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JHC Wins Peace Corps Writers Prize

Date: 
Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Casa Satori is proud to announce that the parallel memoir Journey to the Heart of the Condor has been awarded the 2017 Moritz Thomsen Peace Corps Experience Award given by Peace Corps Worldwide.

Moritz Thomsen (1915–91) became a Peace Corps volunteer (PCV) in 1964 after serving in World War II as a bombardier and working in California as a farmer. He was forty-eight years old and would not only spend the rest of his life (twenty-seven years) in his adopted country of Ecuador, but also write the seminal Peace Corps memoir, Living Poor: A Peace Corps Chronicle. The book started out as a series of articles Thomsen wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle Sunday Edition. The University of Washington Press collected them into the book that was published in 1969; it is still in print and, according to Wikipedia, has sold more than one hundred thousand copies.

Thomsen is notable in that he was born into wealth—his “tyrannical” father was president of Seattle's Centennial Mills (Krusteaz, still a well-known brand)—yet chose to live his life among the less fortunate. He definitely understood poverty: in his own words, “living poor is like being sentenced to exist in a stormy sea in a battered canoe, requiring all your strength simply to keep afloat; there is never any question of reaching a destination. True poverty is a state of perpetual crisis, and one wave just a little bigger or coming from an unexpected direction can and usually does wreck things.” Thomsen wrote several other books that received critical acclaim. Sadly, he died relatively young (in his mid-seventies) from cholera in Guayaquil.

The award was announced on August 6 at the 2017 Peace Corps Connect conference in Denver, CO. Journey is currently being translated into Spanish (Viaje al Corazón del Cóndor) for distribution in Latin America and Europe. Co-authors Emily Creigh and Martín Almada hope to attend the Buenos Aires Book Fair in April 2018; they will be launching a Kickstarter campaign in October to make that dream a reality.

Many thanks to Peace Corps Worldwide for the honor of this award!