What Peace Corps Book Tells It Like It Is?

Yesterday, Thursday, November 29, 2012, I posted the American Writers Museum list of literary works that their readers said world leaders should read to gain a better understanding of America?”

Okay, today it is our turn! I ask this question!

What Peace Corps book gives our  U.S. Leaders a better understanding of the world where we lived and worked as Peace Corps Volunteers?

Send in your book(s) selection and comment why this writer ‘gets it right’ and why our political ‘eaders should buy a copy so that they will know what is really happening in the developing world.



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  • The Ponds of Kalambayi, Mike Tidwell
    Living Poor, Moritz Thomsen
    Monique and the Mango Rains, Kris Halloway
    The Unheard, Josh Swiller
    River Town, Peter Hessler

    None of them scrimp on the dark realities they met in the course of their committed work. I think it’s crucial for our leaders to learn just how difficult and oft times how futile development work is, regardless of the rewards. I’d like to think by knowing this unvarnished view, they’d think twice before jumping in to change the world. Marnie

  • “Green Fires – Assault on Eden: A novel of the Ecuadorian Rainforest.” Marnie Mueller

    The description of a Peace Corps Volunteer doing urban community development in Quayaquil is a classic case study of the consequences that can arise from organizing poor people. It should be required reading for all Peace Corps staff. It gives the lie to the romantic notions of peaceful, non-violent revolution that so warmed the egos of Peace Corps staff in the early 60s, IMHO.

    The description of oil company activity in the Tropical Forest and the complicity of both a priest and a PCV is chilling.

    “The Mosquito Coast” – Paul Theroux
    I know that many, including the very knowledgeable John Coyne, co-creater of Peace Corps Writers, may not agree with my selection.
    However, I argue that only an RPCV could have written the beginning chapter on leaving Boston. And, bringing ice machines to the Tropical Forest where there is no reliable energy source, speaks to me as a parody of early Peace Corps programming.

  • Ditto all of the above plus:

    “Festival for 3000 Maidens,” “Indigo,” “Ahmed’s Revenge”–Richard Wiley

    Also, two collections: “Going Upcountry,” John Coyne, ed. “From the Center of the Earth,” Geraldine Kennedy, ed.

    All give a better understanding through looking in the world’s bedroom window. Bathroom window, too, for that matter.

  • This entry goes in the category of “How quickly we forget those who lead the way.”

    A must read for any public official dealing with Africa and the Mideast is Mary-Ann Tirone Smith’s novel, “Lament for a Silver Eyed Woman,” if for no other reason than to experience her devastating descriptions of the Shatila refugee camp and the subsequent massacre in the camp. A true cautionary tale.

    Note to John Coyne: Think about releasing a special 25th anniversary edition of this book. I believe the date is coming up. The book is as current now as it was the day it was originally published.

  • This is important and special…which books? Of course my brother Ron’s book Road to Tomazunchale, Peru 1963-65. But I am biased, he’s me brother! The two books that have made an impact on me in the field and DC, Moritz Thomsen’s Living Poor and Barbara Joe’s Triumph and Hope…I always gave Living Poor to new staff to hear what Peace Corps is and what Sarge wanted us to do…lots of simple depth and feeling for the Host Country. Triumph and Hope gave fresh Volunteers a look at life in the field, though Honduras was her assignment, the examples given of challenges she shared applied to all our Peace Corps posts…great black and white photos too! My most recent readings have carried me to a higher level of appreciation and pride in what Volunteers have done…and we still carry on as we did in 1961. Juana Bordas, Salsa, Soul, and Spirit…beautiful look at the Hispanic culture of the US from a former Volunteer in Chile in 1963…a strong an beautiful writer with more books soon to be published I hope. And the last on my list is one of the first if not the first book by Peace Corps Volunteers… Barrios of Manta (Ecuador), Earle and Rhoda Brooks. Their book is back in print after nearly 50 years in keeping with the 50th Anniversary. I assume Moritz read their book as he was going to Ecuador as a Volunteer. Day to day experience of two Peace Corps Volunteers in a Andean society that leaves them feeling that they have been given more than they left behind in Manta…excellent! Read these books if you want a better understanding of what we can do as Citizen Volunteers.
    Thanks John and Marian…you have given us a platform to share our special experiences with the larger community.
    Bob Arias
    Peace Corps Response Volunteer/Colombia 2011-2013

  • Triumph & Hope: Golden Years With The Peace Corps in Honduras by Barbara Joe is a great book. Especially for those considering joining late career

    Jay Schwartz
    Honduras 2000-2002

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