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. Participating in our discussion will be Meghan Elizabeth Kallman, the book’s author!

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)

November 2017 Book Club Selection

The Nightingale of Mosul
Luz, Susan*, with Marcus Brotherton: The Nightingale of Mosul: A Nurse’s Journey of Service, Struggle, and War (2010)

* RPCV Brazil 1972-1975

Discussion: Tuesday, November 14, 2017, 7:00-8:30 pm. Location at the home of Carole Beauclerk, 1500 SW Park Ave in Portland. Note the change of venue and time. On-street parking in downtown Portland is free beginning at 7:00 pm. Upon arrival, call 503-780-2722 to be buzzed in, then turn right into the building’s lobby and then take an immediate left into the community room. Feel free to bring snacks to share.

Review: © Booklist: Colonel Luz of the Army Nurse Corps has enjoyed a long, happy marriage to the son of one of the original “Band of Brothers.” She also enjoyed hard-won success in the Peace Corps, as a nurse in an inner-city high school and at a hospital for the criminally insane, in the Army Reserve, and in being there for three nephews with cystic fibrosis. Then in 2006 she went to Iraq and combined public health and psychiatric work with handling a steady stream of casualties from combat and terrorist incidents. And she became the unofficial morale officer, responsible for, among other things, organizing a vocal group among the nurses, in which capacity she earned the moniker that entitles her book. Another Nightingale, the one who founded modern nursing, would have approved of Luz’s work; the army’s approval took the form of the Bronze Star. Readers will most likely approve of her addition to knowledge of the humane aspects of the Iraq War.

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

April 2017 Book Club Selection

Phobos & Deimos
Moehl, John*: Phobos & Deimos: Two Moons, Two Worlds (2016)

* RPCV Cameroon (1974-1980)

Discussion: Thursday, April 6, 2017, 7:00-8:30 pm. Location at the home of Carole Beauclerk, 1500 SW Park Ave in Portland. On-street parking in downtown Portland is free beginning at 7:00 pm. Upon arrival, call 503-780-2722 to be buzzed in, then turn right into the building’s lobby and then take an immediate left into the community room. Participating in our discussion–in person–will be John Moehl, the book’s author! Feel free to bring snacks to share.

Synopsis: Many of us live dual lives, as though we live in two worlds. This divergence is perhaps greatest for those embedded in what may be called “multiculturalism.” Multicultural people, with their unique life experiences, are migrating around the globe, carrying their own baggage while they face the demands of living in new and strange lands. The short stories in this collection look at the daily tests facing people, frequently in Africa, as they struggle to survive, often in a rapidly changing world. These observations are made through the lens of an outsider–someone from a different culture, with different habits, seeing and learning how these trials are met–seeing and learning that people, regardless of ethnicity, share a common humanity that makes taking these tests poignant and, at times, a true reflection of the human condition. The stories focus on farmers and families, business and traditional leaders, the poor and the rich as they move through life’s pathways, not knowing the changes in store for tomorrow. The stories tell tales of sadness and success, while underscoring the common denominators we all share. The stories may be seen as representing a different world, but they most likely represent the whole world.

Where to find it:
Vendors: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Powell’s