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Roland Merullo (Micronesia 1979-80) who published A Little Love Story and Golfing with God this year had an op-ed piece “Of God, and Men” in the September 9, 2006, Boston Globe. Roland is now writing “another” book about God.

Japanland, a 4-Hour PBS Series, by Karin Muller (Philippines 1987–89) is now available as a 2-DVD set with a slide-show and never-before-seen footage. This film by Karin follows her as she seeks out the many unique and sometimes obscure subcultures of Japan — including sumo wrestlers, sword makers, geishas, Buddhist monks, and even the now-iconic workaholic, career-track salary-man. She experiences the great diversity and proud humanity of a nation rooted in the past but looking toward the future. You can contact Karin at: Or check out:

Nita Noveno (Cameroon 1988–90) is a writer and educator who after graduating from the New School MFA Creative Writing Program asked her wise advisor “What next?” and the answer she received — “Start a reading series!” She founded the Sunday Salon prose reading series in the summer of 2002 and along with fellow graduate, Caroline Berger, hosts a pool of talented emerging and published writers (a few RPCVs included!) every third Sunday of the month in Brooklyn. For more information, go to:

Toren Volkmann (Paraguay 2003) and his mother Chris and their book From Binge to Blackout: A Mother and Son Struggle with Teen Drinking were featured in the September 4, 2006 issue of People Magazine. Toren went to Paraguay where at a September in-country conference he had an emotional breakdown and was sent home. It was the first his family realized he had an alcohol problem. In Paraguay, Toren recalls, “I found serenity being out in the country with some of the warmest people I have ever encountered. In my little community, I was trying to reinvent myself as a normal person. When I saw other Volunteers in Asunción, I tried to be a social drinker, but I was lying to myself . . . I was hiding drinks and was ashamed for the first time. Finally I found myself in the Peace Corps medical office. I was given Valium and put in a hotel room to begin detoxing.”

Chasing the Sea

Susan O’Neill (Venezuela 1973-74) has just published her fourth piece on Amazon Shorts, a new site where readers can download stories, essays and segments of serial works from published authors for 49 cents each. The current piece, “The Hungry Ghosts,” is her first non-fiction entry on the site, an essay about traveling in Hue in 1969, during the author’s service as an Army nurse in Viet Nam. O’Neill also has three fiction stories available on the site:
The Bingo Game,” “Walking Funerals and High-Heeled Pumps,” and “Things that Go Bump in the Night.”
     O’Neill is the author of Don’t Mean Nothing: Short Stories of Viet Nam, a collection of interconnected stories based loosely on her time as an operating room nurse in Viet Nam. It is available through She has a website at
and a blog where her latest (9/24) riff is on torture.

Paul Karrer (Samoa 1978–80) published a story about a former student, now in prison, writing to thank Paul for teaching him to play chess. This full page story entitled, “All The Wrong Moves” was published in Teachers’ Magazine.
     Another of Paul’s stories, “Ghost Kid,” appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle Magazine. It was about a fifth-grade writing assignment which made a nondescript invisible kid, visible.

The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban by Sarah Chayes (Morocco 1984–86) came out in August from Penguin Press. Sarah was a reporter in Afghanistan for NPR and then become “field director” of Afghans for Civil Society.
     Steve Coll, Pulitzer-Prize winning author of Ghost Wars writes that Sarah has “produced a passionate, involving, important work of journalism.”
     Publishers Weekly sums up the book this way, “her hands-on experience as a deeply immersed reporter and activist gives her analysis and prescriptions a practical scope and persuasive authority.”

George Packer (Togo1982–83) won the 2006 New York Public Library Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism for his book, The Assassins’ Gate: America in Iraq. This award is given annually to honor a journalist whose work brings clarity and public attention to important issues. Packer is a staff writer for The New Yorker and the author of two novels and three works of nonfiction — one, a winner of the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award. In presenting the award, NY Public Library president Paul LeClerc said Assassins’ Gate “provides a balanced and nuanced view of the forces that led to the war in Iraq and its human and political consequences” and is “an immensely valuable contribution to our understanding of this complex and tragic drama in the Middle East.”
     Also, in a long “Letter From Sudan” in the September 11, 2006 issue of The New Yorker Packer writes about Mahmoud Muhammad Taha, an unorthodox Sudanese mystic and the development of his “radically peaceful vision of Islam,” in Khartoum and throughout the Islamic world.

The cover story of the Spring 2006 issue of African Arts was written by Shawn Davis (Mali 1996–98) . Davis, a photographer who works for the Academy for Educational Development, wrote “Visual Griots of Mali, Empowering Youth through the Art of Photography,” a 14-page homage to a project created by the late Washington, DC photographer Nestor Hernandez. Davis and Hernandez, together with their team, including Malian photographer Alioune Ba, mounted a series of interactive workshops for 22 young Malian sixth graders in Bwa country. The young photographers’ work was exhibited in Bamako at the 6th African Encounters of Photography biennial and may now be enjoyed by visitors to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington from October 2, 2006 to April 29, 2007. For more information, visit or contact Shawn Davis at
     Shawn’s website is at
Word from Beijing is that Peter Hessler (China 1996–98) has finished his research on his next book on China and is moving back to the United States by the first of the year. Peter also reports that he was married in June to a former Wall Street Journal reporter, Leslie Chang, an American who has been living in China for awhile. Leslie is also working on a book. They plan on living next in the Southwest of the U.S. to finish their books before heading back overseas. At the moment, they are not sure where they will go, though Peter writes, “we’ll figure it out.”
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