Read Jan's review for Peace Corps Worldwide of Kelly Kittel's wrenching memoir Breathe: A Memoir of Motherhood, Grief and Family Conflict.

Shortly before I received Kelly Kittel’s wrenching memoir in the mail, I read a piece in The New Yorker about the poet Edward Hirsch, whose book length elegy to his son, dead at 24 of an overdose, has just been published. Hirsch says he didn’t want to write that book. He was mired in mourning and obsessed with the circumstances of his son’s life and death. But ultimately, the writing won out. ” . . . You become resigned,” he says. “Your job is to write about the life you actually have.”

In a prologue to her book, Kittel offers a similar insight. She describes her childhood love affair with books and her lifelong hope of becoming a writer. What she endured to get to this book, many years in the making, however, was not a joyful sequence of events, but a nightmare. She writes, “This is not the story I dreamed I’d tell. But this is the story that life placed in my hands.”....(more...)

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Tony Zurlo’s chapbooks Go Home Bones and Quantum Chaos: Learning to Live with Cosmic Confusion

It’s poignant, and potent, to be reading Tony Zurlo’s anti-war poems in his 2010 chapbook Go Home Bones on this day, the ninth anniversary of 9/11....(more...)

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Reviews for

In the past few years I’ve reviewed a number of books by Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) whose stories delivered compelling drama, but whose writing left something to be desired. If there’s one thing Peace Corps Volunteers come home with, after all, it’s stories. But not everybody knows how to tell them. It’s challenging, if not downright disheartening, as a reviewer, to walk the tightrope between cherishing memorable narratives and lamenting inadequate craft. So it is with considerable relief that I find myself able to say that Joseph Monninger knows how to write.

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2-2009 | First Comes Love, then Comes Malaria:  How a Peace Corps Poster Boy Won My Heart and a Third World Adventure Changed My Life by Eve Brown-Waite

9-2008 | Dirty Water: A Red Sox Mystery By Mary-Ann Tirone Smith and Jere Smith

1-2008 | "Coyota" by Martha Egan

7-2007 | "Intimate Colonialism" by Laurie Charles

7-2007 | "Fiji 1970" by Tom Tatum

5-2007 | "Impressions of Arvo Laurila" by Lauri Anderson

3-2007 | "Grains of Golden Sand" by Delphi Messinger