August 2020 Book Club Selection

What is the What
Eggers, Dave: What is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng (2006)

Discussion: Wednesday, August 12, 2020, 6:30-8:00 pm. Online meeting via Zoom; e-mail bookclub AT crpca.org for the login information.

Review: © Publishers Weekly: Valentino Achak Deng, real-life hero of this engrossing epic, was a refugee from the Sudanese civil war-the bloodbath before the current Darfur bloodbath-of the 1980s and 90s. In this fictionalized memoir, Eggers (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius) makes him an icon of globalization. Separated from his family when Arab militia destroy his village, Valentino joins thousands of other “Lost Boys,” beset by starvation, thirst and man-eating lions on their march to squalid refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya, where Valentino pieces together a new life. He eventually reaches America, but finds his quest for safety, community and fulfillment in many ways even more difficult there than in the camps: he recalls, for instance, being robbed, beaten and held captive in his Atlanta apartment. Eggers’s limpid prose gives Valentino an unaffected, compelling voice and makes his narrative by turns harrowing, funny, bleak and lyrical. The result is a horrific account of the Sudanese tragedy, but also an emblematic saga of modernity-of the search for home and self in a world of unending upheaval.

Where to find it:
Libraries: Clackamas Co | Ft Vancouver | Multnomah Co | Washington Co
Vendors: Powell’s | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

July 2020 Book Club Selection

The Death of Idealism
Kallman, Meghan Elizabeth: The Death of Idealism: Development and Anti-Politics in the Peace Corps (2020)

Discussion: Wednesday, July 15, 2020, 4:00-5:30 pm. Online meeting via Zoom; e-mail bookclub AT crpca.org for the login information.

Synopsis: Peace Corps volunteers seem to exemplify the desire to make the world a better place. Yet despite being one of history’s clearest cases of organized idealism, the Peace Corps has, in practice, ended up cultivating very different outcomes among its volunteers. By the time they return from the Peace Corps, volunteers exhibit surprising shifts in their political and professional consciousness. Rather than developing a systemic perspective on development and poverty, they tend instead to focus on individual behavior; they see professions as the only legitimate source of political and social power. They have lost their idealism, and their convictions and beliefs have been reshaped along the way. The Death of Idealism uses the case of the Peace Corps to explain why and how participation in a bureaucratic organization changes people’s ideals and politics. Meghan Elizabeth Kallman offers an innovative institutional analysis of the role of idealism in development organizations. She details the combination of social forces and organizational pressures that depoliticizes Peace Corps volunteers, channels their idealism toward professionalization, and leads to cynicism or disengagement. Kallman sheds light on the structural reasons for the persistent failure of development organizations and the consequences for the people involved. Based on interviews with over 140 current and returned Peace Corps volunteers, field observations, and a large-scale survey, this deeply researched, theoretically rigorous book offers a novel perspective on how people lose their idealism, and why that matters.

Where to find it:
Vendors: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Columbia Univ Press (enter CUP30 for 30% discount)

PPCA COVID-19 Support Fund – still available

Due to the impacts of COVID-19, the Portland Peace Corps Association has established a special COVID-19 Support Fund to support our community members. Beginning immediately, newly evacuated PCVs and local RPCVs in NW Oregon and SW Washington may apply for funds based on their needs. Please refer to the information below to learn more about this funding opportunity and how to apply.

What: PPCA has established a special fund for one-time payments to support community members with crucial needs due to their evacuation and/or impacts from the coronavirus pandemic.

Who: Newly evacuated PCVs and local RPCVs in NW Oregon and SW Washington

Eligibility: Individual must describe how they have been impacted, their need, and what they will use the funds for.

How to apply for assistance: Take our COVID-19 Support Survey NOW at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/7H27S7V.

Note: We will never divulge anything that could be used to identify recipients, but we may paraphrase applicants’ needs to promote donations to our COVID-19 Support Fund.

When: We are considering new support applicants now! The first round of payments was made in early May, providing 6 newly evacuated PCVs with $2,300 in support. Future payments are dependent on member contributions to our COVID-19 Support Fund.

Who makes the selection decision?: PPCA has named a four-person committee to review requests and maintain confidentiality.

Amount of funds: As of May 20, thanks largely to member generosity, the total fund exceeds $750. As a result, we are willing to consider payments between $200 and $500.

Method of payment: Payments will be made via Venmo or by check.

Seeking additional donations to this fund: PPCA seeks additional donations to our COVID-19 Support Fund at http://www.crpca.org/checkout/.