Peace Corps Writers
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Literary Type
The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books held on the UCLA campus on the weekend of April 24th was saturated with Peace Corps writers. The Peace Corps Los Angeles Recruitment office had a booth at the Fair where a number of RPCVs displayed and sold their books. Among them Maureen Orth (Colombia 1965–67), George Packer (Togo 1982–83), Eric Lax (Micronesia 1966–68) and Laurence Leamer (Nepal 1965–67) signed their recently published books.
David Taylor (Mauritania 1983–85) has several offerings in recent fiction and nonfiction media:
  • Stories have appeared recently in journals Wind and Zone 3.
  • “Pelagro” was published in an anthology, Eclectica Magazine: Best Fiction, Vol One.
  • His story “Monsters,” published in the February 11, 2003 issue of Pindeldyboz, was named a Notable Online Story of 2003 in storySouth’s Million Writers Contest.
  • His essay about retracing the Federal Writers’ Project in Nebraska appears in the Spring 2004 issue of Prairie Schooner; and a documentary that grew from that story is being developed with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
  • An article on the StoryCorps oral-history project will be in Smithsonian magazine this summer.


The Butter Man by Elizabeth Letts (Morocco 1983-86) and Ali Alalou will be published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children in the fall of 2005. It is the story of a father telling his daughter of the famine in his village in the High Atlas Mountains. Letts’ novel, Quality of Care, will be published by Penguin/NAL in March 2005. It is about an obstetrician who is unable to save the life of a childhood friend in an emergency, and is forced to reexamine the demons of her past and to explore the question of what it means to “save” someone.
     Rachel Alt (Burkina Faso 1996-98), a third-year medical student at Harvard University, published an essay entitled “Fonyon” this spring in The Dudley Review, 2004, Issue 10: Errata & Contradiction. This journal is produced by Dudley House, the center for graduate students at Harvard University. Rachel’s essay focuses on the coming of AIDS to Africa and her village of Kasangé where Rachel worked as a health Volunteer. Rachel is planning to return to Africa after she finishes her residency.
The May issue of Golf Magazine carries a travel article by Roland Merullo (Micronesia 1979–80) on playing golf in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
The March issue of Islands Magazine had a piece by P.F. Kluge (Micronesia 1967–69) on Tinian where the Navy Seasbees once resided, and from where the Enola Gay was loaded and took off.
George Packer (Togo 1982–83), staff writer for The New Yorker, has been reporting from Baghdad and his article, “Caught in the Crossfire,” appeared in the magazine’s May 17th issue. In the article he says that recent revelations of torture in Abu Ghraib prison outside of Baghdad will likely have a strong effect on the attitudes of many of Iraq’s moderates, as well as the support for the war here at home.
     Packer received two Overseas Press Club awards this year, for “War After the War,” about Iraq, and “The Children of Freetown,” about the legacy of the war in Sierra Leone.
Phil Bob Hellmich’s (Sierra Leone 1985–89) essay “Fishing in Sierra Leone” has been published in the newest of the Chicken Soup book series — for the Fisherman’s Soul. This story is about Phil Bob’s return to his village nine years after he served there as a PCV.
Early word on Mary-Ann Tirone Smith’s (Cameroon 1965–67) next book, She Smiled Sweetly: A Poppy Rice Mystery is that this third book featuring a D.C.-based FBI agent is a blend of literary brilliance and outstanding mystery. Publisher’s Weekly writes, “Smith shines in this superb whodunit.” The book is coming from Holt in June.
Eventide, the new novel by Kent Haruf (Turkey 1965-67) is reviewed in this issue, and was also reviewed in The New York Times book section by Jonathan Miles on Sunday, May 23. Miles sums up: “Kent Haruf’s achievement lies in his ability to depict the frangible values of rural communities, not advocate them. Dusting the West with sugar isn’t necessary; what dust there is is sweet enough.” The New Yorker in the May 31 issue in “Briefly Noted” notes: “It’s rate that such slow, deliberate prose is this highly charged, but Haruf’s writing draws power from his sense of character — its limitations and its possibilities — and how it propels action.” Then in the daily New York Times on May 25, the demanding reviewer Michoko Kakutani writes of Haruf’s novel, “In the hands of another writer these events might read like a hick town soap opera, but Mr. Haruf’s understated prose, combined with his emotional wisdom and his easy affection for his characters turns these events into affecting drama.”
Eric Lax (Micronesia 1966–68) is receiving a series of positive reviews for his book: The Mold in Dr. Florey’s Coat: The Story of the Penicillin Miracle published this month by Henry Holt. In the May 26, New York Times, reviewer Simon Winchester says Lax’s book is “admirable, superbly researched” and that Lax has “done at long last is to hand out the properly deserved degrees of merit to all who were involved in the making of this extraordinary and fugitive piece of magical chemistry.”
   Halford E. Jones (Philippines 1963-68) has been described as a world class adventurer, a leading authority on Philippine martial arts, one of the oldest full-contact stick fighters in the United States, an expert in several southeast Asian martial arts, and an expert and living encyclopedia on martial arts. His martial arts articles have appeared, not only in the United States, but also in the Philippines. He has contributed to nearly all major martial arts publications in the United States and has been doing so since the late 1960s. Currently he is the Executive editor of the Filipino Martial Arts magazine (
   Les Young (Ecuador 1963–65) is creating a new website — — that will go online on July 4, 2004. It will publish essays and poems by the public that assess the “wisdom” or “imprudence” of our nation’s “Preemptive Self-Defense Strategy, the Bush Doctrine.” Les is seeking submissions which can be original material or re-prints of favorite essays or poems. Contact him at
Author and investigative journalist Bernard Lefkowitz (who served briefly in the Peace Corps, years and country not known) died of thymic carcinoma, a cancer of the thymic gland, on May 21 in New York City. In 1997, Lefkowitz wrote Our Guys: The Glen Ridge Rape and the Secret Life of the Perfect Suburb, about the 1989 gang rape of a mentally disabled girl by a group of popular high school students in an affluent New Jersey suburb. An Edgar award-winning author, he had written three earlier books on social issues, including Tough Change: Growing Up on Your Own in America. His articles have appeared in Esquire, Newsweek, The New York Times Magazine, New York, Psychology Today, Ladies' Home Journal, The Washington Post, Sports Illustrated, and The Los Angeles Times. He also taught journalism at Columbia University.
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