March 2019 Book Club Selection

The Beach at Galle Road
Luloff, Joanna*: The Beach at Galle Road: Stories from Sri Lanka (2012)

* RPCV Sri Lanka (1996-1998)

Discussion: Thursday, March 28, 2019, 7:00-8:30 pm. Location at the home of Carole Beauclerk, 1500 SW Park Ave in Portland. Participating in our discussion will be Joanna Luloff, the book’s author, in person. 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. Note date change to accommodate the author’s appearance.

Review: © Kirkus Review: In her debut, Luloff weaves a montage of stories into a cohesive whole as she explores the roles of tradition and family and the destructive power of war through the lives of each character. With simplicity, the author, a former Peace Corps volunteer, gives voices to those who’ve been touched, however remotely, by a conflict that lasted for decades and destroyed the fabric of a country. Mohan, Janaki and their two daughters live a comfortable family-oriented life in Baddegama, a village in southern Sri Lanka, and pay scant attention to the struggle occurring between Tamil insurgents and the Sinhalese government. The skirmishes are taking place in the northern section of their country, so it’s had little impact on their lives. But not so for Lakshmi, Janaki’s older sister: Her husband, Sunil, a Tamil sympathizer, disappeared from the streets of Colombo in 1987, and now Lakshmi is returning to her family, a person incontrovertibly different from the girl Janaki once knew. Peace Corps volunteer Sam, a boarder in Janaki’s home, falls in love with a student from the north and insists on staying in the country even though his visiting parents pressure him to leave. And other volunteers, whether for altruistic reasons, adventure or escape, journey to Sri Lanka to find purpose or refuge along the beautiful beaches or in mountain retreats. Like Lucy, who manages an International Aid rest home, some discover that fulfilling a desire for adventure can lead to witnessing unimaginable horrors. Perhaps the most affecting tale is the story of Nilanthi, a brilliant young teaching candidate and the object of volunteer Sam’s love. When the violence causes her program to shut down, she returns home to her parents, three brothers and best friend, Sunitha. What follows is a study of societal barriers, family dynamics and individual strength. Each story is subtly presented and, for the most part, disturbingly believable.

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

February 2019 Book Club Selection

Someone Knows My Name
Hill, Lawrence: Someone Knows My Name (2007)

Discussion: Wednesday, February 13, 2019, 6:30-8:00 pm. Location at the home of Peggy McClure, 5480 SW 18th Dr in Portland, 503-453-2089. Feel free to bring snacks to share.

Review: © Publishers Weekly: Stunning, wrenching and inspiring, the fourth novel by Canadian novelist Hill (Any Known Blood) spans the life of Aminata Diallo, born in Bayo, West Africa, in 1745. The novel opens in 1802, as Aminata is wooed in London to the cause of British abolitionists, and begins reflecting on her life. Kidnapped at the age of 11 by British slavers, Aminata survives the Middle Passage and is reunited in South Carolina with Chekura, a boy from a village near hers. Her story gets entwined with his, and with those of her owners: nasty indigo producer Robinson Appleby and, later, Jewish duty inspector Solomon Lindo. During her long life of struggle, she does what she can to free herself and others from slavery, including learning to read and teaching others to, and befriending anyone who can help her, black or white. Hill handles the pacing and tension masterfully, particularly during the beginnings of the American revolution, when the British promise to free Blacks who fight for the British: Aminata’s related, eventful travels to Nova Scotia and Sierra Leone follow. In depicting a woman who survives history’s most trying conditions through force of intelligence and personality, Hill’s book is a harrowing, breathtaking tour de force.

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

January 2019 Book Club Selection

The Bad-Ass Librarians Of Timbuktu
Hammer, Joshua: The Bad-Ass Librarians Of Timbuktu: And Their Race To Save The World’s Most Precious Manuscripts (2016)

Discussion: Tuesday, January 8, 2019, 7:00-8:30 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: © Publishers Weekly: Journalist Hammer (Yokohama Burning) reports on librarian Abdel Kader Haidara and his associates’ harrowing ordeal as they rescued 370,000 historical manuscripts from destruction by al-Qaeda-occupied Timbuktu. Hammer sketches Haidara’s career amassing manuscripts from Timbuktu’s neighboring towns and building his own library, which opened in 2000. Meanwhile, three al-Qaeda operatives, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, Abdel-hamid Abou Zeid, and Iyad Ag Ghali, escalate from kidnapping and drug trafficking to orchestrating a coup with Tuareg rebels against the Malian army and seizing Timbuktu. The militants aim to “turn the clocks back fourteen hundred years” by destroying revered religious shrines and imposing Sharia law, which includes flogging unveiled women and severing the hands of thieves. Fearing for the safety of the manuscripts, Haidara and associates buy up “every trunk in Timbuktu” and pack them off 606 miles south to Bamako, employing a team of teenage couriers. Hammer does a service to Haidara and the Islamic faith by providing the illuminating history of these manuscripts, managing to weave the complicated threads of this recent segment of history into a thrilling story.

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