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The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban by Sarah Chayes (Morocco 1984–86) will be coming out in August from Penguin Press. Steve Coll, Pulitzer-Prize winning author of Ghost Wars writes that Sarah has “produced a passionate, involving, important work of journalism.” Sarah was a reporter in Afghanistan for NPR and then became “field director” of Afghans for Civil Society. 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.”

Missouri Review’s Editors’ Prizes for 2006 — the official name is the Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prizes — were won by two RPCV writers. Joanna Luloff (Sri Lanka 1996-98) was recognized for her short story “Let Them Ask,” and Erica Bleeg (Benin 1997-99) for her creative nonfiction essay “Obedience.” Each winner received $3,000, plus publication in the spring 2006 issue of the Missouri Review.
     
Joanna wrote me recently: “I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Sri Lanka right up until the program was eventually closed due to the unrest of the civil war there. I worked as a TEFL teacher at an all boys’ school in a southern village called Baddegama. The story “Let Them Ask” that won the Missouri Review contest is part of a linked short-story collection set in Sri Lanka that, in part, examines the effects of the civil war on a southern Sinhalese family, a north-eastern Tamil family, and a handful of westerners working on the island. I received my MFA in fiction from Emerson College in 2001 where I taught literature and creative writing for five years before my move to England where I am living now, working on finishing the collection and researching and writing.
     Erica, who grew up in Rochester, New York, earned an MA in Humanities from the University of Chicago and an MFA in Nonfiction Writing from the University of Iowa. “Obedience,” her award winning nonfiction story, follows Erica’s attempts to befriend her host family’s live-in servant from whom she is divided by language and privilege. Erica arrived in Benin at the beginning of a national women’s movement. Here and there, Beninois villages were holding International Women’s Day celebrations and yet less than 7% of the students in secondary schools were girls. Erica is currently working on a memoir with the working title is Out of Obscurity about working with women in rural Benin during this pivotal time in African women’s history. Today, Erica is moving from Portland, Maine back to Iowa City, Iowa. 

Tom Bissell (Uzbekistan 1996–97) wrote the front page review of The Places in Between by Rory Stewart in the June 11, 2006 The New York Times Book Review. Bissell is the author of Chasing the Sea and God Lives in St. Petersburg. His new book, The Father of All Things will be published next year.

Tony D’Souza (Cote D’Ivoire 2000–02, Madagascar 2002–03) published a short essay, “Ivory Coast, 2000” in the June 12, 2006 New Yorker. The essay was part of the magazine’s annual issue focusing on international issues and writing.
     D’Souza’s debut novel Whiteman has received the same charmed launch in the UK as it did in the States, enjoying rave reviews from all the major London papers. Tony appeared on the BBC, contributed an essay to The Mail one Sunday, and rubbed shoulders with the likes of Tom Stoppard and Harold Pinter. Of London, he says, “It may be the birth place of our very language, but what’s with the food? Bangers and mash? Bubble and squeak? And they ask me how I could have eaten bat in Africa.”
     
In the July/August 2006 issue of Poet&Writers Tony is one of four first-time novelist featured by the magazine. Tony talks about how his mother, who was a PCV in India from 1966-69, suggested that he join the Peace Corps — “she said I’d have plenty of time to write in the Corps. Well, maybe in India, but not in my village. There were flies on my eyelashes, the paper stuck to my arm, and there were twenty-five kids at the door.” A year after he returned from Africa, Tony spent five months writing Whiteman. His agent sold it three week later to Harcourt.

Glory in the Camel's Eye

The influential Kirkus Review gave a star review in the June 15, 2006 issue to Kris Holloway’s (Mali 1989–91) memoir of her Peace Corps years, Monique and the Mango Rains. Writing about the memoir, the reviewer said the book is a “moving story of a warm friendship between an American Peace Corps volunteer fresh out of college and a young Malian health worker.” And then adds how when Monique came to America she agreed to only “after learning that she will be able to sit inside the plane and not cling to the outside.” Watch for this book; it is the best Peace Corps memoir to be published since Sarah Erdman’s Nine Hills to Nambonkaha.

With the help of her agent, Scott Mendel, Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen (Tanzania 1989-91) sold her young adult novel The Compound in a two book deal to Feiwel and Friends, the new children’s imprint at Holtzbrinck.

Margot Porter Miller (Niger 1972–74) has published in 2006 fiction pieces: “Waves” in Chick Flicks Ezine, March, 2006; “Close Encounter” in Long Story Short, April, 2006; “Waking Accidentally in the Dark,” winner of the May 2006 Fiction Writing Contest at Subtle Tea, May/June 2006; and “The Old Maths Teacher” in LitDispatch (Two) in Jun, 2006. This summer the following stories will appear: “Naked and Stranded” and ”Untitled”, both in Long Story Short, July 7, 2006; and “The Farewell” in Steel Moon, August 2006.
     Her recently published creative non-fiction is: “Warren Peabody,” appeared in Long Story Short in April, 2006; “On Time”, the unabridged version of the piece called “Aissa,” on the Peace Corps Writers blog at its inception, and also appeared on-line at Write Side Up, Spring 2006 and in their print edition.
     In poetry, Miller has published “Carry-on Baggage” in Moonlit Thoughts, edited by Mark Lane and Amanda Read, Dogma Publications, “Bicester, Oxon, UK,” June 2006. Three poems will appear in Static Movement Online, July 2006: “Into the Sea of Shattered Silicate”, “My Mother Never Held My Hand”, and ”All Done Here, Going Out of Business.”

Chris Conlon (Botswana 1988–90) has a short story “The Wild Track” online at the literary journal The King’s English. Click on “Current Issue” to read the story.
     This year, Chris has published Thundershowers at Dusk a collection of five Gothic stories published by Rock Village Publishing; and Poe’s Lighthouse, an original fiction anthology edited by Chris and published by Cemetery Dance.

Josh Swiller (Zambia 1994–96) just sold his memoir to Henry Holt juxtaposing his experiences as the first deaf Peace Corps Volunteer in Zambia with his formative years relegated to the sidelines of the hearing world. It will be published in the summer of 2007. Recently, Washington Post Magazine published a piece he wrote about getting a cochlear implant.
     Josh has a blog at cochbla.blogspot.com
Bill Owens (Jamaica 1964–66), the winner of the 2006 Peace Corps Writers Award for Artistic Merit, has put his web movies on one video blog, BillOwens.com/movies. You can watch streaming video and nothing downloads to your computer.
     The movies are also available as podcasts from the iTunes Music store where you can download movies and subscribe to his podcasts. Bill writes: “It’s free! Please sign up so I get lots of hits and become popular with the masses. I am tired of having a cult following.”
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