Skip to Main Content

Book Club

PPCA Book Club

PPCA’s Book Club gatherings are open to all who have read that month’s book. Typically we start out discussing the book, and inevitably someone relates a theme in the book to their own experiences or other readings, so the conversation takes an interesting turn. Our Book Club discusses books of broad interest set in parts of the world in which Peace Corps Volunteers have served, or books which were authored by Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs). We love author appearances! Since 2010, we have hosted 40 different authors – in person, by phone, or via video.

Here are our next book discussions:

 

January 2022 Book Club Selection

Tolentino, Jia*: Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion (2019)

* RPCV Kyrgyzstan 2010

Discussion: Thursday, January 6, 2022, 6:30-8:00 pm. Hosted by Louise Shabazz, 195 N Broadway St in Estacada. Allow time to get there in rush hour traffic from the rest of the metro area. Google will likely take you northbound on Broadway, but the angled parking is pointed southbound on Broadway. The venue is at the corner of Broadway & 2nd. Feel free to bring snacks to share. Zoom is an option for those who can't make it; click on https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83597797876?pwd=c3c3eWI0MURKRG1lZEF5MGNoUldKZz09 or go to zoom.us, enter meeting ID 835 9779 7876 and passcode 517600.

Review: © Booklist: Tolentino brings a preternaturally aware millennial sensibility and exceptional literary skills to her keenly inquisitive and complexly involving essays. A New Yorker writer with a consequential online following, Tolentino is adept at transmuting autobiography into penetrating and unpredictable critiques of the self and the zeitgeist. In nine substantial and kinetic investigations built on deep reading, intrepid reckoning, and daring disclosures, Tolentino considers an array of slippery yet key questions. She assesses the impact of the internet on our sense of personal and communal identity and responsibility. She recounts her childhood as a rare Asian American in a large Texas evangelical church community, her role in a teen reality-TV show, and her stints at the University of Virginia and in the Peace Corps, delving into race, gender, sexual assault, and feminism in its current market-friendly and mainstream form. Tolentino investigates literary heroines, religion, self-optimization, weddings, ecstasy chemical and mystical, and the perversities of the Trump administration. In the zone of Joan Didion, Susan Sontag, Elif Batuman, and Leslie Jamison, Tolentino adeptly pursues a granular understanding of undermining paradoxes with wit, verve, and righteousness.

Where to find it:
Libraries: Clackamas Co | Ft Vancouver | Multnomah Co | Washington Co
Vendors: Powell’s | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

 

February 2022 Book Club Selection

Adébáyọ̀, Ayọ̀bámi: Stay With Me (2017)

Discussion: Tuesday, February 8, 2022, 6:30-8:00 pm. Hosted by Ann and Roger Crockett, 1922 NE 12th Ave in Portland. Feel free to bring snacks to share. Zoom is an option for those who can't make it; click on https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84991550308?pwd=ajNUaHR2MStmNkZmVkxpYUkyQmluQT09 or go to zoom.us, enter meeting ID 849 9155 0308 and passcode 818708.

Review: © Booklist: When Yejide and Akin fall in love, they decide not to have a polygamous relationship. This surprises their Nigerian families, especially when, four years into their marriage, Yejide still hasn't become pregnant. Although everyone recognizes how hard Yejide is trying to conceive, the family secretly brings in a second wife. Yejide is furious, and desperate to save her marriage. Adebayo's debut novel expands beyond the second wife's arrival to explore the darkest moments of life and marriage. The story alternates between the late 1980s and a funeral in 2008, setting Akin and Yejide's marriage against a period of political instability in Nigeria. Telling the story from both Akin's and Yejide's perspectives, Adebayo describes parenthood and love with heartbreaking prose. She deftly reveals secrets and the decisions that set life-altering events in motion. The story's fast pace brings surprising twists to Akin, Yejide, and their families' lives while delving into their history, as a couple and as individuals. Readers of Stay with Me will eagerly await Adebayo's next book.

Where to find it:
Libraries: Clackamas Co | Ft Vancouver | Multnomah Co | Washington Co
Vendors: Powell’s | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

 

March 2022 Book Club Selection

Alvarez, Julia: Afterlife (2020)

Discussion: Thursday, March 17, 2022, 6:30-8:00 pm. Hosted by Peggy McClure, 5480 SW 18th Dr in Portland. Feel free to bring snacks to share. Zoom is an option for those who can't make it; click on https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85742247066?pwd=Ly9hZmJkMVZxUUpZYklhQnAvK0JLUT09 or go to zoom.us, enter meeting ID 857 4224 7066 and passcode 341074.

Review: © Booklist: Dominican American author Alvarez's many fans will be thrilled to see her return to adult fiction long after Saving the World (2006) to present a novel that can be read as an exploration of how the sisters in How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent (1991) might have turned out. Here Alvarez creates four Vega sisters, older women wrestling with the challenges of age. The main focus is on Antonia, a retired college professor and novelist who is finding it hard to face life after her husband's sudden death. In the tranquil Vermont college town in which she lives, Antonia's grieving process is upended when she finds Estela, a pregnant, undocumented teenager hiding in her garage, a situation that invites comparison to her own more benign immigration experience. On top of that, older sister Izzy goes missing, and her two other sisters impose on Antonia to help with the search. The sisters' dynamic relationships brim with a funny but genuine Latina exuberance flowing from deep-rooted love. As she grapples with the urge to turn her back on the needs of others and hunker down in her grief, Antonia's inner voice is engaging, troubled, and ultimately, hopeful. A charming novel of immigration, loss, and love.

Where to find it:
Libraries: Clackamas Co | Ft Vancouver | Multnomah Co | Washington Co
Vendors: Powell’s | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

 

April 2022 Book Club Selection

Medie, Peace Adzo: His Only Wife (2020)

Discussion: Thursday, April 7, 2022, 6:30-8:00 pm. Hosted by Lee Norris, 3748 SE Salmon St in Portland. Feel free to bring snacks to share. Zoom is an option for those who can't make it; click on https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89025042436?pwd=Y0cwUFpYQmFuMlE4YzhJT2lnSCtLUT09 or go to zoom.us, enter meeting ID 890 2504 2436 and passcode 615419.

Review: © Booklist: Afi Tekple has her focus on mastering her skills as a seamstress in a small town in Ghana, where she is happy with a simple life. She lives with her widowed mother who one day proposes an arranged marriage to a wealthy man named Elikem Ganyo, who is too busy to attend their eventual wedding and sends his brother in as a stand-in. The Ganyo family convinces Afi that the woman Elikem is currently dating has a wicked hold on him, and marriage to Afi will help bring him back around. After she moves to Accra to live in the flat provided by Elikem, Afi learns that the situation is more complicated than the family initially led on. In her debut novel, Medie writes with a precise rhythm that builds the reader's anticipation. Themes like deception, ambition, love, and values drench the pages with conflict that evolves into an emotional rollercoaster. Essentially, Afi's fight for love leads her down the path of boundary-setting and living life on her own terms.

Where to find it:
Libraries: Clackamas Co | Ft Vancouver | Multnomah Co | Washington Co
Vendors: Powell’s | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

 

May 2022 Book Club Selection

El Akkad, Omar: What Strange Paradise (2021)

Discussion: Thursday, May 19, 2022, 6:30-8:00 pm. Hosted by Rosemary Furfey, 7022 SW 33rd Ave in Portland. Participating in our discussion--in person--will be Omar El Akkad, the book's author. Feel free to bring snacks to share, and prepare to sit outside if the weather is nice. Zoom is an option for those who can't make it; click on https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86341476476?pwd=UzBWeUpKYkJCSmJJbzh2ck5SdDdlQT09 or go to zoom.us, enter meeting ID 863 4147 6476 and passcode 528259.

Review: ©Booklist: Eight-year-old Amir Utu has recently moved to Egypt from war-torn Syria, after his family sold everything to gain passage. But when Amir's uncle mysteriously boards a ramshackle boat in the dark of night, the boy follows. He's bound for the Greek island of Kos, the only one in his boat who will survive the trip. And it's hardly paradise once he lands. A retired colonel, bent on chasing down refugees, sets his sights on poor Amir. Fortunately, the boy finds an ally in teen Vänna Hermes. Through another kind soul on the island, the kids now have a new mission: keep Amir safe for two days until he can get on a ferry to the mainland. El Akkad, author of the international best-seller, American War (2017), expertly contrasts the well-paced story of Amir's predicament with the ill-fated voyage that brought him to Greece. The ragtag bunch of strangers on the boat forms an incredibly well-drawn portrait of humanity as everyone bonds together initially, even with dollops of humor thrown in, but "somewhere along the journey they'd passed the point where human goodness gave way to the calculus of survival." A suspenseful and heartbreaking painting of the refugee crisis as experienced by two children caught in the crosshairs.

Where to find it:
Libraries: Clackamas Co | Ft Vancouver | Multnomah Co | Washington Co
Vendors: Powell’s | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

 

June 2022 Book Club Selection

Segovia, Sofía: The Murmur of Bees (2019)

Discussion: Thursday, June 16, 2022, 6:30-8:00 pm. Hosted by Rosemary Furfey, 7022 SW 33rd Ave in Portland. Feel free to bring snacks to share. Zoom is an option for those who can't make it; click on https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87587396601?pwd=cmQ2QnM5VE50M095SU1saXkxSlB4QT09 or go to zoom.us, enter meeting ID 875 8739 6601 and passcode 248270.

 

Review: © Booklist: Acclaimed Mexican author Segovia's first work translated into English is a gorgeous novel of family, friendship, land, and murderous envy, a tale reminiscent of Isabel Allende's early works. A magical child born with a cleft palate, a foundling found covered with bees, the enigmatic Simonopio maintains a mystical connection to the creatures that continue to come to his aid and to that of his adopted family, the Morales Cortéses. Large landholders in Northern Mexico during revolutionary times, the Morales Cortéses are kind patrones and leaders in the nearby village of Linares. Feeling nostalgic, Francisco Junior tells this story to a cabdriver while on a journey back to his homeland to find Simonopio, the bees, and his younger self. The family's idyllic life is disrupted by the arrival of Epiricueta, a malcontent and rebellious man looking for work who brings resentment, superstition, and violence from the revolutionary south. With the help of a gifted translator, Segovia skillfully envelops readers, fully engaging their senses and imagination in this wonderful novel.

Where to find it:
Libraries: Clackamas Co | Ft Vancouver | Multnomah Co | Washington Co
Vendors: Powell’s | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

 

Most of our books are selected by an annual survey (OPEN NOW), featuring books widely available in local libraries. We schedule additional discussions when an author of a non-self-published book offers to meet with us. If you are interested in learning more about PPCA’s Book Club, please contact Bill Stein, at 503-830-0817 or bookclub@portlandpeacecorps.org.

 

Recent News

Stay up to date with the latest updates from our group and the broader Peace Corps community.