Ask What You Can Do: Our Days in the Early Peace Corps

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Not many people push themselves beyond their limits. We get comfortable with the mundane, and we attempt to be average at best. But there are those out there who work hard towards being more. This is the story of those that tried their best every day. The book, Ask What You Can Do, follows the life of James C. Stewart as he joins the Peace Corps and travels to the the Philippines in the 1960s. In this powerhouse memoir, every day from March of ’61 to James’ completion in ’64, is described in fantastic detail. He was only one of six hundred or so volunteers that went into the Republic of the Philippines, but his account morphs from volunteer to volunteer leader. The book is incredibly informative and a tell-all of life at this time.

One remarkable thing is the detail and knowledge of Filipino culture that Stewart makes sure to comment on in the book. Every twist and turn is provided with a nice background that didn’t weigh the story down or feel out of place. It has been 50 years, and yet Stewart’s book reads as if it all this happened yesterday. His narration doesn’t feel forced or out of place. It is human, real, and raw. Every page is almost like a snapshot from the time period. People in the book are less like emotionless shadows and more like pulsating, growing characters. Every death in the book stings, and every bright moment shines. My favorite part of the book is the the pure heart and soul of it. It’s not the different section or chapters, but the overall theme that makes this book outstanding. It’s about people–normal people–giving up so much to be part of something bigger. I would say I learned a great deal after reading this book. I learned what kind of people joined the Peace Corps back then and what kind of personality it takes to survive in it. The book is an eye-opening experience that I will never forget, nor will anyone else who reads this book.

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Star Count 5/5
Format Trade
Page Count 662 pages
Publisher CreateSpace
Publish Date 05-Mar-2011
ISBN 9781456302160 Buy this Book
Issue December 2011
Category Biographies & Memoirs


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