Bonus Triangle Book Group

Bonus Triangle Book Group

The Bonus Triangle RPCV Book Group, initiated in 2020, focuses on books by Peace Corps authors. A special feature of this group is the participation, whenever possible, of the author, via Skype or Zoom! 

Meetings are scheduled on even-numbered months (February, April, June, August, October, December), so as not to be confused with the long-running NCPCA Book Group.  Contact Debbie Durham at [email protected] to learn about the Bonus Book Group future meetings.

Everyone is welcome, but meetings are limited to 12 participants. Please RSVP the host to participate. In non-pandemic times, meetings are held in private homes. Healthy treats welcome!

Links to find the books: 



Here are the books we are reading in 2020:

February 5

host: Debbie Durham



Author: Ellen Urbani, RPCV Guatemala

When I Was Elena (2006) by Ellen Urbani. Great conversation with Ellen!

Review: ©Goodreads: When I Was Elena is an extraordinary account of a young American woman's sojourn in the guerrilla-infested mountains of Guatemala. Shattering the concept of a typical memoir, the author's personal story is interlaced, chapter-for-chapter, with tales told from the perspectives of seven indigenous women she encountered during her journey. At once a coming-of-age adventure and a haunting history of the struggle to overcome oppression - both personal and cultural - this genre-breaching work heralds the arrival of a daring new talent in American literature. 


April 22

host: Debbie Durham


Author: Tony D'Souza, RPCV Ivory Coast

Whiteman (2006) by Tony D’Souza. Our book group had a wonderful conversation with Tony. 

Review: ©Booklist: Jack Diaz is a young American relief worker in a Muslim village in the Ivory Coast, part of an endeavor to bring potable water to the impoverished villagers. As it becomes more and more apparent that he cannot achieve his original goal, he drifts into various projects from hunting to farming to teaching villagers about AIDS prevention to taking up ill-advised love affairs. Tensions between Muslims and Christians mount and add to the layers of cultural and political nuances that Jack struggles to understand. Christened Whiteman by the villagers, who believe him capable of magic by virtue of his white skin, Jack feels his whiteness more than he ever has in his life. As he penetrates the culture--but never achieves complete integration--he discovers a people not as simple and uncomplicated as he had thought. With war threatening to hasten the end of his three-year commitment, Jack’s affection for the region and the people heightens, and he seeks forgiveness for his privilege and ineffectiveness.




June 24

host: Debbie Durham


Author: David Ives, RPCV Costa Rica

American Dreamer (2020) by David Taylor Ives. 

Review: The Bonus Triangle Book Group is honored to be early reviewers of this book! There are so many accolades online about David T. Ives, it is difficult to summarize his lifetime of service. 

Press release:  "The book captures memories of Ives’ experiences of a Peace Corps volunteer - the time spent working in schools and community gardens in impoverished parts of the world, and how the opportunity paved the way to Ives becoming a global humanitarian. Since the early days in the Peace Corps, the author has worked with leaders like President Jimmy Carter and the Dalai Lama, served as the senior advisor to the Permanent Secretariat of the Summits of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, and become well-known for his speeches about humanitarian issues." 

Ives is the former Executive Director of the Albert Schweitzer Institute of Quinnipiac University (CT). He has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize four times. Testimonials in American Dreamer include Said Muhammad Yunus, Founder of the Grameen Bank and 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, and Leymah Gbowee, 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, and celebrated peace activist from Liberia.



August 26

host: Debbie Durham

RSVP to: [email protected]


Author: Peter Hessler, RPCV China

This month we feature two books by Peter Hessler, part of a Chinese trilogy covering 10 years he spent in China, initially as a volunteer. Pick one, or both! His website provides a thorough description of these books. Hessler is a staff writer for The New Yorker.


River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze (2001)

Hessler was assigned as a PCV to teach English and American literature at Fuling Teachers College in China 1996-98. “River Town tells the story — sometimes funny, sometimes sad, often inspiring — of this contact between American teachers and Chinese students and residents in a small city.”

NCPCA Book Group selection in 2004, Winner, Kiriyama Prize.



Oracle Bones: A Journey Through Time in China (2006)

In Oracle Bones, Hessler examines how average Chinese respond to the rapid changes at the turn of the century, creating new lives and identities. Along the way, Hessler records his own experiences as a foreign journalist, struggling to make sense of national events that range from NATO’s bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, to the protests of Falun Gong adherents, to the Chinese reaction to the events of 9/11. 

Finalist for the National Book Award, 2006.






Friday, October 30, 12 noon EST

host: Debbie Durham

RSVP to: [email protected]


Author: Dina Nayeri (whose mother is RPCV Thailand!)

Author will be calling in from Paris! 

The Ungrateful Refugee: What Immigrants Never Tell You (2019)

Paperback edition out now! Get it from independent bookstores thru online vendor AbeBooks here.

Review ©Goodreads: Aged eight, Dina Nayeri fled Iran along with her mother and brother, and lived in the crumbling shell of an Italian hotel-turned–refugee camp. Eventually she was granted asylum in America. She settled in Oklahoma, then made her way to Princeton. In this book, Nayeri weaves together her own vivid story with the stories of other refugees and asylum seekers in recent years, bringing us inside their daily lives and taking us through the different stages of their journeys, from escape to asylum to resettlement. 

Written with compassion, tenderness and a burning anger…It speaks powerfully from – and to – the heart. Please read it. -Robert MacFarlane, Underland, Landmarks

Dina Nayeri’s powerful writing confronts issues that are key to the refugee experience. -Viet Thanh Nguyeon, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, The Sympathizer


December 9

host: Debbie Durham

RSVP to: [email protected]


Author: David Jarmul, RPCV Nepal and Moldova

Not Exactly Retired: a Life-Changing Journey on the Road and in the Peace Corps (2020)

Review: Marco Werman, Host of The World on public radio; RPCV Togo: Who in their right mind joins the Peace Corps in their sixties? What were we trying to prove to ourselves or anybody else?” David Jarmul ponders these perplexing questions during an 11,000 mile road-trip across America and his second tour with the Peace Corps, this time in Moldova — explorations that have both personal and historic appeal. He gently teases out a striking contrast between his service in Nepal 35 years ago and in Moldova in the age of Trump.

Author David Jarmul is a widely published author, world traveler and former head of news and communications at Duke University. Readers in more than 100 countries followed David’s popular blog as he and his wife Champa shared their “Second Act Story.”