In the mid-sixties, the Peace Corps as an agency realized that they had a lot of Volunteer stories that they could use for Recruitment so the Office of Public Information, as it was then called, began its own publications.
In September 1968 they published The Peace Corps Reader with the declaimer, “The opinions expressed in the Peace Corps Reader are those of the authors and may or may not coincide with official Peace Corps policy.” Ain’t that the truth!
This Peace Corps book, which, by the way, was given away free as a government publication, republished several copyrighted pieces including Jack Vaughn’s “Now We are Seven” published in 1968 in the Saturday Review; and Sargent Shriver’s 1966 essay, also published in the Saturday Review, “Five Years with the Peace Corps.”
There was “The Quiet-mouth American” by Donald Lloyd, published in 1963 in Harper’s Magazine. Lloyd was the founder of Resources Development Corporation and had participated in Peace Corps Training programs.
The opening chapter from An African Season by Leonard Leavitt, his early Peace Corps memoir published in 1967 by Simon & Schuster, and “A Peace Corpsman Looks Back” by Lawrence H. Fucks, from his book, Those Peculiar Americans, published by Meredith Press, also in 1967.
But most of the material was published for the first time, or had previously been handed out as pamphlets at Peace Corps recruitment tables at colleges and universities during those early years of Blitz Recruiting.
Among those pieces was David Schickele (Nigeria 1961-63) wonderful essay, “When the Right Hand Washes the Left” which, I believe, first appeared in his Swarthmore College magazine and was then reprinted and reprinted by the Peace Corps (as well as in my newsletter, RPCV Writers & Readers).
A few other ‘non-RPCVs’ had articles in the Reader included ones by David Reisman, and interview with Pulitzer Prize winning writer James Michener on Micronesia, and an adaption from an address given to new PCVs by B.P.R. Vithal who was the Joint Secretary of Planning for the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.
Two of the more interesting pieces were by Moritz Thompson (Ecuador 1965-67). It is entitled “On to Ecuador” and is an essay that he adapted for his book, Living Poor. It is generally not known that Moritz was a Peace Corps Recruiter in San Francisco after his service in Ecuador, and before he published Living Poor in 1969, and before he returned to live and died in his host country.
The other piece was written by “Anonymous” and entitled, “Thrown Onto the Edge of Asia.” Originally it had been a letter written in 1964 and sent from overseas back to Peace Corps Trainees in the States. It is a first person account by a new PCV facing ‘cultural shock’ up close and personal in a small market town in the Far East. No country is cited.
When I was working for the ‘old’ Division of Volunteer Support in 1965 we used it during our orientations at training sites. Within its context it is a powerful little piece of prose, written by a PCV who ETed. The ‘letter’ put the fear of God into some Trainees.
Ah, those were the days!
And so was the old Peace Corps Reader!