perfect waves just off the coastal city of La Libertad. Then a devastating earthquake wipes out a year’s worth of her work, and she finds herself reluctantly agreeing to spend the next year surfing with Ben, torn between her ambitions and her desire for the perfect adventure. But a robbery and an ill-timed meeting with a shady developer derail the couple’s travel plans. Instead of following the waves south, they find themselves desperately short of money and involved in a dangerous scheme to deliver drugs to renegade dealers. In this dark adventure tale, McMahon summons both the mystical joys of surfing and the angst of young people trying to navigate a treacherous world.

Where to find it:
Libraries: Ft Vancouver | Multnomah Co
Vendors: Powell’s | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

April 2016 Book Club Selection

Beebe, James*: Those Were the Days: A Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines in the Late ’60s (2014)

* RPCV Philippines (1968-1973)

Discussion: Tuesday, April 19, 2016, 6:30-8:00 pm. Location at the home of Maria and James Beebe, 2373 NW Pettygrove St in Portland, 971-229-0780. Participating in our discussion–in person–will be CRPCA’s James Beebe, the book’s author! Feel free to bring snacks to share.

Abstract: A series of vignettes of significant, often funny, sometimes quite serious, events and encounters based on James’ Peace Corps experience in the Philippines. As a Volunteer from October 1968 to May 1973 James was profoundly changed by the joy of life and economic inequality he discovered while serving in the Philippines. He helped introduce a new activity-based approach to science teaching, learned the truth of the children’s rhyme that “Planting Rice is No Fun,” and taught part-time at a College. Life included buying a one-of-a-kind mosquito net, being offered a love potion, witnessing the funeral processions of poor babies, holidays, and being attacked by dogs after eating dog meat. The cloud of the Vietnam War had a significant impact. The most life-changing event almost didn’t happen when Maria, the “matchmaker’s” intended choice, accused the Peace Corps of “fascism, imperialism, and neocolonialism.” Renewed efforts the next year resulted in an accepted marriage proposal 6 weeks later. James then had to secure the blessings of her grandmother, Huk Kumander Dayang-dayang, for a marriage 2 weeks later. They had to wade through a waste-high flood on their wedding day and spent their honeymoon in a 350 year old Catholic convent. Maria’s naturalization as a US citizen and acceptance into Peace Corps occurred during a 6 week trip to the US after which they returned as Volunteers to the Philippines.

Where to find it:
Vendors: Powell’s | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

May 2016 Book Club Selection

Urbani, Ellen*: Landfall (2015)

* RPCV Guatemala (1991-1993)

Discussion: Tuesday, May 3, 2016, 6:30-8:00 pm. Location at the home of Ellen Urbani, 1730 SW Schaeffer Rd in West Linn. Participating in our discussion–in person–will be CRPCA’s Ellen Urbani, the book’s author! The property is halfway between Mountain Rd and Petes Mountain Rd on Schaeffer Rd. The house number is on the mailbox, which is on the opposite side of the street from the driveway. The drive is shared, and you’ll see the neighbor’s house number (1880) marking the drive. Enter through the green cattle gate to the left of the barn. (The barn is your landmark: it’s huge, can be seen from anywhere, and has a dark red roof.) The gate should be open if you arrive on time, but call 503-701-6609 if you need help. Feel free to bring snacks to share.

Synopsis: Two mothers and their teenage daughters, whose lives collide in a fatal car crash, take turns narrating Ellen Urbani’s breathtaking novel, Landfall, set in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Eighteen-year-olds Rose and Rosebud have never met but they share a birth year, a name, and a bloody pair of sneakers. Rose’s quest to atone for the accident that kills Rosebud, a young woman so much like herself but for the color of her skin, unfolds alongside Rosebud’s battle to survive the devastating flooding in the Lower Ninth Ward and to find help for her unstable mother. These unforgettable characters give voice to the dead of the storm and, in a stunning twist, demonstrate how what we think we know can make us blind to what matters most.

Where to find it:
Libraries: Clackamas Co | Ft Vancouver | Multnomah Co | Washington Co
Vendors: Powell’s | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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 or through the form below: