April 2017 Book Club Selection

Phobos & Deimos
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.

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

March 2017 Book Club Selection

China's Second Continent
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.

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

February 2016 Book Club Selection

Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight
Fuller, Alexandra: Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood (2003)

Discussion: Tuesday, February 9, 2016, 6:30-8:00 pm. Location at the home of Carol McCormac Wild, 7865 SW Parrway Dr in Portland, 503-292-3385. Feel free to bring snacks to share.

Review: © Booklist: Fuller, nicknamed “Bobo,” grew up in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) during the civil war, and she watched her parents fight against the local Africans to keep their farm. Fuller writes from a child’s point of view, masking neither her family’s prejudices nor their passions. Fuller’s father, Tim, is a determined and strong man, married to Nicola, who is gradually cracking under the pressure of the civil war and also of the deaths of her children. The Fullers lost three children; only Alexandra and her older sister, Vanessa, survived. The losses take their toll on Nicola, who turns to alcohol to combat her overwhelming depression. After the white colonialists lose the civil war, the Fullers’ farm is taken away, and they move to Malawi, where Bobo begins to get a sense of the life of an average African. But the overbearing Malawian government motivates the Fullers to move on, and they finally settle in Zambia. Fuller is a gifted writer, capable of bringing a sense of immediacy to her writing and crafting descriptions so vibrant the reader cannot only picture the stifling hot African afternoon but almost feel it as well. Writing a memoir powerful in its frank straightforwardness, Fuller neither apologizes for nor champions her family’s views and actions. Instead, she gives us an honest, moving portrait of one family struggling to survive tumultuous times.

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