Peace Corps Writers
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January 2003
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The RPCV archival project
In 1986, at the 25th anniversary of the Peace Corps, sponsored by the Returned Volunteers of Washington, D.C., and the National Council of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, I organized the first panels on Peace Corps writers to discuss the writings of PCVs. At one of those sessions, Suzy McKee Charnas (Nigeria 1961–63) made the suggestion that the written documents of RPCVs should be collected and saved. At the time there was a small collection of artifacts at the Smithsonian Institute. A committee was formed that included Suzy McKee Charnas, Roger Landrum (Nigeria 1961–63), Margaret Pollock (Korea 1979–81) and myself. Writing letters and making contacts with a variety of libraries, we received replies expressing interest in hosting such a collection from both Notre Dame University and the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, and it was decided that the Kennedy Library was the natural place for such a collection of documents written by RPCVs. Today, The Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Collection of the John F. Kennedy Library is the repository for personal materials that relate to the individual and group experiences of those who served as Peace Corps Volunteers from its inception in 1961 to the present. The Collection has letters, diaries, journals, photos, oral history interviews, and other items of unique archival value.
     For how to submit your Peace Corps materials to the library, see the notice about the Peace Corps Collection in “Opportunities for Writers.”

In this issue —
Being First
In 1997 Bob Klein (Ghana 1961–63) began to look back at his Peace Corps years in Ghana with the first group of PCVs to serve overseas. He then traveled across the U.S. interviewing other Volunteers from the famous Ghana I, as well as former Peace Corps staff, deselected Trainees, and faculty members who trained the Peace Corps Volunteers at the University of California at Berkeley. Klein also went to Boston to listen to oral history interviews kept at the Kennedy Library, and the National Archives in Washington, D.C. for further research into the creation of the agency. In 2001 he completed the first draft of Being First: A Memoir of Ghana I. With his research and book, Klein is hoping to be a “model for other retired RPCVs” to do the same kind of research on their Peace Corps experiences. We are pleased to publish, as part of our on-going “To Preserve and to Learn” column, the opening chapters of Being First in which Klein writes about the establishment of the Peace Corps, meeting President Kennedy in the Rose Garden, and arriving in Ghana on the afternoon of September 1, 1961.

We also have . . .
Mishelle Shepard (Czech Republic 1994–96) tells us how to “Travels Right” through Prussia; Carol Welsh (Honduras 1962-64) shares her reading from the 40+1 Conference; Andy Trincia gives us another installment of his life in Romania as a PCV; there is “Songs From Africa” by David Kendall Grant (Chad 1990-92); a “Letter from Mauritius” written in 1973 by Suzanne Clark; we have “Talking with . . . Paul Eggers” (Malaysia 1976-78), who won the Maria Thomas Fiction Award in 2000 for his novel Saviors and recently published a collection of stories. Besides all that, there is a list of recent books by RPCVs; reviews of books written by RPCVs; and in Literary Type, gossip on all of these writers and much more.

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