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:
Nayeri, Dina: The Ungrateful Refugee: What Immigrants Never Tell You (2019)
Discussion: Thursday, April 9, 2020, 10:00-11:30 am. Online meeting via Zoom; e-mail bookclub AT crpca.org for the login information. Participating in our discussion will be Dina Nayeri, the book’s author!
Review: © Booklist: This book’s combination of personal narrative and collective refugee story is compelling, necessary, and deeply thought and felt. Writing with truth and beauty, Nayeri (Refuge, 2017) reckons with her own past as a refugee, having left Iran at age eight with her mother and brother to eventually settle in Oklahoma. As an adult she has a daughter and does not want to pass down a legacy of identity confusion and a compulsion to move every few years. Throughout her escape, migration, and assimilation, Nayeri understood the importance of telling a story (even if only partially true) that casts her as an intensely desperate person welling with gratitude to be in a better place. Trouble would follow if she judged Iranian pastry superior to the bright blue American slushy, or if she admitted that Iranian school was more rigorous while waiting for her American peers to catch up in math. As part of her inquiry, Nayeri visits a refugee camp in Greece and talks to families still enduring years-long limbo. Folks live in Isobox containers, shop at a store with points in lieu of money, and approximate dishes from home to feel grounded. This valuable account of refugee lives will grip readers’ attention.
Contreras, Ingrid Rojas: Fruit of the Drunken Tree (2018)
Discussion: Tuesday, May 19, 2020, 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. Feel free to bring snacks to share.
Review: © Booklist: In this incomparable debut novel, Contreras draws on her own experience growing up in turbulent 1990s Bogotá, Colombia, amid the violence and social instability fueled by Pablo Escobar’s narcotics trafficking. In vividly rendered prose, textured with generous Spanish, Contreras tells the story of an unlikely bond between two girls on the verge of womanhood: Chula, the daughter of a middle-class family, and Petrona, the teenager hired to serve as the family’s maid. While Chula’s family can afford to protect themselves behind the suburban walls of a gated community, Petrona must support her many siblings as they struggle to survive the inner-city slums. Despite their differences, and driven by Chula’s curiosity about Petrona’s odd habits, the two become inseparably close until decisions must be made that will alter their futures forever. Contreras’ deeply personal connection to the setting lends every scene a vital authenticity, and a seemingly unlimited reservoir of striking details brings the action to life, like the trumpets and accordions on Christmas Eve, or the messy Afro of Petrona’s suspicious new boyfriend. A riveting, powerful, and fascinating first novel.
Walker, Peter*: Sagebrush Collaboration: How Harney County, Oregon, Defeated the Takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge (2018)
* RPCV Sierra Leone 1986-1988
Discussion: Thursday, June 4, 2020, 6:30-8:00 pm. Location at the home of Joel Salter, 42 SE 62nd Ave in Portland. Participating in our discussion–-in person-–will be Peter Walker, the book’s author! Feel free to bring snacks to share.
Synopsis: Every American is co-owner of the most magnificent estate in the world—federal public forests, grazing lands, monuments, national parks, wildlife refuges, and other public places. The writer Wallace Stegner famously referred to public lands as “America’s best idea,” but there have always been some who oppose the idea for ideological reasons, or because they have a vested economic interest. In the current decade, federal public lands have been under physical threat as never before, with armed standoffs and takeovers that the US government has proved stunningly unsuccessful at prosecuting in federal courts. One such incident was the takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Harney County, Oregon, in 2016. Armed militants seized the headquarters of the refuge for forty-one days and occupied the community for three months. Militants threatened and harassed local residents, pledging to “give back” the land to unnamed “rightful owners” in their effort to enact a fringe interpretation of the US Constitution. Drawing on more than two years of intensive fieldwork, Sagebrush Collaboration shows that the militants failed in their objectives because the sensible and hardworking citizens of Harney County had invested decades in collaboratively solving the very problems that the militia used to justify their anti–federal government revolution. In Sagebrush Collaboration, Peter Walker offers the first book-length study of why the 2016 takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge failed. His nuanced and deeply researched account provides the full context for the takeover, including the response from local and federal officials and the grassroots community resistance. It will be essential reading for years to come for anyone who wants to understand the ongoing battle over the future of America’s public lands.
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.