War of Hearts and Minds: An American Memoir by James Jouppi (Thailand 1971–73) might not be the best Peace Corps memoir, but it certainly will rank as the biggest, coming in at 618 pages, which includes a half dozen glossary pages on Thai terminology (for example: kiat — a small white frog considered very tasty by Northeast Thai villagers). Maps. Photographs. Plus a timeline!
Jim Jouppi writes that his memoir “offers a compelling look into both the politics of Nixon-era America and that of staunchly anti-communist Thailand as it fought a shadow war adjoining the one that was raging in Vietnam and Laos, before projecting into the present and providing insights for new strategies in the future.” (It’s no wonder that this book is lengthy.)
Jim self-published an earlier book with iUniverse, and then combined it with his next one. This new book tell the whole story of being a PCV civil engineer working with Thailand’s Community Development Department.
Jim documents, he writes, “the challenges of working inside the Peace Corps system, both prior to his work areas being designated red and after that time as well.”
This is actually Jim’s third book on his overseas experience. His first was A Journey to Nakorn Panome, which he sent to Hollywood in hopes it might become a film. He then wrote The Original Unauthorized Upcountrywithoutapaddle Peace Corps Survival Manual that received a nice review in the February 1992 issue of Whole Earth Review.
One gets the feeling, however, that this 618-page volume has everything that Jouppie has to say about his tour in the Peace Corps back in the early ’70s, and what the agency needed to do then (and needs to do now!) to make itself worthwhile in the world.