Book Club

PPCA’s Book Club gatherings are open to all who have read that month’s book. Typically we start out discussing the book, and inevitably someone relates a theme in the book to their own experiences or other readings, so the conversation takes an interesting turn. Our Book Club discusses books of broad interest set in parts of the world in which Peace Corps Volunteers have served, or books which were authored by Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs). We love author appearances! Between 2010 and 2019, we have hosted or will host 34 different authors – in person, by phone, or via Skype.


Here are our next three book discussions:

November 2020 Book Club Selection

The Sympathizer
Nguyen, Viet Thanh: The Sympathizer* (2015)

* 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

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

Review: © Publishers Weekly: This astonishing first novel has at its core a lively, wry first-person narrator called the Captain, and his two school friends Bon and Man, as they navigate the fall of Saigon and the establishment of the Communist regime in Vietnam in 1975. The Captain is a half-Vietnamese double agent; he reports to his Communist minder Man who, unbeknownst to Bon, is a Republican assassin. The Captain and Bon make it on to one of the harrowing last flights out of Saigon as the city is overtaken by the Viet Cong. They travel with the Captain’s superior, the General, and his family, although Bon’s own wife and son are shot making their escape. The Vietnamese exiles settle uncomfortably in an America they believe has abandoned their country, as they are reduced to new roles as janitors, short-order cooks, and deliverymen. The General opens a liquor store, then a restaurant (in which his proud wife cooks the best pho outside Vietnam) as a front to raise money for a counter rebellion. In order to protect his identity as a spy, the Captain is forced to incriminate others, and as lines of loyalty and commitment blur, his values are compromised until they are worthless. Nguyen’s novel enlivens debate about history and human nature, and his narrator has a poignant, often mirthful voice.

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


December 2020 Book Club Selection

Dead Aid
Moyo, Dambisa: Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There is a Better Way for Africa (2009)

Discussion: Monday, December 7, 2020, 6:30-8:00 pm. Online meeting via Zoom; e-mail bookclub AT crpca.org for the login information.

Review: © Publishers Weekly: In this important analysis of the past fifty years of international (largely American) aid to Africa, economist and former World Bank consultant Moyo, a native of Zambia, prescribes a tough dose of medicine: stopping the tide of money that, however well-intentioned, only promotes corruption in government and dependence in citizens. With a global perspective and on-the-ground details, Moyo reveals that aid is often diverted to the coffers of cruel despotisms, and occasionally conflicts outright with the interests of citizens-free mosquito nets, for instance, killing the market for the native who sells them. In its place, Moyo advocates a smarter, though admittedly more difficult, policy of investment that has already worked to grow the economies of poor countries like Argentina and Brazil. Moyo writes with a general audience in mind, and doesn’t hesitate to slow down and explain the intricacies of, say, the bond market. This is a brief, accessible look at the goals and reasons behind anti-aid advocates, with a hopeful outlook and a respectful attitude for the well-being and good faith of all involved.

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

January 2021 Book Club Selection

The Secret Lives of Glaciers
Jackson, M*: The Secret Lives of Glaciers (2019)

* RPCV Zambia 2007-2008

Discussion: Thursday, January 14, 2021, 6:30-8:00 pm. Online meeting via Zoom; e-mail bookclub AT crpca.org for the login information. Participating in our discussion will be M Jackson, the book’s author!

Synopsis: The Secret Lives of Glaciers explores just what happens when a community’s glaciers slowly disappear. Meticulously detailed, each chapter unfolds complex stories of people and glaciers along the southeastern coast of Iceland, exploring the history of glacier science and the world’s first glacier monitoring program, the power glaciers enact on local society, perceptions by some in the community that glaciers are alive, and the conflicting and intertwined consequences of rapid glacier change on the cultural fabric of the region. Powerfully written, The Secret Lives of Glaciers reaches beyond Iceland and touches on changing glaciers worldwide, revealing oft-overlooked interactions between people and ice throughout human history. The Secret Lives of Glaciers delivers a critical message: understanding glaciers and people together teaches us about how human society worldwide experiences being in the world today amidst increasing climatic changes and the anthropogenic transformation of all of Earth’s systems. Instead of creating another catalog of the ice the world is losing, The Secret Lives of Glaciers explores what we may yet find with glaciers: the hopeful possibility of saving humanity’s glaciers.

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

Most of our books are selected by an annual survey, featuring curated options from books widely available in local libraries. We schedule additional discussions when an author of a non-self-published book offers to meet with us. If you are interested in learning more about PPCA’s Book Club, please contact Bill Stein, at 503-830-0817 or bookclub AT crpca.org.