Last month, in our January listings of new books by RPCVs, we listed the 2nd edition of Dillon Banerjee (Cameroon 1994-96) book: The Insider’s Guide to the Peace Corps: What to Know Before You Go, published by Ten Speed Press.
Then yesterday in the mail I got a copy of The Complete Guide to Joining the Peace Corps: What you need to know explained simply. (Real simply!)
It was complied by someone named Sharlee DiMenichi, who wasn’t a PCV, though she taught in China, and it has a short foreword by Shannon Heintz (Kenya 2005-07). On the back of the book, Jennifer Zweigbau (Mauritania 1989-90) writes, “Had this book been around in 1988 when I first joined the Peace Corps, it would have alleviated a lot of the guess-work.” (I don’t think so, Jen.)
This ‘complete guide book’ was mailed to me with a scrap of paper that said it was published by some outfit called Atlantic Publishing Company in Ocala, Florida, No letter. However, it did address me as a ‘book participant’ I could get additional copies at 40% off the retail price (which by the way, for this trade paperback, is $24.95.)
The book quotes from various PCVs who wrote about their experiences in various place (be careful what you say!). Among them are:
Julie Bradley (Belize 1989-91)
John Coyne (Ethiopia 1962-64)
Julia Abigale Johansen (Ukraine 2007-09)
Richard Lipez (Ethiopia 1962-64)
Mark Kohn (Micronesia 1979-81)
Most of the book, however, is an appendix “Overview of countries of service” that gives information that is totally useless to a Peace Corps applicant or even a tourist. For example, I checked out (naturally) Ethiopia and this is what it had to say about the geography, climate, and population. “Ethiopia is a landlocked country almost twice the size of Texas. The climate is tropical with monsoons and varied terrain. Ethiopians deal with earthquakes, erupting volcanoes, and droughts.” Hello? In fifty years of following the history of Ethiopia I have never heard of any earthquakes or ‘erupting volcanoes. Droughts. Yes. There is more useful information on the Peace Corps website about the country where we serve. But the truth is, given political unrest and global warming, most of the information about host countries will be out of date before Amazon mails you your copy.
Besides all that, there are basic facts about the Peace Corps that are clearly wrong. On the back cover, the publisher claims that there are only 160,000 people who have been in the Peace Corps since 1961. Do the numbers again.
Also on the back cover is the company’ claims that they are, “Your complete resource for small business, management, finance, online, and real estate books. We have a book for that” is their trade mark. Well, when it comes to the Peace Corps, they do have a book, but it is not worth buying.