I admit that I picked up Tubob: Two Years in West Africa with the Peace Corps with a certain amount of trepidation. So often books by Westerners who have lived in Africa, the Middle East, and other areas of the world tend to be condescending towards the people in the countries they lived in, even though they held themselves aloof even as they were living there. Not so with this book.
Trimble went to The Gambia with her husband, Bruce, when she was in her early forties, in the late 1970's. From the beginning they broke the mold. First of all, they went as a couple, which is unusual in organizations such as the Peace Corps. Throughout the book it was clear that they were not only husband and wife, but friends and supporters of each other, which made a difference in how they saw the country they were living in and the people who lived there.
Second, while they did enjoy a standard of living higher than most of the Gambians they were helping, they made an attempt to mingle with them and to live more like them in many ways.
Third, they were truly committed and driven to help as much as they could, and get as much accomplished as possible, despite the many obstacles that stood in their way.
While I did see a few comments here and there that made me a bit uncomfortable concerning Islam and the people of The Gambia, what shone through brightest was Trimble's enthusiasm for her work and her affection for the people she met and helped. This was clear in her relationship with the woman who sold peanut butter in the market, as well as her happiness when the people called her by name and treated her as a part of their community. Her honesty in describing her two years there, both the trials and the triumphs, makes the book interesting and engaging. It provides a valuable view into the life of the people in The Gambia, while at the same time showing some of the strengths and weaknesses of the Peace Corps and the people who work in it.
Mary E. Trimble is an award winning novelist who spent two years with her husband, Bruce, with the Peace Corps in The Gambia in the 1970's. They later quit their jobs, sold their home, bought a 40-foot sailboat and sailed the South Pacific for two years. In addition to Tubob and her novels, she has had over 400 articles published in various magazines and newspapers. She is a member of Women Writing the West, The Writer's Guild, Pacific Northwest Writers Association and Electronically Published Internet Connection. She has four grown children and makes her home on Camano Island in Northwest Washington. Visit her website.
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