Friends and Colleagues from Around the World,
Although 2020 was chaotic at best, the new year has started off with a bang. We’ll take a look at how the rest of the world perceives our country’s electoral woes in the Culture Watch, check out my latest reviews in My Writing & Book Reviews, look to inspiration in Voices of the Day and, as always, What Others Are Saying and an updated Calendar.
My year got off to a good start with an interview on Global Connections TV, which includes interviews of Jane Goodall and two former Peace Corps Directors, plus a host of development professionals. https://www.globalconnectionstelevision.com/video-gallery My favorite interview was in the SIETAR newsletter (Society of Intercultural Education, Training and Research). The focus was Moritz Thomsen, who is the focus of my next book https://www.sietarusa.org/blog/9430281. Finally, for my author friends, here’s my Zoom webinar with Writers Connection of “My Literary Journey” where I share all the secrets to the making of my first book, “Different Latitudes,” including the traumatic event that launched my career. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1gnfBUQ6ZgAPPDvMuesYZGVdURFH4vdiQ
So how will history and the rest of the world view the events of January 6th? Our Congress being overrun by a vigilante hate mob is not a passing stain, but a warning to democracies around the world. The Presidential election was not even close, and yet the President continued to demonize opponents, their motives and their beliefs, which were part of a demagogic nativist politics that has reigned for the last four years. Our most valued independent centers of authority, like the media and judiciary, were called “enemies of the people.” Racists were excused and anti-racists called “dangerous.” Those who expressed concern about the threat to our democratic life were called “alarmists.” And yet, the adherents to the “Big Lie” are already seeing the consequences of this path in the election in Georgia.
A country once revered for its stability and values is now being shown pity. Even some of the citizens of those “shithole” countries are taking note. Here is a parody from a Ghanaian journalist on the U.S. political system. K. Sakyi-Addo a journalist, writer and award-winning cartoonist reports our elections the same way we often report affairs in Africa, “America’s Tribes Go to the Polls Amidst Uncertainty.” https://desertherald.com/americas-tribes-go-to-the-polls-amidst-uncertainty/?fbclid=IwAR0Q2gkjBr_euQzsaHsAB_FbnWBGJ4TSdNLWKV8zUMtIA0wfM7PKUyMRgtc
John Campbell’s blog in the Council on Foreign Relations provides revealing tweets from Nigerians in response to the events of January 6th such as, “Quench this fire first. Frankly speaking, you guys have lost moral authority” and “Leave Nigeria internal affairs alone and face your country. Your democracy is under siege, Capitol Hill is being ransacked by protesters, people being shot!” https://www.cfr.org/blog/nigerian-reaction-assault-us-capitol?utm_medium=social_share&utm_source=fb&fbclid=IwAR1kToDEQhjyxlWBxanzpem4H2rRjC9A-CsbhxFbVaqbKnabRDon3mcfNi8
My Writing & Book/Movie Reviews
I had not read any of Allende’s books since “House of Spirits,” and after seeing several revealing interviews of her over the last few months, I decided it was time to reacquaint myself with her latest novel. The setting of the Spanish Civil War and Chile drew me in even more, as many of my favorite authors, such as Federico Garcia Lorca, George Orwell, John Dos Passos, Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Neruda lived through that war.
Also intriguing was the landing of the protagonists in Chile after the military takeover of Pinochet. The President who was toppled was the author’s uncle, Salvador Allende, and I was in Chile just after it happened in the early 70s. Plus, my favorite Chilean author, Pablo Neruda, would play a key role in the story, as he financed the boat bringing a group of refugees from France to Chile.
I was not disappointed. This epic tale begins in the late 1930s when General Franco and his fascists overthrow the government, forcing hundreds of thousands to flee into France; tens of thousands would lose their lives. Among the refugees was Roser, a pregnant young widow who escapes with Victor Dalmau, an army doctor and the brother of her deceased lover. In order to survive, they must unite in marriage. They would be amongst the 2,200 who boarded the Winnipeg, a ship chartered by poet Pablo Neruda, and escape to Chile.
According to Publishers Weekly, “Majestic . . . both timeless and perfectly timed for today . . . Allende’s assured prose vividly evokes her fictional characters [and] historical figures . . . seamlessly juxtaposing exile with homecoming, otherness with belonging, and tyranny with freedom.”
One of my daughters gifted me this book, which remained next to my bed for over five months due to its imposing size and more than 500 pages. But I decided to check it out as part of my “Black Lives Matter” awareness program. What was slavery about and how had it impacted the U. S. for so long? In this case, Aminata Diallo would be taken from her village in West Africa and placed on a slave ship in Sierra Leone – where I had worked for three years. The ship was bound for South Carolina and from there she escaped to New York City and most amazingly, managed to return to Sierra Leone.
The original book was 150 pages long, created by Brigadier General Samuel Birch. It records the names and descriptions of 3,000 Black Loyalists, enslaved Americans who managed to escape British lines during the American Revolution and evacuated to Nova Scotia, Canada as free people of color. And some managed to migrate to Sierra Leone where they settled Freetown, under the auspices of the Sierra Leone Company. They were among the original ancestors of the Krio ethnic group. Krio is the lingua franca in a country divided by innumerable tribes and languages.
The author takes you with Aminata Diallo from a West African village to an indigo plantation in South Carolina, through the tough streets of New York City where slave owners are constantly looking to recapture runaway slaves, and from there to the harsh climate of Nova Scotia in northern Canada, then to the tropical coast of Sierra Leone, and finally to an abolitionist’s home in London.
This edition contained 150 images, including early maps and documents, archival photos, period paintings and published pages from the original handwritten ledger from which the novel draws its name. Canadian Director Clement Virgo adapted the book into a six-hour mini-series, which premiered in 2015, starring Cuba Gooding and Louis Gossett Jr., among others.
Publishers Weekly describes the book as, “Stunning, wrenching and inspiring…a harrowing, breathtaking tour de force,
In case you have not seen my column in the Arizona Authors Association, “The Million Mile Walker Review, What We’re Reading and Why,” my material is on pages 8-11 (click on the MMW poster above). The AAA is the place for Arizona authors to be.
Several articles coming out soon:
- “The Future of the Peace Corps in Guatemala”, in the February issue of Revue Magazine
- “Tschiffley’s Epic Ride”, in the March issue of Literary Traveler
This movie is a celebration of the transformative power of the blues & artists who refuse society’s racism. It’s based on a true story, more specifically, August Wilson’s 1982 play of the same name. The song with the same name was recorded in 1927. Viola Davis & Chadwick Boseman’s performances are golden—worthy of Oscar consideration.
Voices of the Day
We’ve braved the belly of the beast
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace
– Amanda Gorman, “The Hill We Climb”
“A lie is a fiction made up to take away someone else’s power.” On fake news, propaganda, and other uses of fiction.
What Others Are Saying About Us
Hi Mark –
I’m just in awe of how you are taking on the issues of the day and presenting it all in such a respectful, thoughtful, and insightful manner. Kudos to you. And I will follow your book recommendations. You’re very impressive, my friend. Wishing you and your family the best of the holiday season and a healthy and happy new year! Brad Graber, friend and fellow author—his latest is “What’s That Growing in My Sour Cream.”
Here’s what several editors and agents are saying about the proposal for my new book, The Moritz Thomsen Reader: His Books, His Letters and His Legacy As Told By The Writers Who Knew Him Best.
What an inspiring project… Barnaby Rogerson, Eland Publishing, London
Thanks again for sharing it with me… it does sound brilliant. Nick Hunt with John Murray Publishing, London
- Don’t forget the Desert Nights Literary Fair, which starts on February 22nd on the campus of ASU in Tempe, Arizona. The Virginia Piper Center for Creative Writing hosts the event, which I’ve attended in the past. The event will bring together 25 faculty members and, although it’s via Zoom, I anticipate seeing some of the top writers, agents and publishers in the country. https://piper.asu.edu/conference/fair/schedule/2020
- Advance Guatemala has a new website! We promote transformational impact with some of Guatemala’s most vulnerable communities promoting healthcare, education, housing and entrepreneurship. https://advanceguatemala.org/
Please check out my new Million Mile Walker website, which includes all my articles and book reviews (including the totality of the two presented here) under “Books Articles” and “Library.”
“Follow” me on the Million Mile Walker Facebook page for the latest on international affairs and literature.
And, as always, if you’ve read “Different Latitudes: My Life in the Peace Corps and Beyond,” by all means, rate it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and GoodReads, or if you don’t have it, please consider purchasing it.
Mark D. Walker