Drawing on diary entries and his own copious photos, Lindberg’s account provides a clear account of Peace Corps life and efforts, circa 1966, from training to teaching to implementation of ambitious plans, with upbeat acknowledgements of the challenges he faced (such as getting families to maintain their planche gardens) and cultural differences he encountered. (Ivorians, he notes, “thought Americans chewed gum all the time, carried guns everywhere, wore blue jeans, spoke in local dialects instead of English, and threw away cars instead of repairing them.”) Lindberg writes with warmth and empathy for the villagers he worked with, never condescending and always taking efforts to understand their perspectives.
Readers eager to understand the nuts-and-bolts specifics of early Peace Corps missions, and how volunteers adapted their aims and practices for specific populations, will find this a valuable contribution to the public record. Also memorable: Lindberg’s account of one colleague’s desire to protest the Vietnam War during a West African visit from Vice President Hubert Humphrey. Lindberg writes more to inform than with a storyteller’s sense of drama, though photos both illustrate the text and demonstrate a good eye for the arresting image, and for many readers what’s most engaging here will be Lindberg’s quick prose portraits of the people he meets.
Takeaway: This striking memoir offers a clear view of Peace Corps life and efforts in the Ivory Coast of the mid-60s.
Great for fans of: Peter Hessler’s River Town, Sarah Erdman’s Nine Hills to Nambonkaha.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A