The Volunteer Who Has Been Highly Recognized for His contributions to the Creative Arts | Tony D‘Souza (Cote d’Ivoire)

Profile in Citizenship

by Jeremiah Norris (Colombia 1963-65)


Tony D’Souza served as a Volunteer in Cote d’Ivoire from 2001 to 2002, chronicling his life in a small African village, before, during, and after a Civil War.

He was born in Chicago to an RPCV mother (India 1966-68) and Indian father. After graduating from high school, he rode a bicycle across Alaska, then went on to earn a BA in English in two and a half years at Carthage College.

Afterwards, he earned a MA in English at Hollins University in Virginia, and then a Master’s in Fine Arts (MFA) at the University of Notre Dame. Tony feels that this degree gave him two years to surround himself with people who loved books, commenting that “most of life isn’t as pleasant as that.

Before his time in the Peace Corps, Tony managed to work in a kibbutz in Israel, and ride a bicycle across Europe.

Tony D’Souza (Cote D’Ivoire 2000–02, Madagascar 2002-03)

Finally, at age 25. Tony decided to join the Peace Corps and was sent to Cote D’Ivoire as an HIV/AIDS educator. It was a difficult time in that country, subsequently leading him to transfer to Madagascar.

In his own words, Tony writes about his reasons for joining the Peace Corps. He says “I joined to travel, to honor my mother, to voice my dissatisfaction with the continued growth of capitalism, to live in an environment where a foreign language is spoken daily, to experience black Africa, for adventure, for challenge, to be able to brag about being in the Peace Corps for the rest of my life, to do something good in the world”.

His first published story won the Black Warrior Review’s award for fiction in 1999. His short story “Club des Amis” was published in The New Yorker, and Tony later included the essay as part of his first novel, Whiteman, published in  2006. He then garnered many awards, including from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; New York Times Editor’s Pick; People Magazine; Critics Choice; the Florida Gold Medal for General Fiction; the 2007 Peace Corps Writers Maria Thomas Fiction Award; and he was named one of the “greatest fiction travel book writers of all time” by Condé Nast Traveler.

His second novel, The Kondans was published in 2008 and was called “Best Novel of the Year” by The Washington Post. Tony followed in 2011 with the publication of Mule: A Novel of Moving Weight, praised by Entertainment Weekly, San Francisco Chronicle, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, and Booklist. It was also optioned for film by Hunting Lange Films.

He has also published The Way of Jesus [2004] and co-authored Discovering Awareness: A Guide to Inner Peace, Strength, and Freedom [2006].

Tony’s work has earned him several more prestigious awards, including: a 2006 NEA Fellowship in Creative Arts-Fiction; a 2000 NEA Japan Friendship Fellowship; and a 2008 Guggenheim Fellowship in Creative Arts-Fiction. His work has appeared in: The New Yorker; Playboy; Esquire; Outside; Mother James, Salon; Granta; Tin House; and McSweeney’s.

Given Tony’s considerable contributions to the Creative Arts, he has more than justifiably earned a Profile in Citizenship.


See John Coyne’s 2008 interview with Tony at Peace Corps Writers.

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