Like to read?

PPCA’s Book Club is no exclusive group! Participation is open to everyone who has read a given month’s book. We discuss books set in parts of the world in which Peace Corps Volunteers have served, and we also consider books on any subject authored by RPCVs.

If you like to read, please consider taking this month’s survey! All 33 options, from Abouzeid to Zeppa, are listed in the PPCA Book Selection Survey for 2020http://www.portlandpeacecorps.org/book-club/book-selection-survey-for-2020/, and have wide availability in local libraries. 

Through 5:00 pm PST on Friday, November 15, 2019, we are inviting each survey taker to select up to 10 books and then progress to the survey, which has a link at the bottom of the page. 

November 2019 Book Club Selection

The Fall of the Stone City
Kadare, Ismail*: The Fall of the Stone City (2008/2012)

* 2005 Man Booker International Prize

Discussion: Tuesday, November 12, 2019, 6:30-8:00 pm. Location at the home of Jackie and Mike Spurlock, 2211 SW Park Pl (unit 902, with a view) in Portland, 503-827-4126. This gathering will be 90 minutes certain, as that’s the limit for on-street parking in this area. Feel free to bring snacks to share.

Review: © Kirkus Review: An ironic, sober critique of the way totalitarianism rewrites history, from an Albanian author who’s long been the subject of Nobel whispers. The novel opens in 1943, as the Nazis are poised to move into Albania, retaking the country from Italy and invading the city of Gjirokastër. The locals are understandably restless, and an advance party is fired upon. Hostages are taken, and bloodshed seems inevitable. But in an effort to calm tensions, a leading doctor, Gurameto, meets with the Nazi commanding officer, Col. Fritz von Schwabe, who also happens to be an old college classmate. The loose plot of Kadare’s novel (The Accident, 2010, etc.) turns on the question of what exactly happened at that meeting. Various theories circulate among the citizenry: the invasion was all about locating and handing over a prominent Jew, Gurameto was angling for a governorship, the Albanians were being punished for their own incursions into Greece, and so on. Through these stories, Kadare explores the way people project their own nationalistic anxieties and prejudices onto every situation; the lyrics of a local bard turn the events into a kind of folklore. Kadare’s omniscient view emphasizes political processes at the expense of characterization, but if we don’t get to know the doctor, the colonel or the residents very well, Kadare is still a potent storyteller, and as the story jumps to 1944 and then to 1953, he reveals the grim consequences of dictatorships on identity. The tail end of the novel focuses on Stalinist interrogators’ efforts to bully and torture the truth about the meeting out of Gurameto, and his refusals don’t symbolize heroism so much as resignation—a realization that the facts will never be clear in the face of anti-democratic thuggery. A harsh but artful study of power, truth and personal integrity.

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

October 2019 Book Club Selection

Tell Me How It Ends
Luiselli, Valeria, and John Lee Anderson: Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions (2017)

Discussion: Wednesday, October 2, 2019, 7:00-8:30 pm. Location at the home of Paul and Susie Robillard, 5405 NW Deerfield Way in Portland, 503-430-1776. Feel free to bring snacks to share.

Review: © Kirkus Review: A heartfelt plea to change the dialogue on Latin American children fleeing violence in their homelands to seek refuge in America. A Mexican-born novelist, Luiselli (The Story of My Teeth, 2015, etc.) began the inquiry that informs her book-length essay as a Mexican-born writer, living in America, awaiting her green card. Her sense of mission intensified when she began working as a translator for those seeking pro bono legal assistance in their attempts to avoid deportation. She found that their stories could not match neatly with the 40 questions on the immigration questionnaire. Some of the children lacked fluency in Spanish as well as English, and some of their memories were vague or evasive. Yet the dangers they had encountered were real, as was the threat of returning to their countries of origin. Luiselli effectively humanizes the plights of those who have been demonized or who have been reduced to faceless numbers, the ones caught in the web of gang violence fueled by drug wars and the American arms trade. She writes with matter-of-fact horror in response to question No. 7, “did anything happen on your trip to the U.S. that scared you or hurt you?, that “eighty percent of the women and girls who cross Mexico to get to the U.S. border are raped on the way.” Yet the victims are often criminalized in the American debates over immigration: “In the media and much of the official political discourse, the word ‘illegal’ prevails over ‘undocumented’ and the term ‘immigrant’ over ‘refugee.’” The author also explains how the immigrant crisis predated the triumph of Trump and how policies of the Obama and Bush administrations were heartless in treating such refugees as some other country’s problem. Though Luiselli may not convince those adamantly opposed to loosening regulations, she hopes that those who have been willfully blind to the injustices will recognize how they “haunt and shame us…being aware of what is happening in our era and choosing to do nothing about it has become unacceptable. A powerful call to action and to empathy.

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