Book Club

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CRPCA’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 Peace Corps countries. We discuss fiction and nonfiction, books by Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and authors from around the world, and works that incite emotions from fury to laughter. We also love author appearances! Between 2010 and 2014, we hosted 13 different authors – in person, by phone, or via Skype. In 2015, authors Gary Cornelius, Rajeev Goyal, Michael Heyn, and Stanley Meisler are joining our discussions of their books.


Book club books are announced about three months before the book club meeting date. A complete list of all scheduled books is available to CRPCA members from our book club coordinator using the contact form below. The next three books up for discussion will be:

April 2015 Book Club Selection

Spirit Rising
Kidjo, Angélique, with Rachel Wenrick: Spirit Rising: My Life, My Music (2014)

Discussion: Tuesday, April 14, 2015, 7:00-8:30 pm. Location at the home of Mike Waite, 7008 Kansas St in Vancouver WA, 360-314-4117. Note the change to our April book selection; it’s to accommodate an author appearance in May. Feel free to bring snacks to share.

Review: © Library Journal: Kidjo’s memoir brims with the same joy, exuberance, and wisdom exhibited in her music while adding depth and insight into her art and life and the triumph of making connections through music. She grew up in Benin (West Africa), with a family full of songs and love. In order to continue to create her music, Kidjo fled a dictatorship and moved to France, where she struggled to support herself and against the “coolness toward African immigrants.” She studied music, got married, and built on her interest in human rights. Through many collaborations-with Carlos Santana, Ziggy Marley, and Branford Marsalis, to name only a few-across cultures, styles, and countries, she details how she combines the music of Africa with music from the diaspora, extracted through slavery, constructing unique combinations and blending modern and traditional, roots and technology, jazz, and more with drums and complex rhythms at the center. She outlines how she has used her notoriety, as well as her predilection to speak her mind, to visit and advocate for women and children through UNICEF and her own foundation.

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



May 2015 Book Club Selection

The Springs of Namje
Goyal, Rajeev*: The Springs of Namje: A Ten-year Journey From the Villages of Nepal to the Halls of Congress (2012)

* RPCV Nepal (2001-2003)

Discussion: Friday, May 22, 2015, 7:00-8:30 pm. Location at the home of Don Messerschmidt, 1218 SE 121st Ave in Vancouver WA, 360-256-8596. Participating in our discussion–in person–will be Rajeev Goyal, the book’s author! Feel free to bring snacks to share.

Review: © Booklist: Goyal, the son of Indian immigrants, joined the Peace Corps and was assigned to teach English in the small village of Namje in eastern Nepal. In this very frank memoir of the hardships, failures, and successes, he recalls dealing with the discomforts of the caste system and learning that supposedly ignorant villagers had skills and knowledge helpful to developing their communities and nations. He is brutally honest about the unintended consequences of well-meaning efforts, such as building a water pump system to pull water up the mountain, a project that likely brought the villagers into contact with Maoist rebels. When his service ended, Goyal remained involved in issues of development, including boosting funding for the Peace Corps. He tells the story of his 10-year journey as attorney and activist, walking the halls of Congress, shaking hands and securing promises for more funding at a time of budget cutting, eventually securing an additional $60 million for the Peace Corps. An honest and inspiring look at the hard work and reward of development efforts.

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


June 2015 Book Club Selection

When the World Calls
Meisler, Stanley: When the World Calls: The Inside Story of the Peace Corps and Its First Fifty Years (2011)

Discussion: Tuesday, June 9, 2015, 6:00-8:00 pm. Location at the home of Lesly Sanocki, 2090 NW Overton Ct in Beaverton, 503-690-3391. Participating in our discussion–via Skype–will be Stanley Meisler, the book’s author! Feel free to bring snacks to share.

Review: © Booklist: Few government programs enjoy the reputation of the Peace Corps, a political afterthought by President Kennedy that became one of the more enduring legacies of his administration. Succeeding administrations have had testy relations with the Peace Corps. Johnson railed against volunteers’ opposition to his invasion of the Dominican Republic, and Reagan tried to use the program to advance his agenda in Central America. Since its 1961 inception, the Peace Corps has had to manage its mission to advance peace and provide development assistance, from teaching to building wells, against political onslaughts within the U.S. and host nations even as it managed its image as symbol of American idealism rather than tool of the CIA. Meisler, a deputy director during its early years, offers informed perspective from the turbulent years of the Vietnam War, when many volunteers were conflicted about their government, to the future direction of the Peace Corps. Drawing on his experience and interviews with former volunteers, he presents the fascinating characters, locales, and political background noise from a near-universally admired program’s 50-year history.

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; stay tuned for our next survey in mid-2015. We schedule additional books when an author offers to meet with us. If you are interested in learning more about CRPCA’s book club, upcoming books or author events, please contact our book club coordinator, Bill Stein, at 503-830-0817 or bookclub AT crpca.org or through the form below: