Front Page - 9/04

Peace Corps Writers at the
Miami International Book Fair

For the first time in its twenty-year history, the Miami Book Fair International (MBFI) has invited Peace Corps Writers to present a panel of RPCV writers that will discuss their unique perspectives on the developing world and literature. The MBFI, the largest book fair in America and an event eagerly anticipated annually by hundreds of thousands of book lovers, will take place November 7 to November 14.
     The Peace Corps Writers participation was made possible by Leita Kaldi (Senegal 1993–96) and Helene Dudley (Colombia 1964–66). The panel will feature award winning writers Sarah Erdman (Cote D'Ivoire 1998–2000) and Bob Shacochis (Eastern Caribbean 1975–76).
     Peace Corps Writers is also sponsoring an information booth at the MBFI Street Fair with the Peace Corps/Atlanta Regional Recruitment Office. The Fair will be 10 a.m. to 6 p.m Friday, November 12th through the 14th.
     For information on the Book Fair, contact Leita Kaldi at or Helene Dudley at
     The Fair will be covered by CSPAN over the November 13–14 weekend when the RPCV panel will present. For a program of readings and special activities, please see

Second writing workshop in session
Eight RPCVs are now enrolled in the second on-line workshop on “writing a Peace Corps book” offered by Peace Corps Writers. For anyone interested in taking a future class, you can now check out the student evaluations of the first session that took place in the spring.

And finally…
Why write? No one is reading.

Literary reading continues to decline in the U.S. Today fewer than half of American adults now read literature, according to a new National Endowment for the Arts survey. The survey reports that there is a drops in all groups studied, with the steepest rate of decline — 28 percent — occurring in the youngest age groups. Since 1982 there has been an overall decline of 10 percentage points in literary readers, representing a loss of 20 million potential readers. The rate of decline is increasing and, according to the survey, has nearly tripled in the last decade. We should have been rock stars.

In this issue —
PCVs and Vietnam
We continue our series about Peace Corps Volunteers who came home from overseas and were faced with the reality of serving in Vietnam with an essay by Phil Damon (Ethiopia 1963–65). Phil and I taught together in Ethiopia at the Commercial School in Addis Ababa. Phil lived down the street from my place on a street that was locally called “Don’t Holler for Help.” Each morning before 8 a.m. the two of us would walk about a mile down Churchill Road to our secondary school that many people — or maybe it was just the two of us — considered the best high school in the Empire. On these brisk walks, we would discuss the larger issues of life that only, I’m sure, Peace Corps Volunteers discuss. We did this while brushing the flies off each other’s backs and carrying a load of students’ exercise books packed tightly inside the green Ethiopian Airlines bags slung over our shoulders. We last saw each other early on a July morning in 1964 when I flew out of Ethiopia for Europe and home and Phil began his second year as a PCV.
     This August at the Chicago/NPCA Conference we met again for the first time since Addis Ababa and it was as if we had been seeing each other every morning since our time together at the Commercial School. In fact, Phil went about brushing the flies off my back in Chicago when we went out for breakfast after his morning run. Like a real Ethiopian, he has become a marathon runner. Now retired after 34 years of teaching writing and spiritual literature at the University of Hawaii, Phil lives in Bellingham, Washington where he conducts seminars in spiritual autobiography [read about that in “Literary Type”], and writes a column, “Dancing on The Brink,” for The Bellingham Weekly, where his piece on the Peace Corps and Vietnam recently appeared. It is another example of the fine writing being done by RPCVs.

New at the site — The Booklocker
In an effort to alert everyone to fine books and fine writing from RPCVs, I will include in each issue a book that I’ve come across that perhaps you have not read. The first book is a collection of stories, Horses Like the Wind and Other Stories of Africa, by Baker Morrow (Somalia 1968–69)

Also —
This issue has six reviews of books written by RPCVs, and two “A Writer Writes” pieces. One is entitled, “Crafting a Canoe” and is by Jeb Bridges (Republic of Kiribati 1997–99); the second is “Le Onze Septembre” by Matt Brown (Guinea 2001-03).
     It is an issue filled with fine writing by fine RPCV writers. I’ll stop there and let you read on.

— John Coyne