Find books in the Library of Congress Collections by 200 authors who served in the Peace Corps.
Download the bibliography (PDF, 579KB)
Bailur, Savita, and Helen Grant, eds. [Peace Corps service not known].
Volunteer Tales: Experiences of Working Abroad. Cambridge: Lutterworth Press, 2003. Library of Congress Permalink: http://lccn.loc.gov/2008460277
Publisher’s description: “‘During the last night at Boca de Tomates, a violent tropical storm raged across the coast, stampeding through the camp and devastating our home. We watched in awe as the already-slanting structure swayed precariously around us, as chunks of the roof flew off into the sky and as a nearby palm tree was struck by lightning.... Our comfortable Brighton flat and the once ubiquitous chatter of house prices and Internet millionaires seemed a world away.’ A great number of people consider volunteering at some point in their life and this is a nuts and bolts guide to volunteering full of honest accounts from the people who know. These are true-life accounts from people of all walks of life and ages, who decided to leave their ‘normal’ lives behind to take up the volunteer challenge overseas. Their stories include tales of travel and adventure, tales of hardship, tales of kindness, frustration and humor. Reading them, you too will experience culture shock in Ghana, the fear of war in Sierra Leone, helplessness in the face of poverty in Cambodia, fishing for piranha in Suriname, the struggles of an outsider in China and much, much more. They will open your eyes to new worlds and may even change your outlook in the ways they changed the volunteers. Volunteer Tales will appeal to those who have already volunteered abroad or are considering it. It can be comforting and interesting to know that others have gone through similar experiences and, in the latter case, extremely useful to know what it would be like. Each contribution has something different to offer and is particularly fascinating for anyone wanting to know the reality of a country they may intend to visit. However, readers with no interest in becoming a volunteer at all will also enjoy these stories. They provide entertaining, humorous reading brimming with memories from life on the road. The collection contains eight short essays by the following RPCVs: Valerie Broadwell (Morocco, 1981–83), Kenneth Carano (Suriname, 1998–2000), George Chinnery (Romania, 1998–2000), Roderick Jones (Nicaragua, 1992–96), Paul Karrer (Western Samoa, 1978–80), Kathleen M. Moore (Ethiopia, 1965–67), Gina Perfetto (Ethiopia, 1997–99), and Susan Rosenfeld (Senegal, 1977–81).”
Banerjee, Dillon (Cameroon, 1994–96).
The Insider’s Guide to the Peace Corps: What to Know before You Go. 2nd ed. Berkeley, California: Ten Speed Press, 2009. Library of Congress Permalink: http://lccn.loc.gov/2008043720
Publisher’s description: “In this candid guide, experienced Peace Corps volunteers give the complete lowdown on all anyone needs to know before applying and volunteering, examining everything from the highly competitive application process to living like a local to Peace Corps rules and policy. The only handbook of its kind, this pragmatic manual provides answers that cannot be found anywhere else. Containing the latest information and resources on Peace Corps programs, this is an essential reference for anyone contemplating the ‘toughest job you’ll ever love.’”
Barlow, Aaron, ed. (Togo, 1988–90).
One Hand Does Not Catch a Buffalo: 50 Years of Amazing Peace Corps Stories: volume one, Africa. Jane Albritton (India, 1967–69), Series ed. 1st ed. Palo Alto, California: Travelers’ Tales, 2011. Library of Congress Permalink: http://lccn.loc.gov/2010054339
Award: Silver Award in the Travel Division, 2011 Independent Publisher Book Awards
Summary: The first of a series of four anthologies celebrating and recording Peace Corps volunteers’ accomplishments and anecdotes, this one devoted to volunteers in Africa.
Barnett, Stephen (Sierra Leone, 1976–78).
The Road to Makokota: A Novel. San Francisco: MacAdam/Cage, 2003. Library of Congress Permalink: http://lccn.loc.gov/2003014113
Publisher’s description: “The Road to Makokota is set in a war-torn former British colony in present-day West Africa. Craig Allan Hammond, a black American, returns to Africa to find his former love, Oussumatu Turay, and her son—his son—Abu. Sixteen years earlier, Hammond left Oussu and Abu in Makokota after completing a road-building project; she was nineteen when he left, and his son only a few weeks old. He has not seen them since. Now the country is decimated by a civil war. Wracked by guilt and fear, Hammond needs to find mother and son and bring them out of the killing zone to safety—in order to save himself. Hammond scours refugee camps in the French-speaking country across the border from Makokota. Having no success, he journeys with a Polish nurse deep into the ravaged land and its violent and dismal reality. Before his journey is over, he will learn that you can’t find anything until you’ve lost everything.”
Begin, Lora Parisien (Tunisia, 1989–91).
Memoir: The Measure of a Dream: A Peace Corps Story. 1st Peace Corps Writers ed. Oakland, California: Peace Corps Writers, 2012. Library of Congress Permalink: http://lccn.loc.gov/2012937102
Publisher’s description: “West meets Middle East in this engaging story of a young American woman who follows her dream of joining the Peace Corps and is sent to live and work in a Muslim country for two years. Her Peace Corps ‘dream’ never included random marriage proposals, or World Heritage Sites caving in on her, or run-ins with the CIA, or war. This culture shockingly fascinating story will take readers on a very personal journey to a land—to a people—few Americans know.”
Bird, Karline Frances Topp, interviewer (Thailand, 1968–70).
Bounchoeurn Sao and Diyana D. Sao, Bending with the Wind: Memoir of a Cambodian Couple's Escape to America. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co., 2012. Library of Congress Permalink: http://lccn.loc.gov/2012003912
Publisher’s Summary: “This riveting memoir chronicles the couple’s childhoods, their lives under the Khmer Rouge, their journeys to Thailand and later the United States, and their efforts to forge a new life. This remarkable tale offers an intimate look inside the terrors of the Khmer Rouge and an inspiring portrait of the immigrant experience in America.”
Bissell, Tom (Uzbekistan, 1996–97).
Chasing the Sea: Being a Narrative of a Journey through Uzbekistan, including Descriptions of Life Therein, Culminating with an Arrival at the Aral Sea, the World’s Worst Man-made Ecological Catastrophe, in one Volume. 1st ed. New York: Pantheon Books, 2003. Library of Congress Permalink: http://lccn.loc.gov/2003042032
Award: Peace Corps Writers Best Travel Writing Award winner, 2004
Publisher’s description: “In 1960, the Aral Sea was the size of Lake Michigan: a huge body of water in the deserts of Central Asia. By 1996, when Tom Bissell arrived in Uzbekistan as a naïve Peace Corps volunteer, disastrous Soviet irrigation policies had shrunk the sea to a third its size. Bissell lasted only a few months before complications forced him to return home, but he had already become obsessed with this beautiful, brutal land. Five years later, Bissell convinces a magazine to send him to Central Asia to investigate the Aral Sea’s destruction. There, he joins forces with a high-spirited young Uzbek named Rustam, and together they make their often-wild way through the ancient cities—Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara—of this fascinating but often misunderstood part of the world. Slipping more than once through the clutches of the Uzbek police, who suspect them of crimes ranging from Christian evangelism to heroin smuggling, the two young men develop an unlikely friendship as they journey to the shores of the devastated sea. …Sometimes hilarious, sometimes powerfully sobering, Chasing the Sea is a gripping portrait of an unfamiliar land and the debut of a gifted young writer.”
God Lives in St. Petersburg and Other Stories. 1st ed. New York: Pantheon Books, 2005. Library of Congress Permalink: http://lccn.loc.gov/2004052232
Publisher’s description: “Two journalists, stranded in wartime Afghanistan, are taken in by a warlord who becomes the arbiter of their fates. A female scientist investigating the Aral Sea disaster is drawn into a trap by a former KGB officer. On a hike through Kazakhstan, Jayne and Douglas’s marriage unravels when their guide, a veteran of the Soviet-Afghanistan war, takes an unseemly interest in Jayne. The son of an American ambassador addicted to the seamy underside of a Central Asian city finally gets in over his head. In the Pushcart Prize–winning title story, a tortured missionary struggles to reconcile his sexual urges with his faith. A young man just back from a long stint in Kyrgyzstan finds his relationship with his fiancée all but destroyed. Sometimes hilarious, sometimes tragic, but always eerily affecting, these stories show us deeply foreign lands and peoples through our own eyes. Impressive in both range and emotional acuity, God Lives in St. Petersburg is a stunning fictional debut by a “wildly talented” (Outside) young writer.”
Black, Bonnie Lee (Gabon, 1996–98).
Somewhere Child. New York: Viking Press, 1981. Library of Congress Permalink: http://lccn.loc.gov/81065273
Publisher’s biographical note: “Casting caution to the wind at the age of fifty, New York caterer and food writer Bonnie Lee Black decided to close her catering business and join the Peace Corps. Posted to the tiny town of Lastoursville in the thickly rain-forested interior of Gabon, Central Africa, Bonnie taught health, nutrition, and cooking, in French, primarily to local African women and children.”
How to Cook a Crocodile: A Memoir with Recipes. 1st Peace Corp Writers ed. Oakland, California: Peace Corp Writers, 2010. Library of Congress Permalink: http://lccn.loc.gov/2010480709
Publisher’s biographical note: “In the two years she served in Gabon, Bonnie developed her own healthy recipe for a purposeful life, made in equal measures of good food, safe shelter, meaningful work, and unexpected love. Like M.F.K. Fisher's classic, World War II-era book, How to Cook a Wolf, Bonnie’s true stories comprise a lively, literary, present-day survival guide.”
Bolles, Edmund Blair (Tanzania, 1966–68).
Babel’s Dawn: A Natural History of the Origins of Speech. Berkeley, California: Counterpoint, 2011. Library of Congress Permalink: http://lccn.loc.gov/2011012335
Publisher’s synopsis: “Babel’s Dawn is a saga covering six million years. Like a walk through a natural history museum, Bolles demonstrates how members of the human lineage came to speak. Beginning with a scene of the last common ancestor ignoring a bird as it flies by, he guides us through generations, illuminating how it became possible for two Homo sapiens to not only acknowledge the songbird, but to also discuss the meaning of its song. Tracing the rise of voluntary vocalizations as well as the first word, phrases, and sentences, Bolles works against the common belief that the reason apes cannot speak is they are not smart enough. In this groundbreaking work, Bolles proposes that we now have substantial evidence that this age-old idea can no longer stand. With concrete portrayals of living individuals interwoven with evidence, data, and theory, Babel’s Dawn is a powerful account of a great scientific revolution.”
Borg, Parker W., Maureen J. Carroll, Patricia MacDermot Kasdan, and Stephen W. Wells, eds. (all Philippines, 1961–63).
Answering Kennedy’s Call: Pioneering the Peace Corps in the Philippines. Oakland, California: Peace Corps Writers, 2011. Library of Congress Permalink: http://lccn.loc.gov/2010943323
Publisher’s description: “Fifty years after President Kennedy signed the 1961 Executive Order creating the Peace Corps, nearly 100 former volunteers who joined the new organization in the first year for service in the Philippines recall why they joined, what they experienced, and how this service in the Philippines affected their lives. …The Peace Corps program in the Philippines was the first in Asia. Three factors set it apart from others during the early years of the Peace Corps’ existence. First, it was the largest program in the world, absorbing 25 per cent of all volunteers at the beginning. Second, all volunteers in the first years were assigned to be “teacher’s aides,” a position that was never clearly defined and that the Country Director later admitted was a “non-job.” And third, the Philippine program occurred in a nation that only fifteen years earlier had become independent from the United States…. This history gave the Philippine program a distinctly different political and social dynamic from what was the case in all of the other early Peace Corps countries…. The stories illustrate varying degrees of integration into the local culture, different ways of coping with the frustrations of their “non-job,” and what many learned as they came to terms with themselves living far from familiar comforts on a salary of about $55 per month. Above all the stories tell of the determination and spirit of these early volunteers in establishing a strong basis for one of the important first Peace Corps programs.”
Botkin, Daniel B. (Philippines, 1962–64).
Strange Encounters: Adventures of a Renegade Naturalist. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2003. Library of Congress Permalink: http://lccn.loc.gov/2003050118
Publisher’s description: “Daniel B. Botkin, the coauthor of one of the most widely adopted textbooks on environmental science, uses this narrative of his adventures to illuminate the complex and ever-changing relationship between human beings and their environment.”
Brazaitis, Mark (Guatemala, 1991–93).
The River of Lost Voices: Stories from Guatemala. Series: Iowa Short Fiction Award. Iowa City, Iowa: University of Iowa Press, 1998. Library of Congress Permalink: http://lccn.loc.gov/98024437
Award: Winner of the 1998 Iowa Short Fiction Award
Summary: This is a collection of short stories based on the daily lives of Guatemalans.
Steal My Heart: A Novel. Van Neste Books, 2000. Library of Congress Permalink: http://lccn.loc.gov/99046825
Award: Winner of the 2001 Maria Thomas Fiction Award presented by Peace Corps Writers
Subject: This is a tragicomedy set in Guatemala. Carlton James, an American ex-pat pickpocket and swindler, targets tourists visiting Panajachel. As a gringo, he escapes suspicion, at least until a detective-turned-farmer teams up with a local Peace Corps volunteer and solves the case. However, James and his female Indian accomplice resist arrest, with tragic consequences.
Brooks, Earle, and Rhoda Brooks (Ecuador, 1962–64).
The Barrios of Manta: A Personal Account of the Peace Corps in Ecuador. Illustrations by Rhoda Smith Brooks, New York: New American Library, 1965. Library of Congress Permalink: http://lccn.loc.gov/65022670
Summary: Two older married volunteers “describe their training, experiences, and afterthoughts of two years of community development and teaching for the Peace Corps in a coastal fishing town of Ecuador.”
Brown, J. Larry (India, 1966–69).
Peasants Come Last: A Memoir of the Peace Corps at Fifty. 2nd ed. Sunnyvale, California: LUCITA Publishers, 2012. Library of Congress Permalink: http://lccn.loc.gov/2012943755
Award: Moritz Thomsen Peace Corps Experience Award (Memoir), 2012
Publisher’s description: “In the tradition of popular activist scholars like Carl Sagan and Stephen Jay Gould, J. Larry Brown has spent decades linking the findings of science to the realities of human existence. He gives us a candid look at what it means to try to do good things in a harsh world. We are taken to the make-shift huts of refugees driven from their homes by the insane barbarism of the Lord’s Resistance Army. We stand with Brown where Livingstone once stood, at Murchison Falls overlooking the powerful Nile filled with hippos and crocodiles. We see the grinding lives of people who eat the same meal every day. But of all the obstacles faced by Brown and his colleagues, none is as nonsensical as the tone-deaf dealings of Washington. We see how the needs of peasants come last when the realities of their lives are no match for the machinations of Washington’s rigid routines.”
Brown-Waite, Eve (Ecuador, 1988–89).
First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria: How a Peace Corps Poster Boy Won My Heart and a Third-World Adventure Changed My Life. 1st ed. New York: Broadway Books, 2009. Library of Congress Permalink: http://lccn.loc.gov/2008022034
Publisher’s description: “After meeting John, her [Peace Corps] recruiter, Eve embarks on a journey that leads her from New York to Ecuador to Uganda. She is both gung-ho and hesitant about each step, thinking about what she might be leaving behind by leaving the comfort of the United States for a poor town in Ecuador or a part of Uganda that U.S. officials are not even allowed to enter because of the danger. … In the process, she sheds light on important social causes and dangerous situations and introduces us to a few of the people who are working to make the world a better place…. First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria is a memoir about love, perseverance, sacrifice, hard work, and the fact that a few dedicated people really can make a difference.”
Bubriski, Kevin (Nepal, 1975–79).
Maobadi: Photographs. 1st ed. Lalitpur: Himal Books, 2011. Library of Congress Permalink: http://lccn.loc.gov/2011321639
Publisher’s summary: “Portraits of Maoist activists.”
Portrait of Nepal. Introduction by Arthur Ollman. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1993. Library of Congress Permalink: http://lccn.loc.gov/92015439
Publisher’s description: “Familiar with Nepal from living and working in remote villages there, Bubriski returned in 1984 and produced this in-depth portrait of a people and culture quickly changing in the face of modern intrusions.”
Buckler, Michael L. (Malawi, 2006–08).
From Microsoft to Malawi. Lanham, Maryland: Hamilton Books, 2011. Library of Congress Permalink: http://lccn.loc.gov/2010937529
Publisher’s description: “In this compelling narrative, Michael L. Buckler draws readers into the challenging, yet rewarding world of the Peace Corps. Inspired by his journals, the book recounts his life as a Peace Corps teacher after a heartbreaking divorce and a demanding legal career prompted him to make a change. Assigned to a village school in Malawi, Buckler opens his tiny home to three boys, embarking with them on a journey of cross-cultural discovery, personal sacrifice, and transformative growth. Determined to help his village, Buckler collaborates with community leaders to build a boarding school for girls. As momentum builds, a powerful bureaucrat tries to shut down the project and Buckler becomes discouraged. As he agonizes over whether to leave, the village takes matters into its own hands in a moving display of the persistent, courageous spirit of Malawi.”