Crop of Peace Corps Books for the 50th Anniversary Year
By Abad Allawi on Friday, April 1st, 2011
Here at the National Peace Corps Association the mail carrier has been delivering a steady stream of review copy Peace Corps books, that is books about the Peace Corps experience or on a Peace Corps-ish topic, by Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. The following list really just scratches the surface, for full coverage of Peace Corps writers, visit Peace Corps Writers. Following are some of the more noteworthy efforts so far in this landmark year:
Answering Kennedy’s Call: Pioneering the Peace Corps in the Philippines edited by Parker Borg, Maureen Carroll, Patricia MacDermot Kasdan and Stephen Wells
In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps, Parker Borg, Maureen Carroll, Patricia MacDermot Kasdan and Stephen Wells — all part of Group I to the Philippines – have brought together the voices of nearly 100 fellow former Volunteers to recall why they joined, what they experienced, and how this service in the Philippines affected their lives. In addition, a half dozen members of the Peace Corps staff in the Philippines and a similar number of Filipinos have contributed their recollections from the period. The book includes photos of individuals from both the 1960s and more recently, as well as maps showing communities of service.
“We joined Peace Corps in its first year when key aspects of “a good program” were severely underdeveloped. We weathered mainly irrelevant training, no real jobs, and uneven or absent staff support (too many volunteers, too few staff.) All of us found our niche, however, and with the aid of good intentions, good humor, each other and the hospitality of the Philippines people we had memorable experiences that bonded us,” writes Maureen Carroll.
The Peace Corps program in the Philippines was the first in Asia. In addition, three factors set it apart. First, it was the largest program in the world, absorbing 25 per cent of all volunteers at the beginning. Second, all volunteers in the first years were assigned to be “teacher’s aides,” a position that was never clearly defined and that the Country Director later admitted was a “non-job.” And third, the Philippine program occurred in a nation that only fifteen years earlier had become independent from the U.S. This history gave the Philippine program a distinctly different political and social dynamic from other early Peace Corps countries.
Making Peace With the World By Richard Sitler
Richard Sitler is an experienced photojournalist who grew up in Knightstown, Indiana and has worked at newspapers in Ohio, Indiana, New Hampshire and New Jersey. From 2000 to 2002 Richard took a break from his photojournalism career to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer in Jamaica, where he worked as an at-risk youth advisor to the Lluidas Vale All Age School.
In 2006 Sitler returned to Jamaica as a Crisis Corps volunteer (now called Peace Corps Response) where he served as a Curriculum Developer for a community youth training center in Ewarton, St. Catherine.
In June 2009, Richard embarked on an epic journey to document Peace Corps Volunteers serving communities around the world. Over the next two years, he would find himself traversing the planet while staying with Peace Corps Volunteers, experiencing their communities and work sites, and documenting what it s like to be a Volunteer in the modern Peace Corps. While shooting the photos for Making Peace with the World, Richard discovered that the values President Kennedy had imagined for the Peace Corps in his famous 1960 speech at the University of Michigan continue to be evident in the organization today.
Unofficial Peace Corps Volunteer Handbook by Travis Hellstrom
Travis is currently serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer Leader in Mongolia, finishing his third year of service. When he became a Volunteer he set out to write the handbook he wished he had gotten from Peace Corps.
The Unofficial Peace Corps Volunteer Handbook is a guide and journal in an easy-to-use and easy-to-write-in handbook designed to be with used before you join, while you serve and after you come back from your Peace Corps experience. It contains seven chapters: Applying to Peace Corps, Preparing for Peace Corps, Training for Peace Corps, Your First Year
Your Second Year, Returning to America, and Helpful Resources.
The Handbook allows Volunteers to learn from the experiences of outstanding Volunteers and catalog their own experience from the very beginning of their service to the end. Everyone’s service is personal and unique, which guarantees no two handbooks will ever be the same.
Voices from the Peace Corps: Fifty Years of Kentucky Peace Corps Volunteers by Angene and Jack Wilson
Angene (Liberia 62-64) and Jack Wilson (Liberia 62-64) have written a book about the Peace Corps experience, published in time for the 50th anniversary by University Press of Kentucky, that is based on 100 oral history interviews with Kentucky-connected volunteers who served in more than 50 countries over five decades. Voices from the Peace Corps: Fifty Years of Kentucky Volunteers follows the experiences of volunteers as they make the decision to join, attend training, adjust to living overseas and the job, make friends, and eventually return home to serve in their communities. They also describe how the Volunteers made a difference in their host countries and how they became citizens of the world for the rest of their lives. Among many others, the interviewees include a physics teacher who served in Nigeria in 1961, a smallpox vaccinator who arrived in Afghanistan in 1969, a nineteen-year-old Mexican American who worked in an agricultural program in Guatemala in the 1970s, a builder of schools and relationships who served in Gabon from 1989 to 1992, and a retired office administrator who taught business in Ukraine from 2000 to 2002. Voices from the Peace Corps emphasizes the value of practical idealism in building meaningful cultural connections that span the globe.
Stanley Meisler began his journalism career in 1953 as a reporter for The Middletown Ohio Journal and went on to work as a reporter with the Associated Press from 1954 to 1964. He was deputy director of the Office of Evaluation and Research of the U.S. Peace Corps in Washington before joining the Los Angeles Times in 1967.
Meisler served as a LA Times foreign and diplomatic correspondent for thirty years, assigned to Nairobi, Mexico City, Madrid, Toronto, Paris, Barcelona, the United Nations and Washington.
Since its inauguration, the Peace Corps has been an American emblem for world peace and friendship. Yet few Americans realize that through the past nine presidential administrations, the Peace Corps has sometimes tilted its agenda to meet the demands of the White House. Stanley Meisler discloses, for instance, how Lyndon Johnson became furious when volunteers opposed his invasion of the Dominican Republic; he reveals how Richard Nixon literally tried to destroy the Peace Corps, and he shows how Ronald Reagan endeavored to make it an instrument of foreign policy in Central America. But somehow the ethos of the Peace Corps endured. When the World Calls offers a sweeping look at the history of the Peace Corps – in time for its fiftieth anniversary.
From Microsoft to Malawi by Michael L. Buckler
In this compelling narrative, Michael L. Buckler draws readers into the challenging, yet rewarding world of the Peace Corps. Inspired by his journals, the book recounts his life as a Peace Corps teacher after a heartbreaking divorce and a demanding legal career prompted him to make a change. Assigned to a village school in Malawi, Buckler opens his tiny home to three boys, embarking with them on a journey of cross-cultural discovery, personal sacrifice, and transformative growth. Determined to help his village, Buckler collaborates with community leaders to build a boarding school for girls. As momentum builds, a powerful bureaucrat tries to shut down the project and Buckler becomes discouraged. As he agonizes over whether to leave, the village takes matters into its own hands in a moving display of the persistent, courageous spirit of Malawi.
Being First by Robert Klein
- How did the Peace Corps move from idea to reality in just six months?
- Who were those who first served with the Peace Corps?
- What was it like to be a Peace Corps Volunteer in 1961?
In 1961, after five years as a teacher in New York City, author Robert Klein answered President Kennedy’s call to serve in the Peace Corps. He taught in Ghana for two years and then joined the Peace Corps overseas staff, serving in Kenya and in Ghana, where he was the country director from 1966 to 1968. In retirement, Klein has been the self-appointed secretary-convener of the Ghana I group and has organized the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Archival Project, which collects Peace Corps oral histories in cooperation with the National Archives at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, Massachusetts.
The Civilized World by Susi Wyss
Susi Wyss was born in Washington, D.C. to Swiss parents. When she turned seven, her family relocated to Abidjan, Ivory Coast for three years—a period that would have a lasting impact on her view of the world.
In The Civilized World, her debut novel set in Africa, the lives of five women—two of them haunted by a shared tragedy— intersect in unexpected and sometimes explosive ways.
When Adjoa leaves Ghana to find work in the Ivory Coast, she hopes that one day she’ll return home to open a beauty parlor. Her dream comes true, though not before she suffers a devastating loss—one that will haunt her for years, and one that also deeply affects Janice, an American aid worker who no longer feels she has a place to call home. But the bustling Precious Brother Salon is not just the “cleanest, friendliest, and most welcoming in the city.” It’s also where locals catch up on their gossip; where Comfort, an imperious busybody, can complain about her American daughter-in-law, Linda; and where Adjoa can get a fresh start on life—or so she thinks, until Janice moves to Ghana and unexpectedly stumbles upon the salon.
At once deeply moving and utterly charming, The Civilized World follows five women as they face meddling mothers-in-law, unfaithful partners, and the lingering aftereffects of racism, only to learn that their cultural differences are outweighed by their common bond as women. Susi Wyss explores what it means to need forgiveness—and what it means to forgive.
I Did What I had to Do! by James Diamond
This book describes the time the author and his wife spent as Peace Corps volunteers in Chad, a poor land-locked country in central Africa. In 1971, armed with a degree in Animal Science, Dr. Diamond and his wife Betty headed off to Chad, where they worked with the Chadian people – not by bringing in new state of the art equipment, which would require fuel, spare parts, and constant maintenance and repairs – but by teaching them modern agricultural practices that would prove to be the keys to sustainable change. For example, while Betty taught bread making and sewing, Jim was busy teaching them how to build and use pit silos to produce and store supplies that could keep the livestock healthy even in the dry season. They operated on the theory that helping people to help themselves, while integrating the traditional practices of the Chadian people with proven modern agricultural practices, was the route to successful change. And the Diamonds emerged as changed as the people they were sent to help.
[Descriptions courtesy of Amazon.com and authors' websites.]