|Writers from the Peace Corps (page 5)|
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|As Others See Us
On September 9, 2001, on the 40th anniversary of the agency, The Washington Post reported that the Peace Corps community is churning out enough works thousands of memoirs, novels, and books of poetry to warrant a whole new genre: Peace Corps Literature. Also in 2001, Book Magazine wrote in the March/April issue about the literary movement of Peace Corps writers, quoting Paul Theroux, Bob Shacochis and Kent Haruf.
Then there is the review that appeared in the November 2001 issue of Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy about the collection of Peace Corps stories that were published in Living On The Edge. The reviewer was Patrick Shannon of Penn State University and he wrote.
None of the contributors are protagonists in their chapters, but each chapter is based on some event that the writer witnessed, experienced, or heard about. By telling the stories, the contributors seem to reconsider their experiences overseas and enable readers to consider (or perhaps reconsider) U.S. actions in the developing world. Those actions can serve as a metaphor for readers experiences with human and cultural differences. In this way, the book offers a triple treat. Readers learn a little about parts of the world they may never see for themselves, they are entertained by a good yarn, and they can learn about themselves as well.
What more could a Peace Corps writer want?
The Peace Corps Volunteer as character
| A steady stream of novels has followed. The most important of them, in terms of focusing on Volunteers as characters, are: Tama Janowitzs A Cannibal in Manhattan (1987) about a Volunteer who brings a cannibal home to New York as her husband; Richard Doolings White Mans Grave (1994), another black comedy that involves a missing Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa; and Carter Colemans The Volunteer (1998), that focuses on a Volunteer building fish ponds in Tanzania who becomes involved with a beautiful, young school girl. Most recently (2001), Anita Shreves The Last Time They Met is partially set in Kenya and has as a character a young married woman Volunteer having an affair with her high school boyfriend. Also in 2001 was the first novel by noted Malaysian poet, Shirley Geok-Lin Lim, entitled Joss & Gold that has a Peace Corps Volunteer subduing and abandoning a married university professor in Malaysia. She loses her husband, has the PCVs child, and her daughter searches for her true identity.The Great Peace Corps Novel
Several former Volunteers have written novels that come directly from their own experiences. The first of these Peace Corps novel by a PCV is Lament for a Silver-Eyed Woman by Mary-Ann Tirone Smith. A third of that 1988 novel is set in Cameroon, where Smith served. In 1991 Richard Wiley published Festival for Three Thousand Maidens, a novel about a Peace Corps Volunteer in Korea Wileys country of assignment. Leaving Losapas by Roland Merullo, also published in 1991, is about the life of a Volunteer in Micronesia where Merullo served. Marnie Muellers first novel, Green Fires: Assault on Eden, A Novel of the Ecuadorian Rain-Forest, published in 1994, is about a PCV who returns to Ecuador with her new husband.
Other Peace Corps-centered novels are Craig Carozzis The Road to El Dorado (1997), Susana Herreras Mango Elephants in the Sun: How Life in an African Village Let Me Be in My Skin (1999), Tom Hazukas In the City of the Disappeared (2000), William Amoss The Seed of Joy (2000) and dozens of other novels written about the Peace Corps experience.
In his fiction, Paul Theroux has used the character of a volunteer in several books, including his third novel, Girls At Play (1969), set in upcountry East Africa, and has written more extensively about himself as a Peace Corps character in My Secret History (1984) and My Other Life (1996).
Maria Thomas used Peace Corps Volunteers as characters in several of her stories in the collection, Come to Africa and Save Your Marriage and Other Stories, published in 1987; Kathleen Coskran did the same in The High Price of Everything, also published in 1987.