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  • Communications Intern posted an article
    A tribute to decades of work by children’s author Mildred D. Taylor. see more

    A tribute to decades of work by children’s author Mildred D. Taylor. This year, Peace Corps Writers recognized her with the Writer of the Year Award.

     

    By John Coyne

    Illustration by Montse Bernal

     

    Mildred Delois Taylor is a critically acclaimed author of children’s novels. In 1977, she won the Newbery Medal, the most prestigious award in children’s literature, for her historical novel Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. It was the second book in a series of ten novels focusing on the Logan family, and portraying the effects of racism counterbalanced with courage and love. Her latest book, All the Days Past, All the Days to Come, published last year, is the final novel in the series. 

    Since receiving the Newbery Medal, she has won four Coretta Scott King Awards, a Boston Globe–Horn Book Award, a Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and the PEN Award for Children’s Literature. In 2021 she received the Children’s Literature Legacy Award, honoring an author whose books have made a significant and lasting contribution to literature for children. In presenting the award, Dr. Junko Yokota said of Taylor’s storytelling, “It shows how courage, dignity, and family love endure amidst racial injustice and continues to enlighten hearts and minds of readers through the decades.”

    Mildred Taylor was born in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1943. Her paternal great-grandfather, the son of a white Alabama plantation owner and a Black woman forced to serve him as a slave, became a successful farmer in Mississippi. His large extended family thrived despite the racism they encountered. 

    Her parents, Wilbert and Deletha, wanted their daughters to grow up in a less racist society. Mildred was only four months old when they, like thousands of other African American families, boarded a segregated train bound for the North. 

    Arriving in Toledo, Ohio, the Taylors stayed with friends until they earned enough money to buy a large duplex on a busy commercial street. This house soon became home to aunts, uncles, and cousins, all moving away from Mississippi in search of a better life.

     

    “I learned a history not then written in books but passed from generation to generation on moonlit porches and beside dying fires in one-room houses, a history of great-grandparents and of slavery and the days following slavery; of those who lived still not free, yet who would not let their spirits be enslaved.”

    Mildred stored in her memory the tales she heard as a child at family gatherings. Many of these stories would later become plots in her novels. In her author’s note to Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Taylor acknowledged her debt to this family who generously shared stories of their history, and to her father in particular. “By the fireside in our northern home and in the South where I was born, I learned a history not then written in books but one passed from generation to generation on the steps of moonlit porches and beside dying fires in one-room houses, a history of great-grandparents and of slavery and of the days following slavery; of those who lived still not free, yet who would not let their spirits be enslaved. From my father the storyteller I learned to respect the past, to respect my own heritage and myself.”

     

    Illustration of Mildred Taylor

    Illustration by Montse Bernal. Originally commissioned for O The Oprah Magazine

     

     

    In addition to the oral stories, books also played an important role in Taylor’s life from an early age. 

    “I can’t remember when I received the very first book of my own,” she says today, “but reading, at times, caused trouble. At night I would sit in the closet when I was supposed to have long been asleep. And I got into trouble during the daytime, too, when I would be reading in hiding when I was supposed to be doing my chores.”

    In 1965, Mildred Taylor applied to be a Peace Corps Volunteer. Milly, as she was always known in-country, was sent to teach secondary school in the town of Yirgalem in southern Ethiopia. She was one of a large group of new PCVs to that rural location 260 kilometers south of Addis Ababa. She lived with another Volunteer; a woman older than herself who had previously taught overseas at a U.S. Army base. The two women became the best of friends.

     

    “Reading, at times, caused trouble. At night I would sit in the closet when I was supposed to have long been asleep. And I got into trouble during the daytime, too, when I would be reading in hiding when I was supposed to be doing my chores.”

     

    It was in Yirgalem that I first met Milly, when I was serving as associate Peace Corps director for Ethiopia. I remember her as someone who caused no trouble, made no demands, and was a silent observer of other Volunteers, some of whom in her town were real “characters” — but she never wrote about them in her novels.

    What none of us knew was that Milly was already an accomplished writer. By the time she arrived in Ethiopia, she had completed her first novel. At the age of 19, she wrote Dark People, Dark World, the story of a blind white man in Chicago’s Black ghetto, told in the first person. Publishers were interested in the book, but Milly disagreed with the revisions they wanted, and the novel was never published.

    Returning home from Ethiopia, she worked as a Peace Corps recruiter, and she also trained new Volunteers for Ethiopia. She then enrolled at the University of Colorado School of Journalism and earned a master of arts. While a graduate student, she worked with university officials and fellow students and structured a Black Studies program at the university.

    In 1971, she moved to Los Angeles to write full time, and she supported herself by doing temporary editing and proofreading. She also married and gave birth to a little girl. Her life and career, however, were about to change. When she was offered a position to work as a reporter for CBS, she declined it, knowing her future was in writing novels, not reporting news. In 1973, she entered a contest sponsored by the Council on Interracial Books for Children. Her book, Song of the Trees, won first prize in the contest’s African American category and was published by Dial Books in 1975. The New York Times listed it as an outstanding book of the year.

    This book, about the Logan family, was to be the first in a series of ten novels based on stories from Milly’s own family history. One of her best-known books, Let the Circle Be Unbroken, was nominated for the 1982 National Book Award and received the Coretta Scott King Award in 1983.

    Having grown up immersed in family stories, Milly often revisited her great-grandfather’s house, built at the turn of the past century and without running water or electricity. Memories of those visits found their way into her Logan family stories, most notably Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, the 1977 Newbery Medal winner. Taylor’s stories reveal struggles, racial tension, and tragedy, as well as triumph, pride, and family honor.

    In an interview published in Book Links, Milly talks about her family and the novels she has written about growing up in a Black family in the South. 

    “All of my books are based on something that happened to a family member or a story told by a family member, or they are based on something that happened to me when I was growing up,” she says. 

    “I write about history because I was very affected by it as a child. When I was in school, many people did not know about the true history of Black people in America. I wanted to tell the truth about what life was like before the civil rights movement.”

    Milly Taylor is an example of someone who has made a difference overseas as a Peace Corps Volunteer and also here at home as a novelist. 

    Recently she wrote me that it was an honor to be included with so many fine writers who are former Peace Corps Volunteers. “Being in the Peace Corps was one of the greatest experiences of my life and I cherish the memories of my days in Ethiopia. So many times now I find myself wishing I could relive it all.”

    Don’t we all, Milly. Don’t we all.


     

    TOO REAL  

     

    3 covers of books by mildred taylor

    Mildred Taylor’s honest depictions of racial injustice have inspired many readers over the years. Some who lived through the eras she writes of extol how the stories echoed their firsthand experience; others comment on how the books opened their eyes for the first time to the horrors of racism. Not surprisingly, that honesty has also brought a different kind of scrutiny. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry made the American Library Association’s top 100 list of banned and challenged books for 2000–2009. It came in at No. 66, a few below Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner and a few above Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. 

     

     

    This essay appears in the special 2022 Books Edition of WorldView magazine.


    John Coyne (Ethiopia 1962–64) is the author of more than 25 fiction and nonfiction books and is the co-founder of Peace Corps Worldwide.

  • Orrin Luc posted an article
    Stories of Peace Corps' influence on Korean studies in the United States see more

    Peace Corps Volunteers and the Making of Korean Studies in the United States

    Edited by Seung-kyung Kim and Michael Robinson

    Center for Korea Studies, University of Washington

     

    Reviewed by Steven Boyd Saum

     

    The Peace Corps sent more than 2,000 Volunteers to South Korea 1966–81, to teach English and advise on healthcare. “Their experiences affected their worldview, individual politics, aesthetic sensibilities, and views on gender discrimination,” notes the introduction to this anthology. Those experiences also fueled scholarship on Korea in the States. A small yet significant number of the Volunteers returned to the U.S. and entered academia, forming the core of a second wave of Korean studies scholars.

    This volume includes essays by 11 individuals, nine of them returned Volunteers. Years in an impoverished nation still recovering from war — and in which authoritarian regimes sometimes brutally oppressed democratic uprisings — influenced their work: from studies in history, culture, and politics to literary translations and work with Amnesty International and as part of congressional staff.

    Carter Eckert (1968–71) describes life in Korea under the dictatorship of Chung-hee Park, a time of censorship, curfews, and surveillance. Laurel Kendall (1970–71) recounts gender discrimination and asks, “Did Women Have a Peace Corps–Korea Experience?” Don Baker (1971–74) writes about traveling to the city of Gwangju just after an uprising there was brutally put down. Other contributors who served in the Peace Corps include Edward J. Baker (1971–73), Donald Clark (1967–69), Bruce Fulton (1978–79), Linda S. Lewis (1970–72), Michael Robinson (1968–71), and Edward Schultz (1966–67). Co-editor Seung-kyung Kim and scholars Okpyo Moon and Clark W. Sorensen make it clear this project is far more than collective cheerleading.

    Kathleen Stephens, who served as a Volunteer in South Korea 1975–77, provides the afterword; a career diplomat, she returned to Korea as U.S. ambassador 2008–11, the first woman — and the first Korean speaker — to serve in that role.

     

    This review appears in the special 2022 Books Edition of WorldView magazine.


    Steven Boyd Saum is the editor of WorldView.

  • Communications Intern posted an article
    Letters, emails, comments on social media, and more see more

    Letters, emails, LinkedIn and Instagram comments, Facebook posts, tweets, and other missives. We’re happy to continue the conversation here and on all those nifty social media platforms. One way to write us: worldview@peacecorpsconnect.org

     


    Thanks to NPCA as We Return to Service

    As we prepare to return to Zambia in May 2022, we want to say thank you to each of you (and all of the NPCA staff/interns) for your continued support of us — first, as many of you are RPCVs yourself, and then advocates for Peace Corps even before our service, and throughout our first service, and then as evacuees, and through COVID, and then other important issues of the day these past two years, all really showing that this organization makes an effort to care about and hear the voices of (R)PCVs and country counterparts. We are going back to Zambia appreciative of all the people like you who’ve got our backs while we’re there — and for RPCVs everywhere. Thank you.

    Adam Greenberg and Lianne Bronzo

    Zambia 2018–20, returning to Zambia in May 2022

     

     


    The Peace Corps at Sixty

    Magnificent! Fabulous! Great! Superb! I hope to use the 60th anniversary edition of WorldView whenever I have a chance to let people know of our current situation as well as our historic and triumphant past.

    Patt Behler

    Peru 1962–64


    Congratulations on a spectacular special 60th anniversary edition. Your coverage of the 2021 Peace Corps Connect Conference captured the core of key sessions. The article about the “I-We-I” trend tracked by Shaylyn Romney Garrett knocked my socks off. It was consoling to see our current social and political situation in an historical context. I’m still pondering — and talking about — her plausible explanation for what we experience now in the midst of deeply entrenched racism, impotent partisan politics, and staggering numbers of impoverished people. Can we push this insightful article out to a wider audience? Every service organization committed to social and economic justice would find its long view encouraging. The data is there, visible for all to see. I hope we don’t have to wait another half century to pull ourselves out of the trench.

    Pat Wand

    Colombia 1963–65

    President, Museum of the Peace Corps Experience

     

     


    We Can Do It! Again!

    The special anniversary edition was a powerful invitation to discuss, debate, and create a better Peace Corps by those who know it best. I disagree, however, with Shaylyn Romney Garrett’s recommendation that our government sponsor millions of national service jobs which somehow would lessen economic inequality, cultural narcissism, and social fragmentation by creating a spirit of solidarity. There is no research suggesting national service would accomplish such goals. Our government does not have the authority to create programs to change citizens’ values and political orientations. Garrett is absolutely right, however, when she says there is much work to be done. Let us continue.

    Joanne Roll

    Colombia 1963–65

     

    Highly pronounced trends in urban areas around the country — a commitment to green architecture, expand renewable energy, green public and private transportation, recover recyclable materials from the waste stream, expand parks and open space, democratize food security, make public education and healthcare more comprehensive, improve urban air quality, and more wisely manage water resources — demonstrate that the social justice and environmental movements have morphed into something institutionalized on a once-unimagined scale. Urban governments now have a “sustainability agenda.” That took collective action. Protests after the George Floyd case have been an immense show of citizen concern about systemic racism. The crisis of climate change will compel more collective action, as it already has. There remains within our citizenry a deep longing for community, fellowship, and common cause. Our challenge is not to be deceived by demagogues who wish to seize on what divides us to fuel their warped political ambitions. We need steady purpose and earnest, honest leadership now more than ever. I agree we can do it again. And I believe we will.

    Jim Quigley 

    Chuuk, Federated States of Micronesia 1977–80

     

    It seems that an obvious cause of social pathology is the breakdown of the family unit. There is no mention of this phenomenon in analysis of the “I-We-I” cycle in American cultural history. The sexual revolution, which took off in the 1960s, certainly highlighted personal gratification. It also deteriorated family unity. Yet sociologists of the Left seem unwilling to consider this perspective. For the sake of a more just and peaceful society, it is necessary to understand and act upon the abuses which the revolution engendered.

    Carmen Mele, O.P.

    Malaysia 1969–72

     


    Fix Public Service Loan Forgiveness 

    I did Peace Corps in the ’90s. My loan was put into forbearance not only for the two years I was serving, but also the year after I returned when I was very sick. Interest accrued for three years. It didn’t matter how I filled out the forms, what I reported to them. Nothing. Proud to say I paid it off anyway, but really a punch in the back to those of us who served.

    Mary Kay Diakite

    Mali 1996–98

     

    The [Public Service Loan Forgiveness] program was very misleading. Almost none of my fellow Volunteers were able to benefit. Neither was I.

    Lauren L. Breland

    Thailand 2014–17, via LinkedIn

     

     


    Peace Corps Progenitors 

    Thank you for highlighting Operation Crossroads Africa. As an alum of both, I can attest to the fact that they are wonderfully aligned and are both powerful programs, both for volunteers and those with whom they collaborate. I often think that OCA does not get the recognition it deserves, specifically in regard to its being an inspiration for the Peace Corps — so I’m appreciative of WorldView for taking the time to do so!

    Lori Halvorson

    OCA Senegal, Summer 2006

    RPCV Burkina Faso 2007–09

     


    Safety and Security

    The discussion on “Peace Corps Safety and Security” revealed that the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act gave rise to the Office of Victim Advocacy (OVA) — but, oddly enough, within the Peace Corps itself. Such a delegation with potentially opposing transparency objectives is somewhat akin to relegating the National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates aviation accidents, to a division within one of the most accident-prone air carriers. OVA should more appropriately be matrixed onto the Office of Inspector General (OIG), which has congressionally mandated independence, whistleblower protections, plus the authority to access all of the Peace Corps systems of records. The current alignment could hardly be termed best practice. Congressional records have shown that the Peace Corps and OIG have had in the past a very public and bitter spat over the independence of IGs, including their access to agency systems of records besides the detection of waste, fraud, and abuse. 

    Henry Mulzac

    Belize 1975–77
    NYPD Detective 
    1981–2002
    Peace Corps OIG 2002–07

     


    CORRECTION: Gabon

    In edited remarks from Hermence Matsotsa-Cross in our fall 2021 edition (p. 37 in the print edition), we misstated where her mother was from. We should have said: “My father was a Volunteer in Gabon in the early ’70s, where he met my mother, a Gabonese woman from one village he worked in.” We’re sorry for the error. 
     

    WRITE US: worldview@peacecorpsconnect.org

  • Orrin Luc posted an article
    Works by Robert Frank, John Perkins, and Sheldon Gen see more

    Under the Influence

    Putting Peer Pressure to Work

    By Robert Frank

    Princeton University Press 

     

    Reviewed by NPCA Staff

     

    Robert H. Frank (Nepal 1966–68) is a pioneer and champion of behavioral economics, and in his many books, essays, and interviews he addresses moral sentiments, positional goods, expenditure cascades, the ever-widening income gap, the role of luck in our lives, and, most recently, the power of behavioral contagion. In Under the Influence, Frank tackles behavioral contagion, seeking to explain how to unlock the latent power of social context and harness it for good. Our environments encourage smoking, bullying, tax cheating, sexual predation, problem drinking, and wasteful energy use. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

    In the wake of the hottest years on record, only robust measures to curb greenhouse gases promise relief from more frequent and intense storms, droughts, flooding, wildfires, and famines. Frank describes how the strongest predictor of our willingness to support climate-friendly policies, install solar panels, or buy an electric car is the number of people we know who have already done so.

    A Cornell professor and influential teacher of economics since 1972, Frank retired from teaching in July 2020. He is the H.J. Louis Professor Emeritus of Management and Professor Emeritus of Economics at Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management, and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Demos.

     


     

    Touching the Jaguar

    Transforming Fear into Action to Change Your Life and the World

    By John Perkins

    Berrett-Koehler 

     

    Before John Perkins advised the World Bank, United Nations, Fortune 500 corporations, and governments, he served as a Peace Corps Volunteer (1968–71) in Ecuador. Many readers know him from his 2005 bestseller Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, a salacious exposé of transnational conspiracies to use international development to enrich the coffers of bit consulting and engineering firms while fueling global instability and latter-day colonialism. Touching the Jaguar updates some aspects of Confessions. But it takes its title from the story of how, as a Peace Corps Volunteer, Perkins’ life was saved by an Amazon shaman who taught him to “touch the jaguar” and transform his fears into positive action. And he reveals how shamanism converted him to a crusader for transforming a failing Death Economy (exploiting resources that are declining at accelerating rates) into a Life Economy (cleaning up pollution, recycling, and developing green technologies).

     


     

     

    Nonprofits in Advocacy Policy

    Their Strategies and Stories

    By Sheldon Gen and Amy Conley Wright

    Springer 

     

    This is a text designed for those working in nonprofit advocacy as well as studying it. Sheldon Gen (Kenya 1990–92) is an associate professor at San Francisco State University, where he focuses on public policy studies. A recipient of the 2020 Franklin Williams Award from the Peace Corps, Gen is the son of immigrants who fled China’s Communist revolution for California’s San Joaquin Valley. He was originally trained as an engineer and has worked with the EPA, the U.S. Air Force, and the Peace Corps.

     

    Story updated May 3, 2022.

  • Steven Saum posted an article
    Photographs from the city of Arak and central Iran from 1967–69 see more

    A selection from Dennis Briskin’s photos from Iran in the late 1960s. His book was recognized with the Rowland Scherman Award for Best Photography Book by Peace Corps Writers.

     

    By NPCA Staff

     

    Dennis Briskin has published a collection of 60 photographs from the city of Arak and central Iran, where he served as a Peace Corps Volunteer 1967–69. Briskin writes that he calls the collection The Face of Iran Before… because these photographs were taken before “the Islamic Revolution took the country back to oppressive intolerance and brutality. Before oil wealth brought engines and electric motors to replace mule, camel and horsepower, sometimes even human power, for pushing, pulling, lifting and carrying. Before towns spread out to become cities, and the capital spread up and out to become a dense, polluted metropolis.”

    This is a companion to a 2019 collection of Briskin’s photos, Iran Before. Here, in The Face of Iran Before…, the photos focus on the faces of people he saw. “How much you see and understand depends on what you bring to the seeing,” Briskin writes. “We see and respond through our personal filters: what we love, what we want, what we fear and who we think we are. If you see below the surface in these 60 photographs, you may know the people of Iran better than the 22-year-old man behind the camera. I saw more than I understood. I understood more than I can say.”

    A selection of Briskin’s photos also appears in the print edition of the special 2022 Books Edition of WorldView magazine. Read more from Dennis Briskin here

     

     

    Smoke and shadow.

     

     

    Cover photo: A woman smiles as she adjusts her chador.

     

     

    A young boy who was the sixth child after five girls and much beloved. He died young.

     

     

    A woman in conversation in Hamedan. She and her male companion had parked a Mercedes sedan on the main street.

     

     

    Silversmith in Iran

    Fine silversmithing takes intense concentration, steady hands, sharp vision. Visitors to Esfahan love the metal craftwork.

     

     

     

    Smiling girl

    “I love the pure contrast of light and dark,” Briskin writes. “Her smile touches my heart.”

     

    Story updated May 3, 2022.

  • Orrin Luc posted an article
    Sonja Krause Goodwin's extraordinary time in the early years of the Peace Corps see more

    My Years in the Early Peace Corps

    Nigeria, 1964–1965 (Volume 1)
    Ethiopia, 1965–1966 (Volume 2)

    By Sonja Krause Goodwin

    Hamilton Books 

     

    Reviewed by Steven Boyd Saum

     

    Sonja Krause Goodwin had already traveled far from home, earned a doctorate in chemistry, and worked for six years as a physical chemist when she joined the Peace Corps. Born in St. Gall, Switzerland, in August 1933, she had fled Nazi Germany with her family and resettled in Manhattan, where her parents opened a German bookstore. Sonja entered elementary school without speaking a word of English.

    Science is where she found her calling. She earned her bachelor’s in chemistry at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and her Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1957. After working six years in industry, she joined the Peace Corps and headed for Nigeria. She led the physics department at the University of Lagos until she and the other Volunteers had to leave the country in 1965 due to a politically motivated “university crisis.”

    She was reassigned to teach chemistry at the Gondar Health College in Ethiopia 1965–66, a college that also served as the local hospital. On her return to the U.S., she accepted a position at RPI and taught there for 37 years, advancing through the positions of associate professor and professor, and retiring in 2004. These memoirs were published in fall 2021, shortly before Goodwin’s death on December 1, 2021.

     

    Story updated May 2, 2022. 


    Steven Boyd Saum is the editor of WorldView.

  • Orrin Luc posted an article
    His new memoir is This Country: My Life in Politics and History see more

    This Country

    My Life in Politics and History

    By Chris Matthews

    Simon & Schuster

     

    Reviewed by Steven Boyd Saum

     

    “I suppose everyone has a moment that wins them over to a lifelong enthusiasm,” Chris Matthews writes early on in This Country. “For me, it was the 1960 battle between Vice President Richard Nixon and Senator John F. Kennedy that got me truly excited about politics.” Matthews was 14, and from an Irish Catholic family in Philadelphia. He fell hard for JFK — at first. But his was a Republican family. Come GOP convention time, young Chris had swung around to his father’s point of view: Nixon was the one for peace, experience, and prosperity.

    The arc of Matthews’ career is well known: host of the political show “Hardball” for two decades, and years before that a speechwriter for Jimmy Carter and aide to House Speaker Tip O’Neill. Like many who came of age in the 1960s, Matthews was profoundly changed by the decade. Bookends in this “I was there” memoir: As a senior in high school, he writes the State Department to ask why, in 1962, the U.S. is getting involved in Vietnam. The answer he gets back: rice. “I had thought this war was being fought to stop the spread of global Communism,” he writes.

    Six years later, in June 1968, he is working on a Ph.D. in economics at the University of North Carolina. His graduate student deferment has expired, his 1-A draft status looms large. “I sat alone on a public park bench in Montreal a block up from Sainte-Catherine Street and decided where I was going to go in my life … I now listed on the back of an old business card my limited options regarding a war I opposed. I could join VISTA, the domestic volunteer program; teach high school; or enlist in the army as a public information officer …  Finally, there was another option; a truly positive one. 

    “It carried the advantage of being a true adventure: the Peace Corps. The challenge was to get the right assignment. For me, that meant going to Africa and working on economic development.” 

     

    Serving with a serious commitment to help the Swazi people made Volunteers unpopular across the border. “The South African ‘apartheid’ government wouldn’t even let us enter its country,” Matthews writes. “Soon after we arrived, a commentator on official South African radio derided us as ‘do-gooding intellectuals.’”

     

    Matthews served as a Volunteer 1968–70 in the nation then known as Swaziland, now as Eswatini, working with traders to teach bookkeeping and marketing. “We all took our jobs seriously. This commitment to help the Swazi people made us especially unpopular across the border. The South African ‘apartheid’ government wouldn’t even let us enter its country. Soon after we arrived, a commentator on official South African radio derided us as ‘do-gooding intellectuals.’”

    Matthews returned to the States after two years and headed for Washington, D.C., intent on making a career in politics. He worked as an aide and on campaigns, in policy, and in advocacy. He made a quixotic bid for Congress, announcing that he would not take outside funding. After working for the White House and the Speaker, he found his métier in writing about politics as a columnist for the San Francisco Examiner and later the Chronicle. He covered the Good Friday peace accords in Ireland, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the first elections in post-apartheid South Africa. Those moments in history whisk past here. As for how Matthews recounted them, he offers this take: “The great Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee best captured the personal excitement in my writing. ‘Matthews writes about politics with relish,’ he once observed, ‘the way sportswriters cover boxing.’”

     

    “Matthews writes about politics with relish ... the way sportswriters cover boxing.”
         —Ben Bradlee

     

    He began hosting the show “Hardball” on CNBC in 1997; a couple of years later the show moved to MSNBC. As television commentary began to command more of Matthews’ time, he wound down the gig with the Chronicle. His final column was in 2003, in the run-up to the U.S. war against Iraq. “I oppose this war because it will create a millennium of hatred and the suicidal terrorism that comes from it,” he concluded. “Maybe it’s the Peace Corps still in me, but I don’t think we win friends or — and this is more important — avoid making dangerous enemies in the third world by making war against it.”

    Matthews’ stint hosting “Hardball” ended when he announced in March 2020 that the broadcast would be his last. A few days before, a report had surfaced from four years prior about remarks he had made about a “guest’s appearance as she was being prepared in the makeup chair,” he writes in this memoir. “It never occurred to me to deny that it had happened or condone what I’d said.” He was 74 and decided it was time to retire from the show.

    Along with the 1988 volume Hardball: How Politics Is Played, Told by One Who Knows the Game, Matthews has written biographies of RFK and JFK, as well as Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked and Kennedy & Nixon. As for the place Peace Corps has played along the way: “So much of my life has arisen from that decision. Those two years of service as a trade development officer took me to a wider world. It allowed me to view my country at a distance. It opened me to a common humanity with people whose lives were separated from us by continent and culture.”

     

    This review appears in the special 2022 Books Edition of WorldView magazine. Story updated May 2, 2022.


    Steven Boyd Saum is the editor of WorldView.

  • Orrin Luc posted an article
    A collection of tales covers the brief moment in the 1960s when Volunteers served in Libya. see more

    101 Arabian Tales

    How We All Persevered in Peace Corps Libya

    Edited by Randolph W. Hobler

    Lulu Books

     

    Reviewed by D.W. Jefferson

     

    Randy Hobler has taken on the herculean task of writing a comprehensive history of the Peace Corps in Libya, in the form of a collective memoir of 101 Volunteers. He interviewed as many Libya RPCVs as he could find and asked for journals and letters. The result is a collection of tales covering the brief span Volunteers served in Libya, from the training of Libya I to the termination of Libya III before they left their training sites in the U.S. Hobler served in the second group of Volunteers, arriving in October 1968 to teach English to fifth graders. He was traveling in Lebanon when, on September 1, 1969, Muammar al-Qaddafi seized power from King Idris in a military coup. Within a matter of weeks, Qaddafi had kicked out the Peace Corps. Qaddafi’s own rule would last for 40 years.

     

    One year after the Peace Corps program in Libya began, Muammar al-Qaddafi seized power from King Idris in a military coup. Within a matter of weeks, he kicked out the Peace Corps. And he ruled the country for 40 years.

     

    Hobler includes maps and more than 200 photographs. Many stories are humorous, though there are sad, tragic, shocking, and scary ones. Hobler’s group of Volunteers trained in Utah, because it was hot and dry — like Libya. Shocking is when Peace Corps trainers decided that 30 of the trainees should ride little Suzuki motorcycles — which they were learning to use in-country — 500 miles to another site in Arizona, without helmets. The trainees talked them out of it. Frightening is when, in the aftermath of Qaddafi’s coup, Volunteers in Libya find themselves confronted at checkpoints and in airports by teenagers toting automatic rifles.

    In a conversation for Tulsa Public Radio about the book, Hobler spoke of how Peace Corps taught him humility when it came to the place of the United States in the world. He also came to see “the sort of demonization of the Arab that we saw that we never were aware of inside our own media bubble inside the United States.” And, he said, “It gave me a deep appreciation that I try to convey in terms of my civic responsibilities.”

     

     

    This review appears in the special 2022 Books Edition of WorldView magazine. It is adapted from a review originally published by Peace Corps Worldwide. Story updated May 2, 2022.


    D.W. Jefferson served as a Volunteer in El Salvador 1974–76 and Costa Rica 1976–77.

  • Orrin Luc posted an article
    Christopher Davenport accounts the process of complying with the customs Papua New Guinea. see more

    The Tin Can Crucible

    A Firsthand Account of Modern-day Sorcery Violence

    By Christopher Davenport

    Lume Books

     

    Reviewed by Leo Cecchini 

     

    The Tin Can Crucible is a fascinating account of how Christopher Davenport is inculcated into the customs, morals, values, and way of life in a village where he trains for his teaching assignment in Papua New Guinea, where he served as a Volunteer 1994–96. He documents the process that leads him to comply with the customs of his new family. The process is so complete that Davenport comes to accept what would be in his previous life a reprehensible act: After a venerated elder dies, villagers kidnap, torture, and ultimately murder a woman they accuse of witchcraft.

    Descriptions of the environment are beautiful — especially the dense forests in the New Guinea highlands. And as different as life in the village is for Davenport from what he has known, he draws out the common human traits his hosts share with him and others. At the same time, this is a book that revolves around a horrendous act that demonstrates the gulf between cultures. “In their capacity for endless patience and remarkable kindness, as well as unspeakable brutality,” he assesses, “I came to recognize the complexity, the frailty, and even the humanity, of the people with whom I was living.”

    Davenport serves with the State Department — work that has taken him to Vietnam, Guatemala, Tajikistan, and elsewhere. 

     

    This review appears in the special 2022 Books Edition of WorldView magazine. It is adapted from a review originally published by Peace Corps Worldwide.


    Leo Cecchini served as a Volunteer in Ethiopia 1962–64. 

  • Orrin Luc posted an article
    The story of Peace Corps Senegal 1968–70 by Carolee Buck see more

    Peace Corps Senegal 1968–70

    By Carolee Buck. Photography by Carolee and Art Buck

    Independently Published

     

    Photo: M'Bayang, one of the women who was part of the social center in Fatick

     

    Reviewed by Steven Boyd Saum

     

    Carolee Buck professes to be a reluctant author and makes no claim to be a storyteller. It took the coaxing of fellow returned Volunteers in Oregon for her to chronicle her Peace Corps service in Senegal 1968–70, together with husband Art. In a project rich with Art’s photography, she offers an affectionate portrait of the people and community of Fatick, then a town of about 4,000 people.

     

    Four children in Fatick, Senegal

    Sharing stories on the front porch in Fatick

     

    After the book was published — a handful of copies were printed for family and friends — Carolee mailed one copy to the president of Senegal, Macky Sall, whose hometown is Fatick. The president might recognize some people and places, she figured. Indeed.

    “Let me tell you how much I am particularly touched by your kind gesture,” President Sall wrote back. “Through the pages of your book and its amazing pictures, I fondly remember my youthful years in my hometown of Fatick.” He recognized his elder sister — the next-door neighbor of the Bucks when they lived there. And he had an invitation: for the Bucks to return to visit Senegal at his expense.

     

    Woman working in yard in Fatick, Senegal

    Sifting millet in Fatick

     

    As for the years captured in these pages: There’s the absurdity of training in the segregated South, when Black Peace Corps trainers could not legally ride in the same car as white trainees. More, there’s an attentive chronicle of Fatick and the Bucks’ neighbors, colleagues, and friends, as well as their own work at a community social center, their teaching, and more. The result is a heartfelt homespun gesture that has reached across decades and oceans.

     

     

    Social center event in Fatick, Senegal: Using a bolt of damask cloth from the U.S. — very different from colorful local fabric — these women made matching outfits and established a dance troupe.

     

    This review appears in the special 2022 Books Edition of WorldView magazine. Story updated May 2, 2022.


    Steven Boyd Saum is the editor of WorldView.

     

  • Orrin Luc posted an article
    American Dreamer: Memoirs of a Peace Corps Volunteer in Central America and Beyond see more

    American Dreamer

    Memoirs of a Peace Corps Volunteer in Central America and Beyond

    By David Taylor Ives

    Epigraph Publishing

     

    Reviewed by Jim Skelton

     

    Decades before David Taylor Ives took on responsibilities as the executive director of the Albert Schweitzer Institute of Quinnipiac University, he served as a Volunteer in Costa Rica 1980–82. Included in this first-person chronicle, anchored by that experience, is a foreword by Leymah Gbowee and an introduction by Muhammad Yunus, both Nobel Peace Prize laureates. They introduce Ives as a humble man who believes there is good in humanity and is committed to justice.

    Ives grew up in Pierpont, Ohio, a town of 300 people and 3,000 cows, as he puts it, where his father served as the pastor of the Presbyterian church. As a child he contracted polio “weeks before the polio vaccine was widely available.” He was placed in an iron lung and never expected to walk without crutches or braces. His mother believed in exercise; by eighth grade, David was playing baseball. In high school, as a wrestler, he won the conference championship in his weight class.

     

    Nobel Peace Prize laureates Leymah Gbowee and Muhammad Yunus laud David Ives as a humble man committed to justice.

     

    On a family journey through Latin America in 1967, Ives fell in love with the region. He uses letters he wrote to his father to narrate his Peace Corps experience, supplemented with insights gained from decades of hindsight. He narrates daily life in the community of Los Chiles, including fiestas and evenings of conversation — as well as the spillover of civil war from Nicaragua, and suspicions that this Volunteer was a spy.

    His career has taken him to posts that include Colorado College and the Louis August Jonas Foundation. He has written on nuclear proliferation and served as executive producer of a 2005 Emmy-winning documentary on Albert Schweitzer. He has worked with leaders like President Jimmy Carter and the Dalai Lama, and served as the senior advisor to the Permanent Secretariat of the Summits of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates. He has himself been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize four times. 

     

    This review appears in the special 2022 Books Edition of WorldView magazine. It is adapted from a review originally published by Peace Corps Worldwide.


    Jim Skelton served as a Volunteer in Ethiopia 1970–72. He was the lead editor on the award-winning volume Eradicating Smallpox in Ethiopia.

  • Orrin Luc posted an article
    Jack Allison shares what it felt like to write the number one song in Malawi for three years. see more

    In 1967, Jack Allison wrote and recorded a song that went on to be the No. 1 hit in Malawi for two years running. Then the president kicked him out of the country. 

     

    45 RPM: “Ufa Wa Mtedza (The Peanut Flour Song)”  — No. 1 in Malawi 1967–70. Photo courtesy Jack Allison

     


    The Warm Heart of Africa

    An Outrageous Adventure of Love, Music, and Mishaps in Malawi

    By Jack Allison

    Peace Corps Writers

     

    Jack Allison served as a Volunteer 1967–69 in Malawi, a country known as “The Warm Heart of Africa.” While there, he wrote and recorded the number one hit song in the country, and Newsweek magazine reported that he was more popular than Malawi’s president. That didn’t please the president.Book cover of The Warm Heart of Africa by Jack Allison

    Prior to Peace Corps service, Allison overcame an impoverished and dysfunctional home life. He made his way to Warren Wilson College and to the University of North Carolina, where he sang with the glee club, performed on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” and toured Europe. The experience enabled his unique contribution to public health in Malawi.

    Allison’s story weaves through village life, a dog, motorcycles, a robbery, snakes, and love, but mostly it is a remarkable merging of music and medicine that captured the attention of the entire country. He returned to the U.S. to become a nationally prominent emergency room and public health physician.

    —Chic Dambach (Colombia 1967–69)

     


     

     

    Peanut Flour, Peace Corps, and the President: A Conversation with Jack Allison

    By Jake Arce for WorldView magazine

     

    WorldView: What motivated you to walk into the Peace Corps office at the University of North Carolina? 

     

    Jack Allison: I wanted to do something worthwhile. I’d been an undergrad at Warren Wilson College; 20 percent of the student body was international — people from Kenya, Lebanon, India, Greece, Fiji Islands, Finland. I trained for three months to go to Nigeria. Because of civil war in Biafra, they said, “It’s too dangerous. You’re going to go to Malawi.” I didn’t know where Malawi was. For training, they sent us to Puerto Rico, for a one-month immersion in Chichewa. If I sat down at lunch and said, “Please pass the salt,” they’d say, “No. Say it in Chichewa.”

     

    WV: You got to Malawi in 1967 and recorded a song early on. What was it like to hear it on the radio?

     

    Allison: I hadn’t been there but 13 weeks or so. I went to get my hair cut — I was getting a little shaggy. While I was in the barbershop, the radio station — the only one in the country — played my song “Brush the Flies Out of Your Babies’ Eyes.” The guys started talking about it. One guy says, “Hey, who is this?” The guy cutting hair says, “It’s Jack something or other — he’s a Peace Corps Volunteer, I think.” It took a while — waiting, then for him to cut my hair. They played my song again within 15 minutes. The guy cutting hair says, “I heard that song six times yesterday.” 

    It was crazy. On the way back, I wrote the song that really went viral: “Ufa Wa Mtedza” in Chichewa, or “The Peanut Flour Song.” It became the number one song in Malawi for three years. 

     

    Live gig: Jack Allison and musicians onstage

    Live gig: Jack Allison, with mic, onstage. Photo courtesy Jack Allison

     

     

    WV: With a catchy surf beat.

     

    Allison: I literally translated flour of/from peanuts as three words: Ufa wa mtedza. There’s one word for that in Chichewa — nsinjiro — but I hadn’t learned that yet! I think Malawians found that a little odd. But the rhythm of the words works. The message was about providing nutrition for kids. I recorded it with the most popular African band in Malawi, the Jazz Giants. Of all the songs I recorded there, only two were not with them. One was with the Woodpeckers, another popular band; I did a jingle about the wonders of fertilizer. The last song I recorded in Malawi was about how “we must take good care of our health.” I wasn’t able to bring home a recording, because I got thrown out of the country! That’s the tune I used recently for an anti-COVID-19 song in Chichewa, distributed throughout Malawi. I’m trying to make a modest contribution to protect Malawians from COVID.

     

    WV: You fell ill and were sent to the States. Did you think the experience in Malawi was over? 

     

    Allison: I was scared to death. I was sicker than a darn goat before I left Malawi; by the time I got to see a gastroenterologist in the States, I was healed. They did everything — a colonoscopy and upper GI exam. At the end of a month, the doctor said, “You’re good to go. You’ve been good to go since I first saw you, but I had to make sure.” I went to Peace Corps HQ and they told me they weren’t going to send me back because I only had five months left. But I was politely persistent; I showed up every day and eventually demanded to see the director, Jack Hood Vaughn. He had called the Peace Corps country director in Malawi and said, “Thumbs up or thumbs down?” The country director said, “His music is popular, he wants to do more, please allow him to come back.” I got to return, then extended for a third year. 

    I just had an enchanted experience. Obviously, the music was the biggest piece — and touring the country for five months. I’m still fluent in conversational Chichewa. 

     

    Jack and Musicians for Film

    Singing for the cameras: Jack Allison and the Jazz Giants. Photo courtesy Jack Allison

     

     

    WV: You were thrown out of Malawi — and Peace Corps was going to be shut down. 

     

    Allison: President Hastings Banda didn’t like the Peace Corps. Two things ticked him off. One, a lot of guys wore beards. I didn’t even have a mustache, and I wore a tie almost every day, especially in the clinic. For women, Banda wanted them to wear ankle-length skirts. Most Volunteers didn’t wear miniskirts, but some Brits and other expats did. There were a lot of Volunteers, so Banda would see a woman with a miniskirt and say, “That’s a Volunteer, and that’s ticking me off.”

    Then a Newsweek article was published and the reporter said, “Jack Allison is more popular amongst the Malawian people than their president.” Dr. Banda was not amused. He made light of my music, said I made a lot of mistakes in speaking and singing in Chichewa, and he kicked me out. The next day he went on a rant and announced he was kicking out the Peace Corps. The health group that replaced mine went to the Congo instead. Programs in agriculture and health were decimated. Finally the Minister of Education went to the president and said, “If you follow through with this, you’re going to lose 60 percent of your teachers at the secondary level.” Reluctantly, Banda allowed Peace Corps to stay. 

     

    WV: It was a long time before you went back to Malawi — but you’ve returned a number of times since.

     

    People of Nsiyaludzu with Jack Allison and Sue Wilson

    Welcome back, Jack: At Nsiyaludzu Health Centre, mothers and children with Jack Allison and wife Sue Wilson decades after Jack served as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Photo courtesy Jack Allison

     

     

    Allison: In 1994, as the AIDS epidemic was worsening, I got a call — in fact, three. “People remember your music … Would it be possible for you to write three songs about AIDS?” I did, really quickly. That first week I was there, I wrote three more songs and recorded a six-track album, “Songs About AIDS” — or “Nyimbo za EDZI” in Chichewa. 

    Another project I got involved in was with Naomi Tutu, daughter of Desmond Tutu, and an Episcopal priest where I live in Asheville, North Carolina. For a group they supported called Girls Not Brides, I wrote a jingle in English about how boys and girls should reach the age of 18 before they get married. In Malawi, people will marry off a young kid who is 11, 12, 13, 14, 15. The family is paid a dowry. When the girl is eventually old enough to get pregnant but not fully developed, if the head of the baby is too big to go through the pelvis, that’s bad. 

     

    WV: You’re a physician. As we’ve been grappling with a global pandemic for many months, we’ve talked a lot about what the role of Peace Corps should be. And the ways it should change.

     

    Allison: The number one concern, as an American, and as a physician, is safety. We’ve got to get the pandemic under control.

    I serve on the NPCA Advisory Council — the only physician in that group. I’m pushing hard for two things. One, improve the health of Volunteers in the field. There are ways we can do this. Two, when Volunteers return after their close of service, if they’re ill or injured, they have 30 days to get better. Well, if you’ve got hepatitis B — or a broken leg that they didn’t set well and needs to be re-broken and reset — you’re not going to get better in 30 days. I'm on the committee with a woman who suffers from PTSD. You don’t get over that in 30 days. I don’t know if she’ll get over it in 30 years.

    If the Volunteer is not better after 30 days, Peace Corps turns that chart over to the Department of Labor — and it goes into a black hole. Why is it sent to Labor? Because it’s workers’ comp-related. But fee schedules to pay the consultants are antiquated. If they get paid, it’s markedly less than they would expect. And a lot aren’t getting paid. So they say: “You get squared away with making sure that I’m up to snuff before I will see you again.”

    The way to fix this is legislatively, so that’s what we’re trying to do.

     

    Malawi now: Artist George Mkumbula maps out the cultural diversity of his country. Map courtesy World Maps Collaborative. View more work by artists and purchase: theworldmapscollaborative.com

     

     

     

    A version of this interview appears in the special 2022 Books Edition of WorldView magazine. Story updated May 2, 2022.


    Jake Arce served as an intern with WorldView magazine in 2021. He is completing a master’s in peace studies and conflict resolution at American University. 

  • Orrin Luc posted an article
    Packer's self-described political pamphlet finds hope in an American crisis. see more

    Last Best Hope

    America in Crisis and Renewal

    By George Packer

    Farrar, Straus and Giroux

     

    Reviewed by Marnie Mueller

     

    George Packer’s Last Best Hope: America in Crisis and Renewal is a self-described political pamphlet in long-form essay, not unlike Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, written in a period of change, about that very change. Packer’s goal is to find a way Americans can talk with each other again. A modest aim — but in this post-Trump era, perhaps an insurmountable task. Packer addresses what James Baldwin described as our tangled American problem: “In the same way that to become a social human being one modifies and suppresses and, ultimately, without great courage, lies to oneself about all one’s interior, uncharted chaos, so have we, as a nation, modified or suppressed and lied about all the darker forces in our history.”

    Packer begins at the confusing, maddening moment when the government, as headed by Trump et al., utterly failed to protect Americans, or as Packer writes, “There was no national plan for dealing with the greatest threat of our lives.” It was not a time we were encouraged to come together to fight the invisible enemy, but rather we were manipulated by a leader who loved to pit people one against another, which culminated in a “strange defeat,” or as some have said, a Cold Civil War.

    In his thesis, Packer breaks the nation down into four Americas as he proceeds to unravel the conundrum. Free America is Reagan’s America of low taxes, limited government, and lax regulation. Smart America is open to some of the terms of Free America — free trade, immigration, globalization — and is characterized by a belief in the value of education and meritocracy. Real America is anti-elite, in particular anti-coastal elites, as in Sarah Palin’s position of supporting the “real people,” meaning manual workers, farmers, and miners. In Trump’s version, it is a populist vision encompassing ethnonationalism. In earlier forms it was George Wallace’s white supremacy as well as the countervailing progressive populism expressed in William Jennings Bryan’s Cross of Gold speech at the Democratic National Convention of 1896. Just America is another rebellion, in that it takes a stand against the meritocracy of Smart America, seeing it as a failed promise and describing America as ultimately a caste system underpinned by structural racism that keeps underserved citizens of color and certain ethnic groups out of the meritocracy running.

     

    Packer doesn’t want to live in any of these narratives, especially in their purest forms, because each in its own way abuses democracy, dividing us into seemingly irreconcilable tribes with increasingly rigid, uncompromising stances.

     

    Packer doesn’t want to live in any of these narratives, especially in their purest forms, because each in its own way abuses democracy, dividing us into seemingly irreconcilable tribes with increasingly rigid, uncompromising stances. In his analysis, our common ground as a people and a nation has disappeared. He posits that we have to find a common ground if we’re to survive, starting with who we are as Americans and what differentiates us from other nation-states. He looks to Tocqueville’s description of our passion for equality, though Packer thinks we’ve failed to achieve it — but at least, he says, we still have that passion for equality, our openness, inclusiveness, our loud voices, and casualness with waiters. This all feels like grasping at straws, but one wants to go along with him as he leads us toward some kind of a solution: creating a fifth category, an Equal America, where we work toward equality of opportunity — not just hard-and-fast equal results — and where we relearn the arc of self-government.

    His prescriptive ideas feel utopian in their progressive wish list: a national safety net; empowerment of workers; using the government to fight against monopolies that take away ordinary citizens’ economic freedom; not supporting public schools through a local tax-base that means rich neighborhoods — primarily white — always get better funding. He calls for civics education that teaches children how to think critically and supports national service for all. (Packer served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Togo 1982–83.) He supports the idea of patriotism as a basic attachment to where you live, “the glue that holds us together,” as opposed to nationalism, which leads to the sins of exceptionalism, hegemony, protectionism, and discrimination against the “other.”

    Packer goes a long way with his stunning, synthesizing prose to parse a path through the complicated forest of where we’ve gone wrong. Last Best Hope is a worthy contribution to the canon of political pamphleteering and analysis. One does find some hope in his attempt to save America from itself.

     

    This review appears in the special 2022 Books Edition of WorldView magazine.

     


    Marnie Mueller is the author of the novels Green Fires, The Climate of the Country, and My Mother’s Island. She served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ecuador 1963–65. This review is adapted from one originally published by Peace Corps Worldwide.

  • Orrin Luc posted an article
    Understanding identities through oral history interviews with 50 Africa-born immigrants in Kentucky see more

    Voices of African Immigrants in Kentucky

    Migration, Identity, and Transnationality

    By Francis Musoni, Iddah Otieno, Angene Wilson, and Jack Wilson

    University Press of Kentucky

     

    Reviewed by Steven Boyd Saum

     

    The heart of this book is based on oral history interviews with nearly 50 Africa-born immigrants in Kentucky — of which there are now more than 22,000. From a former ambassador from The Gambia to a pharmacist from South Africa, from a restaurant owner from Guinea to a certified nursing assistant from the Democratic Republic of Congo, every immigrant has a unique and complex story of their life experiences and the decisions that led them to emigrate to the United States. The geography of stories reaches from Algeria to Zimbabwe, Somalia to Liberia, grouped together with stories of origins, opportunity, struggles, and success, and connecting two continents.

    Within scholarship on migration and identity, this book “offers a refreshing step away from existing research on major urban centers that host large populations of African immigrants,” notes a review in the Journal of Southern History. “It is especially relevant to the study of ‘new African diasporas,’ which focuses on African diaspora communities who have arrived directly from Africa in recent decades and whose sense of history, race, and identity is understandably different from the many other African diaspora communities in the United States.” And at a time when migration continues to roil U.S. politics, the book also offers new insights into transnational identity. With that in mind, the final chapter takes as an epigraph an Igbo proverb from Chinua Achebe’s novel Arrow of God: “The world is like a Mask dancing. You do not see it well if you stand in one place.”

    The project brought together Angene Wilson and Jack Wilson with historian Francis Musoni, who was born and raised in Zimbabwe and teaches the University of Kentucky; and Iddah Otieno, a professor of English and African Studies who teaches at Bluegrass Community and Technical College and is originally from Kenya. 

     

    This review appears in the special 2022 Books Edition of WorldView magazine. Story updated May 2, 2022.


    Steven Boyd Saum is the editor of WorldView.

  • Orrin Luc posted an article
    John Dickson provides lessons and insights from his 25 years in foreign service. see more

    History Shock

    When History Collides with Foreign Relations

    By John Dickson

    University of Kansas Press

     

    Reviewed by Nathalie Vadnais

     

    John Dickson gleans insights from 25 years as a foreign service officer, much of which included hard lessons that came from not having a deeper knowledge of a host country’s history. That leads time and again to what he terms “history shock,” wherein dramatically different interpretations of history have blocked diplomatic understanding and cooperation.

    Dickson served with the Peace Corps in Gabon 1976–79 before joining the U.S. Information Agency in 1984; he later served with the State Department when the two agencies merged. He uses vignettes describing personal interactions and an analysis of his experiences in Mexico, Cuba, Canada, Nigeria, South Africa, and elsewhere. “By cherry-picking those events that helped construct a nation that is exceptional,” Dickson writes, “the United States has consistently overlooked that slice of its history that does not correspond to its self-image.” And by “neglecting history, we are less able or willing to draw on memory to aid in how we learn, make decisions, behave, or develop new strategies.

     

    This review appears in the special 2022 Books Edition of WorldView magazine. Story updated May 22, 2022.


    Nathalie Vadnais is an intern with WorldView. She is completing a degree in international studies at Virginia Commonwealth University.