Peace Corps Writers
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Literary Type
 River Town Peter Hessler (China 1996–98) has a book about his life as a Peace Corps teacher in Fuling, a small city on the Yangtze River in southwestern China’s Sichuan province coming out from HarperCollins in February. It is entitled River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze and is a terrific Peace Corps book. Peter is from Missouri and went to Princeton and then Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar before joining the Peace Corps. He is back in China now, writing for such publications as the Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, The New York Times, and the Atlantic Monthly.
Brothers Tom Kelley (Niger 1986–88 ) has an essay entitled “The Road to Niamey” that appears in Brothers, published by Hyperion in October, 1999. The book is a collection of essays and photographs about brothers and brotherhood. Kelley’s essay chronicles a trip he took with his brother in Niger several years after he had served there as a Volunteer. At the time, his brother was in medical school and he had recently graduated from law school. When they were out in the bush, they came across a woman who was dying. The essay describes their very different reactions to her suffering. Kelley uses the essay now in a course that he teaches in Legal Ethics.
Steal My Heart Kirkus Reviews and Publisher’s Weekly are weighing in with positive reviews for Steal My Heart, the first novel from Mark Brazaitis (Guatemala 1991–93). “Delightful debut novel about American innocents abroad and the Guatemalans whose lives they inevitably change,” writes Kirkus. And PW sums up, “The intense finale showcases Brazaitis’s keen prose style and ends this Guatemalan love adventure on a luminous, dramatic note.” (Mark’s book is reviewed in this issue.)
Entertainment Weekly’s October 6th issue has a special report on Gay Hollywood and included in a round up of “top novelists in the cultishly popular gay mystery genre” is Richard Stevenson (aka Richard Lipez (Ethiopia 1962–64).
Louisa Louisa by Simone Zelitch (Hungary 1991–93) had a front page review in the book section of the Boston Globe on October 1st. “In a time when most fiction seems small and pinches, Zelitch has written a grand, brave, open-hearted novel.” Simone was also featured in the October 5th issue of Philadelphia’s City Paper. On Sunday, October 8th, Louisa received a glowing review in the book section of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Maralyn Lois Polak called Simone’s novel, “magnificent . . . a haunting, harrowing tale of Holocaust loss, survival, forgiveness and redemption.” In October, featured an essay by Simone on her novel and her writing career.
In the Mountains of Heaven The long awaited collection of travel essays by Mike Tidwell (Zaire 1985–87) is now out and is entitled, In the Mountains of Heaven: Tales of Adventure on Six Continents. Library Journal on September 15th wrote that the collection was “salted with moments of electrifying insight, bizarre humor, and delightful discovery.” has two excerpts from In the Mountains of Heaven:Hanoi Haircut” in the July 2000 issue and “Christmas Miracle in the Andes” in this issue.
Charlie Peters (PC/W Staff 1961–68), founder of The Washington Monthly ( and neoliberal godfather to legions of journalists, is retiring from his position as editor-in-chief. Peters, who founded the magazine in 1969 and has edited it since, is stepping down in January. The new editor will be Paul D. Glastris, a speechwriter in the Clinton White House and a former correspondent and editor for U.S. News & World Report.
When he founded the magazine, Peters, who had just finished seven years with the Peace Corps, instituted a program that called for young writers to work for low wages. Their reward was a chance to write for a political magazine with a small circulation (now about 21,000) but with considerable influence. The annual salary is still $12,000. “We started out with regular salaries but quickly realized that The Monthly would never be able to survive,” said Charlie in an interview with The New York Times on Monday, October 16, 2000. “So I decided to apply the Peace Corps principle. We basically invited them in (young writers) and then killed them for two years for absolutely no money.”
     Alumni include Taylor Branch, the Pulitzer Prize-winner; James Fallows; Michael Kinsley; Gregg Easterbrook of The New Republic; Suzannah Lessard and Nicholas Lemann of The New Yorker, and reporters for The New York Times and The Washington Post, among other major newspapers.
  Jeffrey Tayler (Morocco 1988–90), who is interviewed in this issue, has a “Letter from Marseilles” in the November issue of Harper’s Magazine. He writes about North Africans in Europe, drawing on his knowledge and friendship with Arab and French friends he made while serving as a Volunteer in Morocco.
Novelist Kent Haruf (Turkey 1965–67) was featured November 20th in the “Arts Section” of the New York Times. In this on-going column entitled “Writers On Writing,” Kent wrote about the habits and methods of writers. Among other oddities, Kent writes, “As for me, I prefer a coal room in the basement of our house in southern Illinois, and I write my first drafts blind on an old manual typewriter.”
The Immaculate Invasion Writer Bob Shacohis (Eastern Caribbean 1975–76) weighted in on Tuesday, December 5th with a New York Times Op-Ed commentary on the Bush-Gore battle in Florida. Bob, who has lived in Tallahassee for the last 13 years and teaches at Florida State University, is the author most recently of The Immaculate Invasion, a non-fiction account of the U.S. and Haiti. For the Times, Bob surveys the circus in his hometown which, he says, is “pretty but not very interesting capital city of an indisputably screwball state” that has become the center of the universe. “We do like the attention,” Bob writes. “Our city employees have been cheerily handing out box lunches to the reporters; the university has talking heads stacked up like planes over LaGuardia, and my academic colleagues have shown a ready genius for being well-versed songbirds of the spectacle.” But soon, he sums up, “When all the Yankees pack up their briefcases and satellite dishes, we will remain as we were when you found us, happy as mullet in spawning season, enthralled by the surreal, cutthroat drama of ourselves.”
In the cover story of the Life section of USAToday, November 14, novelist Richard Wiley (Korea 1967–69) was recognized as having “hatched” the ideal of Las Vegas becoming the only U.S. “city of asylum” for oppressed writers as part of an international program overseen by the Paris-based International Parliament of Writers. Las Vegas is now hosting Sierra Leonian poet Syl Cheney-Coker as part of its efforts to change its long-time image of gambling and graft. Wiley — head of the literature program at UNLV — said of the city: “Underneath all the glitz is the desire to be a fully realized city like New York. For that, we need a literary community and other arts staples.”
Director Taylor Hackford (Bolivia 1968–69) has a new movie out — Proof of Life — that features wonderful sweeping shots of Ecuador where it was filmed.
Facing the Congo

The Best American Travel Writing 2000

In the Mountains of Heaven

Its a trifecta!
The New York Times on Sunday, December 3rd, ran its annual list of “Best Holiday Books” and leading the travel books roundup was Jeff Tayler’s (Morocco 1988–90) Facing The Congo. Number two on the list was The Best American Travel Writing 2000 in which Jeff has two pieces — one on Russia, the other on China. The third recommended travel book was Mike Tidwell's (Zaire 1985–87) In the Mountains of Heaven: Tales of Adventure on Six Continents. And who said the Peace Corps wasn’t a great adventure?
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