The Courage to Live in a Mud Hut
A talk with Peace Corps Adventurer & Author Christine Herbert
I had a great time with Creative Courage Live on June 1, talking with Christine Herbert about her new book, The Color of the Elephant: Memoir of a Muzungu...One impulsive decision, the best two years of her life.
If you’re an aspiring author or an armchair traveler, or someone considering a stint in the Peace Corps, have a listen!
The Color of the Elephant: Memoir of a Muzunga is the kind of book you stay up past midnight to finish. I loved how often I laughed out loud at Christine’s courage to be so imperfectly and wonderfully human as a visitor to another country. From page 35:
The Color of the Elephant gave me insights into the daily life of a Peace Corps volunteer, in the midst of the daily village life in Zambia circa 2004-2006. I feel awe at Christine’s courage to approach her time there as a humble learner of language and customs, how she expected it to be really hard, especially how she admitted it “fully met” those expectations. If I were a Peace Corps volunteer, I’d want to go with Christine. Or I’d be asking myself, “What would Christine do?” I’m recommending this to my book group friends and family.
Here’s more about her memoir:
An outstanding new voice in memoir, Christine Herbert takes the reader on a “time-machine tour” of her Peace Corps volunteer service as a health worker and educator from 2004–2006 in Zambia. Rather than a retrospective, this narrative unfolds in the present tense, propelling the reader alongside the memoirist through a fascinating exploration of a life lived “off the grid.”
At turns harrowing, playful, dewy-eyed and wise, the author’s heart and candor illuminate every chapter, whether she is the heroine of the tale or her own worst enemy. Even at her most petulant, the laugh-out-loud humor scuppers any “white savior” mentality and lays bare the undeniable humanity—and humility—of the storyteller. Through it all, an undeniable love for Zambia—its people, land and culture—shines through.
We talked about Christine’s creative courage to spend 5 years writing her memoir and 10 years finding a publisher, the persistence to learn both craft and about the industry, as well as her courage to live somewhere new and how she brought those lessons back to the States when she returned. Christine also learned a lot about being a first-time author, which she’ll share. I’ve loved following her on Instagram where she posts pictures from her shoebox of treasured mementos, getting a taste of her two years in Zambia, such as this site visit with Rotary Club members, scoping prospective borehole drilling sites:
If you missed my first two Creative Courage Live conversations with authors Becky Robinson (Reach) and Erin S. Lane (Someone Other Than a Mother) you can see them at my new YouTube channel here: https://bit.ly/CCLonYT