Peace Corps Worldwide One Year Later

When I first came back from the Peace Corps and was living and working (and writing) in New York, I invited a young book editor out for dinner and she said to me, “I’ll go to dinner with you, John, but I won’t read your Peace Corps novel.”

Well, we have been married thirty plus years now and she still hasn’t read my Peace Corps novel!

It has always been difficult to find anyone who will read a book about the Peace Corps as many of you know from having finished your own book.

When I first started to track “Peace Corps writers,” and publish with Marian Haley Beil Peace Corps Writers & Readers, I thought the publishing world had had enough Peace Corps first-person-experiences and I am as surprised as anyone that there continues to be published every year very important and well written accounts of life in the developing world written by RPCVs.

We have had about 200,000 former Volunteers and it is only through the written word by RPCVs that the majority of Americans will learn anything at all of societies and cultures that are distance and distinct from whom we are in America. But my hope continues that through the prose and poetry of former PCVs we can educate Americans about the world.

We have a higher percentage of writers in the Peace Corps–then say the army–because we are a ‘literary group’ with 98% of all Volunteers having joined the Peace Corps after college.

Still the Peace Corps is not combat or war. If a PCV writer is lucky, or perhaps unlucky, he or she will get caught up in a coup in their host country and have something exciting to write home about. But most of us lived ordinary lives in the developing world and it is only the gifted writer who can take that ordinary experience and turn it into memorable prose.

Is there such a thing as a Peace Corps community of writers? Yes there is, thanks to the Internet and emails and the shared experienced of being a Volunteer. There is a trust Peace Corps writers have for each other. We come out of a common experience, and though we might have served in different regions of the world, and in different decades, the core experience of being an American off on our own in a foreign land pulls us together like a secret handshake.

As this website Peace Corps Worldwide comes near the end of our first year on the Internet, Marian and I would like to extend a virtual handshake to all of you — writers and not — out there in cyberspace. We thank you for your support and faithfulness to this website; and we thank all the bloggers who get up every day and say to themselves, “now what do I have to say?’ And do it all for free.

We couldn’t have done it without you.

9 Comments

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  • Thanks, John and Marian. Well done and well said (written). You provide an invaluable resource, which, to my knowledge, seems to be lacking among alumni of our domestic service programs (VISTA, AmeriCorps, etc).

  • I echo the thanks. Your work is invaluable. I remember when I read my very first copy of Peace Corps Writers and Readers. I felt like I had come home. Again, thank you to you both.

  • Thanks for your important work. I do have a question: Are some former PCV books emphasize how the PC affected the rest of their lives? That’s what I tried to do and wonder if there are others who have written on this subject. I would like to read such books.
    Paul Arfin

  • Paul–I don’t know of any book(s) on the’afterlife’ of PCVs…I have had conversations with agents about writing one such over the years, but have yet to get my act together.

    Coates Redmon in her book on the early days of the agency Come As Your Are: The Peace Corps Story (published in 1986) has a chapter on RPCVs, but it is only 20 pages of a 400 page book.
    John

  • John and Marion,

    I’m certainly glad to have reconnected with my Peace Corps time through you. Keep up the good, even noble, work. And Paul Arfin, if you’re willing to read fiction, I think it’s fair to say that “The Baker’s Boy” is all about how the PC afected the rest of a fictional character’s life. But hell, I’m biased.

    happy new year, all

    Barry

  • How dare you ” We have a higher percentage of writers in the Peace Corps–then say the army–because we are a ‘literary group’ with 98% of all Volunteers having joined the Peace Corps after college.” Say such a thing.
    The Army Engineer is keeping you safe by watching the enemy, building bridges, they carriy a RIFLES, and another 50 lbs of equipment so they don’t get killed, not a pen, sitting around thinking how much better they are than writers. They are busy keeping you alive, by constantly learning, then putting that learning to practice in the field.
    What is the percentage chance of Army coming home in a box draped with a flag so you can pen something?
    How dare you put yourself on such a pedestal and look down your nose at the rest of the world, especially the ones that allow you the first amendment. What goes around comes around, what is coming back around to you? The golden rule.

  • Thank you, Judy. Having been in the Air Force during the early days of Vietnam (before I joined the Peace Corps) I understand, of course, the value of military service. I wasn’t comparing the worth of the Peace Corps and the military. I was talking about the % of book published. WWII produced major literary works, as I am sure you are aware, for Mailer and Jones to Heller. We also have the wonderful book, “The Things They Carry” as well as, “A Rumor of War” both of which came out of the Vietnam War. (And “Rumor” has now been made into a successful play.) But in terms of % of people who have served in the army (at any given time) and the % of Peace Corps Volunteers, you have more ‘writers’ –as a %–coming from the ranks of PCVs. That is (and was) the only point I was making. Thank you. John

  • The truth is you will never know if the”statistic” is true or false. You will never know how many writers went to their graves defending the USA before they had their chance to write.

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