Read Living Poor by Moritz Thomsen Free Online
Book Title: Living Poor|
The author of the book: Moritz Thomsen
Edition: University of Washington Press
Date of issue: April 1st 1990
ISBN 13: 9780295969282
City - Country: No data
Loaded: 1047 times
Reader ratings: 3.6
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 36.54 MB
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this was the one of MANY peace corps memoirs i suffered through (reading material choices were limited to our paltry communal bookshelves in the volunteer lounge of the swaziland peace corps office).
anyway, i used to write a monthly literature review box or our volunteer newsletter, and one month i ranted about this genre. below are my thoughts:
Dissecting the Peace Corps Memoir
One of my least favorite genres of nonfiction is hands-down the “peace corps memoir.” I attribute it to both the fact that I am a volunteer myself, and thus more critical of the actual content. And then probably due to the sheer volume that I read, I’m picky about writing, appreciating only good prose. More often then not, I feel like returned volunteers have good stories to tell and get book contracts for these stories without actually possessing the literary training or raw talent to pull them off. Even the most talented editors couldn’t fix these calamities.
Just to prove that it doesn’t matter how bad of a writer you are, as long as your granddaddy is famous you can get a book deal, Jason Carter’s Power Lines is an embarrassment to his Duke education. Stylistically, his sentences and paragraphs fall flat, lacking cohesion. And grammatically, he leaves the reader reaching for her copy of Strunk & White. The award for most frustrating goes to Susana Herrera whose Mango Elephants in the Sun made me want to jab blunt objects into my eye sockets as I waded through nonsensical odes to lizards and out of place poems. I couldn’t tell if she wanted the reader to feel sorry for her or be envious. I suppose in the end it didn’t matter because I felt neither. I found Sarah Erdman’s Nine Hills to Nambonkaha, one of the newest in the genre, to be nauseatingly pretentious and self-congratulatory. From a literary standpoint, the lack of coherent theme or message was disappointing. As I’ve mentioned in a previous entry, Geneva Sander’s The Gringo Brought His Mother is ridiculously absurd. It’s a memoir written by a volunteer’s mother after a month-long trip to visit her son. The mother is completely nutty and paints a pathetic portrait of her son; then again whose mother actually writes a peace corps memoir ?!?! Moritz Thomsen’s Living Poor was mind-numbingly boring and topped only by Peter Hessler’s River Town. Hessler’s was so dull that even Kelly (training director) couldn’t finish it. And in the “who cares” category is Hilary Liftin and Kate Montgomery’s Dear Exile, a collection of letters the two friends wrote back and forth during Montgomery’s service (Liftin was stateside). The reader is treated to a nearly constant string of Montgomery’s complaints to her friend about rural village life in Kenya. It’s very hard to muster up sympathy for her bouts of diarrhea when I (and all the other volunteers in Swaziland) still heroically troop to the pit latrine through thick and thin.
It’s not, however, a complete waste of a genre. Two gems sparkle in the rough including Mike Tidwell’s The Ponds of Kalambayi. Tidwell does not shy away from his own shortcomings and writes candidly of his own vices and addictions. His clear and concise prose paints a vivid and enthralling picture of the fisheries program in Zaire.
And then there is George Parker’s The Village of Waiting. The first memoir to take a critical look at post-colonial class, race, and culture issues that surround the Peace Corps experience. Not only is Parker’s writing heads above the best (he’s a Pushcart Prize winning writer whose work has appeared in Harper’s, Dissent, and The New York Times), he’s also brutally honest about his work as white western volunteer living in an African village, acknowledging the inherent problems and paradoxes....less...more
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