Peace Corps Awards for the Best Books of 2012

[It is time to nominate your favorite Peace Corps book published in 2012. Make your nomination(s) in the comment section following this announcement so people can see what books have been recognized. You may nominate your own book; books written by friends; books written by total strangers. The books can be about the Peace Corps or on any topic. The books must have been published in 2012. The awards will be announced in August. Thank you for nominating your favorite book written by a PCV, RPCV or Peace Corps Staff. A framed certificate and money are given to the winners.]

Paul Cowan Non-Fiction Award

First given in 1990, the Paul Cowan Non-Fiction Award was named to honor Paul Cowan, a Peace Corps Volunteer who served in Ecuador. Cowan wrote The Making of An Un-American about his experiences as a Volunteer in Latin America in the sixties. A longtime activist and political writer for The Village Voice, Cowan died of leukemia in 1988.

Maria Thomas Fiction Award

The Maria Thomas Fiction award is named after the novelist Maria Thomas [Roberta Worrick (Ethiopia 1971-73)] who was the author of a well-reviewed novel and two collections of short stories all set in Africa. She lost her life in August, 1989, while working in Ethiopia for a relief agency. She went down in the plane crash that killed Congressman Mickey Leland of Texas.

Moritz Thomsen Peace Corps Experience Award

In 1992, The Peace Corps Experience Award was initiated. It is presented annually to a Peace Corps Volunteer or staff member, past or present for the best short description of life in the Peace Corps. It can be a personal essay, story, poem, letter, cartoon or song. The subject matter can be any aspect of the Peace Corps experience – daily life, assignment, travel, host country nationals, other Volunteers, readjustment. Email a copy of your nomination to

In 1997, this award was renamed to honor Moritz Thomsen (Ecuador 1965-67) whose Living Poor has been widely cited as an outstanding telling of the essence of the Peace Corps experience.

Award for Outstanding Poetry Book

In 1997, the first annual award for an outstanding poetry book by a Peace Corps writer was presented.

Award for Best Travel Writing

The award for Best Travel Book was first presented in 2001.

Award for Best Children’s Book
by a Peace Corps writer

The award for Best Children’s Book was first given out in 2001

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  • For both the Paul Cowan Non-Fiction award and the Moritz Thomsen Peace Corps Experience Award, I nominate “Dodging Machetes: How I survived Forbidden Love, Bad Behavior, and the Peace Corps in Fiji” by Will Lutwick.
    Reading his memoir showed me the true anxiety of his forbidden love situation, but yet with a tone of hope. Lutwick writes with a wonderful, subtle sense of tongue n cheek. “Dodging Machetes” is both informative and entertaining. The author has a perceptive viewpoint about the politics, ethnic mores and traditions of a country populated by a colorful array of people. Similarly the book is eduactional and amusing regarding his brief account of the history of Fiji.
    Bill Humphries (Fiji 1968-70)

  • For the Maria Thomas Award for Fiction, I’d like to nominate Clifford Garstang’s lovely book of linked stories, What the Zhang Boys Know.

  • I’d like to nominate Cliff Garstang’s book, ‘What the Zhang Boys Know’ for the Maria Thomas award for Fiction. His books are up to date, interesting, and filled with themes that are familiar to so many people. I love my old friend’s book.

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