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The Monkey's Paw: New Chronicles from Peru Paperback – November 21, 1997


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: University of Massachusetts Press (November 21, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1558491090
  • ISBN-13: 978-1558491090
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,485,530 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Kirk is the author of three books, including More Terrible Than Death: Massacres, Drugs and America's War in Colombia (PublicAffairs) and The Monkey's Paw: New Chronicles from Peru (University of Massachusetts Press). She is the coeditor of The Peru Reader: History, Culture, Politics (Duke University) and helps edit Duke University Press's World Readers series. Her essay on Colombia and human rights appears in Human Rights and Conflict Resolution in Context: Colombia, Sierra Leone, and Northern Ireland (Syracuse Studies on Peace and Conflict Resolution, May 2009), edited by Eileen F. Babbitt and Ellen Lutz. An award-winning poet, Kirk also won the 2005 Glamour magazine non-fiction contest with her essay on the death penalty, available in the November 2005 issue. In the Fall of 2006, she was a Fulbright lecturer at the Human Rights Center at Istanbul Bilgi University in Turkey. In 2005-2006, she was a consultant to the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the first-ever truth commission within the United States. Kirk authored, co-authored and edited over twelve reports for Human Rights Watch, all available on-line. In the 1980s, Kirk reported for U.S. media from Peru, where she covered the war between the government and the Shining Path. During that time, she also prepared reports for the U.S. Committee on Refugees, including the first report ever on the plight of Peru's internally displaced people. Kirk is a former Radcliffe Bunting Fellow and is a past winner of the Media Alliance Meritorious Achievement Award for Freelance Writing. Kirk directs DukeEngage's Duke in Belfast program. She is the associate director of Duke's International Comparative Studies program.

Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 30, 1998
Format: Paperback
In the first few pages of her book, Kirk writes: "It takes stubbornness, perhaps arrogance, and a certain faith in the face of long odds to write about someone else's country." The country Kirk has chosen, moreover, is a vastly complex and changing place. Nonetheless, she has succeeded remarkably well in detailing Peru's many facets, in capturing the grand schemes and the day-to-day struggles, in recounting the varied and fascinating Peruvians who cross her path with all their strengths and all their weaknesses, in avoiding simplistic conclusions, and in making me feel as if I myself lived in "someone else's country." The book is a must for anyone interested in the people who live in Peru and its complicated web of social struggle. Her clear, evocative writing recreates Peru on the page for readers who can't go there themselves, and adds to the experience of those who can. I loved it.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Andrew C. Thompson on May 8, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is not a comprehensive, academic account of the Shining Path or of Peru's recent social & political history, so readers who are looking for something along those lines will be disappointed. What it is, however, is a fascinating story of the author's experiences investigating the impact of Peru's social and political upheavals on poor Peruvians from the mid-1980s to mid-1990s. The role of the Shining Path naturally takes a prominent central place in that story. Robin Kirk has produced a highly readable and engaging book that paints portraits of individual Peruvians' lives, as they deal with their country's troubled recent history. From her account of the Tunnel Six 'ronda campesina,' to the search for justice in their son's murder by Cromwell Castillo & Carmen Rosa, to the stories of women in the Shining Path, Kirk's anecdotal approach makes reading this book as enjoyable as a good novel.

As a past and future visitor to Peru, I found this book helpful in relating something of the substance of Peruvian society to me, as it has been experienced by a fellow American in her work as an investigative journalist and past resident of the country.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By John L Murphy TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 12, 2004
Format: Paperback
Flor de retama, the broom flower with its yellow shoots flourishes from soil nourished by blood. Peru's Shining Path fanatical cult, devolved from earnest Maoism into indoctrinated millenarian warriors determined to bring down their corrupt nation and destroy it in order to rebuild it into a utopia, chose this weed as their logo.

Robin Kirk, in her collection of rather disparate chapters, charts her Peruvian encounters with the senderistas, their pursuers, and the victims left by both sides--'internal refugees' forced off their land by those who claimed to fight for and protect them, whether government or guerrillas. Beginning with her 1983 first visit to Orin Starn as he was writing his dissertation about a Piura hamlet, Tunnel Six, that grew around the spew from an irrigation works near the Ecuadorian border, she records various stints spent in the country over the next decade and more, as the war with Abimael Guzmán's disciples intensified and spread to the cities.

I read her account after having studied her translation of Gustavo Gorriti's history of the SP. I wondered, from an English-language vantage point, why so few reporters from outside Perú had produced book-length works for a popular audience on the movement. Why? In large part, the hostility towards 'Western' gringo observers, not only by the army and police suspicious of collaborators, but from the SP itself.

Kirk, like previous chroniclers to a land of harsh weapons and forbidding walls, finds herself trapped. Her white skin, San Franciscan provenance, and education distance her from her subjects. They mistrust her, and she finds herself caught between pity and contempt more than once as she listens to guerrilla prisoners.
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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
I was very disappointed by this book. I'm from Peru and I expected a sharp, original account. Instead, I learned lots about the author and her struggles with my country. I understand her frustrations but in the end I felt that she simply realized that Peru is not Berkeley or Manhattan. It's too bad she didn't capture good things such as people's resourcefulness or sense of humor. I also got lost between different sections. Too bad. I know that many gringos will enjoy this. Peruvians will dislike it, even those who fight against violence and inequality.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 4, 1998
Format: Paperback
Realistic and accurate description of Peru's modern reality. Robin Kirk writes humanely yet unpatronizingly about the plight of the Peruvian people caught in the middle between the abuses of the government and the abuses of terrorism. She shows vividly how an unbearable situation can somehow keep getting worse every day....and how people somehow find a way to survive. This book is required reading for anyone interested in modern-day Peru. And anyone thinking some sort of glorious Latin American revolution will bring beneficial change better read this book first.
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