Peace Corps Writers
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Glory in the Camel's Eye Sarah Erdman (Cote d’Ivoire 1998–00), who is interviewed in this issue, was the featured reader at the NPCA Conference held in Portland, Oregon in early August. Her book, Nine Hills to Nambonkaha: Two Years in the Heart of an African Village had been selected by Borders Books for the Borders Original Voices program highlighting “innovative and ambitious books from new and emerging talents.” Nine Hills was also selected by Barnes & Noble for the Discover Great New Writers program that introduces “dynamic new literary authors.” The book was published by Henry Holt earlier this month and it is reviewed in this issue.
Dark Star Safari Mike Tidwell’s (Congo/Zaire 1985–87) newest book, about his odyssey hitchhiking on Cajun fishing boats along the Louisiana coast, continues to attract great reviews and noteworthy readers. Bayou Farewell: The Rich Life and Tragic Death of Louisiana’s Cajun Coast was featured on C-SPAN Book TV in June and Tidwell was interviewed on NPR’s “Marketplace” radio program in July. The book has now gone into a second printing and has caught the attention of Louisiana’s governor, Mike Foster. The governor held a state dinner in Tidwell’s honor at the governor’s mansion in March and personally bought 1,500 copies to give to politicians in Louisiana and Washington, D.C. The book draws portraits of Cajun fishing people along the vast wetland coast of Louisiana and details the catastrophe of disappearing marshes caused by the levying of the Mississippi River.
In the news

David Quammen’s “splendid book,” writes Norman Rush (Botswana CD 1978–83) in the New York Times Book Review on Sunday, August 31, is “an artful, focused account of contemporary efforts to secure preservation, in the wild,” of the large-bodied carnivores that Quammen designates “alpha predators.”
     “The stories he presents contain rich detail and vivid anecdotes of adventure, and they provide skillful capsulizations of the politics, economics, cultural history and ecological dynamics bearing on the fate of each of these cornered populations,” says Rush, the author of the recently published novel, Mortals, which is set in Botswana. “In talking about Crocodylus niloticus, Quammen refers to the death of William H. Olson, a Peace Corps Volunteer taken by a croc in the Baro River in Ethiopia in 1966. He repeats a commonly retolded version of this tragic event, to the effect that the Volunteers for some reason ignored warnings by local people that a crocodile lurked in the river in which they were planning to swim. There is strong counter testimony on this point by Kathleen Coskran, a member of Olson’s party, whose letter to her mother about the incident, written shortly afterward, has been available for several years on the Internet at In fairness to Olson’s family, conclusions on what happened should acknowledge the testimony of this witness and some others to Olson’s death that no warning was given to the group.”
Peter Hessler (China 1996–98) journeys back to the Chinese river town of Fuling, the setting of his first book River Town, and finds his characters are writing a whole new story of there own.. It is in TIME Asia Edition, August 18–25, 2003, Vol. 162, No. 6
       An essay by Terez Rose (Gabon 1985–87) will appear in Women Who Eat, an upcoming anthology published by Seal Press due out in November 2003. The essay, entitled, “Lessons From Gabon,” interweaves the themes of family, food and foreign culture, commenting on the change of perspective that two years abroad can bring.
     Tom Mullen (Malawi 1989–92) is the author of Rivers of Change: Trailing the Waterways of Lewis and Clark that will will be published in May 2004.
     On the morning of this coming October 24th, Tom will be on a discussion panel presented in Louisville, Kentucky, that will be part of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Commemoration. The specific venue for this particular panel has not yet been decided, but will be announced in October on the website The panel will be discussing how the rivers that Lewis and Clark traveled on have changed in the past 200 years and what we can do to protect them during the next 200 years.
The September/October 2003 issue of T&L Golf Magazine has an article by Roland Merullo (Micronesia 1979–80) about playing golf in New England autumns.
     Merullo is the author — most recently — of In Revere, in Those Days, which will be out in paperback this October. This novel won the 2003 Maria Thomas Fiction Award given by Peace Corps Writers.
Nnorom Azuonye talks with Stephen Vincent (Nigeria 1965–67) about his poetry and the influences of Nigeria on his poetry in a two-part interview at Part One was published this past July along with several of his poems; Part Two was published in September.
     Vincent is a poet and publisher who has lived in San Francisco since his Peace Corps tour, when he taught creative writing, English and American Literature at the University of Nigeria in Nsukka. Author of six books of poetry including Walking that includes several Nigerian based poems.
     Pacifica Radio Station KPFA is planning to produce readings from his new work, On the Way to Iraq, from a series of articles he wrote for The Gothics News Service, Spring, 2003. He was the publisher of Momo’s Press (1973 – 1983) and Bedford Arts, Publishers (1986 – 1991). Currently he directs Book Studio, a book packaging company.
   RPCV writer and textile artist Bonnie Lee Black (Gabon 1996–98) became addicted to patchwork quilting while serving in the Peace Corps. Living alone on the top of a hill in the middle of the rainforest, without a vehicle, TV, telephone, or even a sewing machine, she spent her free time hand-piecing scraps of wildly colorful African fabric until she was hooked on the craft. After her tour, she moved to Mali where she created an economic development effort called “The Patchwork Project,” in which she taught talented Malian seamstresses how to make patchwork quilts with locally made fabric, to be sold, ultimately, over the Internet. The project continues to this day. Living now in Dixon, New Mexico, she is involved with the art collective, Dixon Studio Tour. Learn more about her creative work at on her artist page.
Paul Conklin (Staff: PC/W 1964–67), the first official photographer for the Peace Corps, died of cancer on Wednesday, September 17, 2003 in Port Townsend, Washington at the age of 74.
     Having worked as a free-lance writer in Nigeria in the early 1960s, Conklin approached Sargent Shriver in Washington for a job and was hired by Sarg in 1964. Many of the early dramatic photographs of PCVs working overseas were taken by Conklin and appeared in early recruitment material, as well as in the pages of The Volunteer, the Peace Corps agency’s publication for PCVs. Conklin later worked with writer Brent Ashabranner, Peace Corps Deputy Director; India, Country Director 1964–69) on books about the Peace Corps, and many children’s books.
     One of Conklin’s most striking images, which appeared in Time Magazine, was that of a young protester placing a daisy in the barrel of a National Guardsman’s rifle during a demonstration at the Pentagon against the Vietnam War.
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