Must Read For RPCVs Log Out | Topics | Search
Moderators | Register | Edit Profile

Peace Corps Online » Discussion » Open Discussion » Must Read For RPCVs « Previous Next »

  Thread Last Poster Posts Pages Last Post
  Start New Thread        

Author Message
Ken Petersen ( -
Posted on Thursday, March 11, 2004 - 12:41 am:   

There is a new novel coming out in June 2004 that should be on every RPCV's to-read list. The title is "Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures". The author is Kenneth Cain-- a travelling companion of mine from my days of Peace Corps service in Sri Lanka in the early 90's. This is a brilliant pice of non-fiction that portrays life on the ground as a UN human rights monitor.

Here are some early reviews:

I was enthralled - Tim O'Brien

This is in every sense a hell of a good book, a powerful testament - Philip Gourevitch

The miracle of the book is its grit, its pounding pace. The voices linger in the air after the page is turned – Doug Stanton

Infuriating, heart-wrenching and well written – Publisher’s Weekly

Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures is a true story about three friends trying to bring a bit of decency to some of the most savage and indecent spots on our planet. On that level alone the book succeeds. Just as important, it is also a reminder that flesh-and-blood human beings are out there doing God's work in this bloody, bloody world. Too many of us, myself included, imagine a "peacekeeping mission" as a bureaucratic box chart or a planeload of robots. We learn differently in these pages -- our peacekeepers know sadness, goofiness, sex, hilarity, boredom, terror, self-pity and joy. I was enthralled. - Tim O'Brien

This is in every sense a hell of a good book, a powerful testament -- acutely observed, and told with astonishing immediacy -- to the mixture of vision and blindness that has so often allowed peacemaking missions to serve as preludes to massacre. Blunt and unflinching, these three innocents abroad -- Cain, Postlewait and Thomson -- get it all down: the idealism, the adventurism, the grandiosity, the heroism, the futility, the disillusion, the despair, the lustiness, the folly, the survivor’s humor, the political cravenness, the sustaining satisfactions, the burn out and the incessant death. They have given us a coming of age story that is also a story of the age we live in, at its rare best and its persistent worst. - Philip Gourevitch

Reading Emergency Sex, it's as if Crosby, Hope and Myrna Loy had hit the road in an apocalyptic tour of the globe's epic messes. But this trio is a band of idealists, not tourists, and written on these pages are the back-of-the-envelope notes of what really happens when politics meets reality. This is what it feels like-- the heat, the anxiety, the satisfaction-- to hang your hide on the Edge for reasons bigger than any of us. Yet the
miracle of the book is its grit, its pounding pace. The voices linger in the air after the page is turned. - Doug Stanton

Infuriating, heart-wrenching and well written, their tale is compelling both as a bottom-up look at U.N. peacekeeping efforts during the 1990s and a testimonial from the people who put their lives and sanity on the line for the sake of a simple idea - peace.
- Publisher’s Weekly.
nesretepk (
Posted on Friday, June 04, 2004 - 10:03 am:   

"Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures" is now available.

It has been the topic of a lot of media controversy because the UN tried to block its publication. What is odd is that the right wing press seems to have latched onto this book as a vehicle for UN bashing, but I think if any of them actually read the book, they would find it does not speak, in any way, to their ideas.

Hype not withstanding, it's an amazing book that's beautifully written and deeply thought-provoking.

Ken Petersen
RPCV Pakistan/Sri Lanka
Tania ( -
Posted on Monday, October 23, 2006 - 10:08 pm:   

My name is tania, the daughter of the CAO that Mr. Cain had formerly met. Notwithstanding the trauma I personally went through surrounding the issues with my father, but now I must live everyday that I have to live an indirect public life through the internet by just typing in my last name. I guess some authors get so caught up in becoming famous, that they dont realize, or should I say, care to realize the innocent lives that they ruin. As Mr. Cain mentions, my father has sine passed away, but his daughter is still alive, and lives her life confused by the things she reads online, such as your famous book. However, she can never be confused about one fact, the wonderful father she will always have in her heart. I am an upcoming author, however, i could never ruin the lives of innocent people just by trying to prove a point. I am not writing this to defend anyone, I only defend the truth, however, just because my father's life means nothing to you, he is and always will be my hero. I can't speak for his life as a UN employer, but I can most certainly speak in high regard of him as MY FATHER. Mr Cain might have not reaized that regardless of what information he had on my father, -- he did have a family, and what if his innocent famiy read this of a man they truly loved? I guess that can only be answered by Mr.Cain. God Bless.

Add Your Message Here
Username: Posting Information:
This is a public posting area. Enter your username and password if you have an account. Otherwise, enter your full name as your username and leave the password blank. Your e-mail address is optional.
Options: Enable HTML code in message