Category Archives: Global Perspectives

Walking to Listen

Walking to Listen

Bloomsbury
Hardcover
400 pages • $28.00
ISBN: 978-1-632-86700-1

4,000 Miles Across America, One Story at a Time

Andrew Forsthoefel

A memoir of one young man’s coming of age on a cross-country trek—told through the stories of the people of all ages, races, and inclinations he meets along the highways of America.

At twenty-three, Andrew Forsthoefel walked out the back door of his home in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, with a backpack, an audio recorder, his copies of Whitman and Rilke, and a sign that read “Walking to Listen.” He had just graduated from Middlebury College and was ready to being his adult life, but he didn’t know how. So he decided he’d walk. And listen. It would be a cross-country quest for guidance, and everyone he met would be his guide. Thousands shared their stories with him, sometimes confiding their prejudices, too. Often he didn’t know how to respond. How to find unity in diversity? How to stay connected, even as fear works to tear us apart? He listened for answers to these questions, and to the existential questions every human must face, and began to find that the answer might be in listening itself. Ultimately, it’s the stories of others living all along the roads of America that carry this journey and sing out in a hopeful, heartfelt book about how a life is made, and how our nation defines itself on the most human level.

Forsthoefel, Andrew, (c) Luke Forsthoefel.jpg

© Luke Forsthoefel

Andrew Forsthoefel is a writer, radio producer, and public speaker. After graduating from Middlebury College in 2011, he spent nearly a year walking across the United States. He first recounted part of that journey in a radio story featured on This American Life. He now facilitates workshops on walking and listening as practices in personal transformation, interconnection, and conflict resolution, and is currently based in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Walking to Listen has been adopted for First-Year Experience programs at:

Lipscomb University (TN); Berkshire School (MA); Holderness School (NH)

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A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea

A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea

Flatiron Books
Hardcover
288 pages • $25.99
ISBN: 978-1-250-10599-8

The Journey of Doaa Al Zamel

One Refugee’s Incredible Story of Love, Loss, and Survival

Melissa Fleming

With an author interview with Humans of New York’s Brandon Stanton 

“This deeply affecting book recounts the story of a young Syrian, Doaa Al Zamel . . . Fleming brings a moral urgency to the narrative. Doaa is now safe in Sweden, but Fleming pointedly asks, ‘Why is there no massive resettlement program for Syrians—the victims of the worst war of our times?'”   —The New Yorker 

Melissa Fleming shares the harrowing journey of Doaa Al Zamel, a young Syrian refugee in search of a better life. Doaa and her family leave war-torn Syria for Egypt where the climate is becoming politically unstable and increasingly dangerous. She meets and falls in love with Bassem, a former Free Syrian Army fighter and together they decide to leave behind the hardship and harassment they face in Egypt to flee for Europe, joining the ranks of the thousands of refugees who make the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean on overcrowded and run-down ships to seek asylum overseas and begin a new life. After four days at sea, their boat is sunk by another boat filled with angry men shouting threats and insults. With no land in sight and surrounded by bloated, floating corpses, Doaa is adrift with a child’s inflatable water ring around her waist, while two little girls cling to her neck. Doaa must stay alive for them. She must not lose strength. She must not lose hope.

© Alessandra Thomsen

Melissa Fleming is Head of Communications and Chief Spokesperson for the United High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and one of the world’s experts on refugees. She is a frequent contributor for The New York TimesThe Washington Post, CNN, and NPR. A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea is her first book.

City of Thorns

City of Thorns

Picador
Paperback
400 pages • $17.00
ISBN: 978-1-250-11873-8

Nine Lives in the World’s Largest
Refugee Camp

Ben Rawlence

With a New Postscript

“The most absorbing book in recent memory about life in refugee camps . . . Mr. Rawlence’s major feat is stripping away the anonymity that so often is attached to the word ‘refugee’ by delving deeply into the lives of nine people in the camp.”—The Wall Street Journal

Situated hundreds of miles from any other settlement, in the midst of an inhospitable northern Kenyan desert landscape largely characterized by thorn bushes, is Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp. Founded in 1992 as a temporary camp for 30,000 refugees fleeing violence and unrest in Sudan, it has since metastasized into a permanent home to some 500,000 people. A city like no other, its half a million residents barter their meager food rations, create homes for themselves from plastic sheets and sticks, and use open sewers. Due to its inaccessible location and the extremely high risk of kidnapping, very few western journalists have visited Dadaab, let alone spent any length of time there. Dadaab and the surrounding region are now largely controlled by al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda’s Somalian cell, and the camp and its desperate residents have become a hotbed for recruiters. Despite these dangers, Ben Rawlence has spent large periods of the last three years in the camp and has followed the lives of six people: Guled, the conscripted child-soldier who flees to the camp across Somalia; Nisho, as old as Dadaab itself, born in the camp twenty five years ago; and Muna, whose marriage to a Christian Lost Boy from Sudan sparks uproar and sectarian violence. Ben’s sensitive portraits of the camp’s inhabitants invite readers to imagine how they might behave should they, like so many millions of people around the world, find themselves imprisoned in such a camp with little hope and with the world’s eyes firmly askance.

© Jonny Donovan

© Jonny Donovan

Ben Rawlence is a former researcher for Human Rights Watch in the horn of Africa. He is the author of Radio Congo and has written for a wide range of publications, including The Guardian, the London Review of Books, and Prospect. He lives in the Black Mountains in Wales with his wife and daughter.

City of Thorns has been adopted for First-Year Experience programs at:

Michigan State University and the City of East Lansing (MI)

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Ants Among Elephants

Ants Among Elephants

Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Hardcover
320 pages • $28.00
ISBN: 978-0-865-47811-4

An Untouchable Family and the Making of Modern India

Sujatha Gidla

“In this unsentimental, deeply poignant book, Sujatha Gidla gives us stories of her family and friends in India . . . Ants Among Elephants gives readers an unsettling and visceral understanding of how discrimination, segregation, and stereotypes have endured throughout the second half of the 20th century and today.”

—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times Book Review

Like one in six people in India, Sujatha Gidla was born an untouchable. While most untouchables are illiterate, her family was educated by Canadian missionaries in the 1930s, making it possible for Gidla to attend elite schools and move to America at the age of twenty-six. It was only then that she saw how extraordinary—and yet, how typical—her family history truly was. Her mother, Manjula, and uncles Satyam and Carey were born in the last days of British colonial rule. They grew up in a world marked by poverty and injustice, but also full of possibility. In the slums where they lived, everyone had a political side, and rallies, agitations, and arrests were commonplace. The Independence movement promised freedom. Yet for untouchables and other poor and working people, little changed. Page by page, Gidla takes us into a complicated, close-knit family as they desperately strive for a decent life and a more just society. A moving portrait of love, hardship, and struggle, Ants Among Elephants is also that rare thing: a personal history of modern India told from the bottom up.

© Nancy Crampton

Sujatha Gidla was born an untouchable in Andhra Pradesh, India. She studied physics at the Regional Engineering College, Warangal. Her writing has appeared in The Oxford India Anthology of Telugu Dalit Writing. She lives in New York and works as a conductor on the subway.

Notes on a Foreign Country

Notes on a Foreign Country

Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Hardcover
288 pages • $26.00
ISBN: 978-0-374-28004-8

An American Abroad in a Post-American World

Suzy Hansen

“A deeply honest and brave portrait of an individual sensibility reckoning with her country’s violent role in the world . . . Hansen is doing something both rare and necessary.”

—Hisham Matar, The New York Times Book Review

In the wake of the September 11 attacks and the U.S.- led invasion of Iraq, Suzy Hansen, who grew up in an insular conservative town in New Jersey, was enjoying early success as a journalist for a high-profile New York newspaper. Increasingly, though, the disconnect between the chaos of world events and the response at home took on pressing urgency for her. Seeking to understand the Muslim world that had been reduced to scaremongering headlines, she moved to Istanbul. Over the course of her many years of living in Turkey and traveling in Greece, Egypt, Afghanistan, and Iran, she learned a great deal about these countries and their cultures and histories and politics. But the greatest, most unsettling surprise would be what she learned about her own country— and herself, an American abroad in the era of American decline. It would take leaving her home to discover what she came to think of as the two Americas: the country and its people, and the experience of American power around the world. Blending memoir, journalism, and history, and deeply attuned to the voices of those she met on her travels, Notes on a Foreign Country is a moving reflection on America’s place in the world. It is a powerful journey of self-discovery and revelation—a profound reckoning with what it means to be American in a moment of grave national and global turmoil.

© Kathy Ryan

Suzy Hansen is contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine and has written for many other publications. In 2007, she was awarded a fellowship from the Institute of Current World Affairs to do research in Turkey. She currently lives in Istanbul.

I Was Told to Come Alone

I Was Told to Come Alone

Henry Holt and Co. 
Hardcover
368 pp • $30.00
ISBN: 978-1-627-79897-6

My Journey Behind the Lines of Jihad

Souad Mekhennet

“An enthralling and sometimes shocking blend of reportage and memoir from the centers of jihadi networks in the Middle East and North Africa.”

The New Yorker

In this compelling and evocative memoir, Souad Mekhennet, a reporter for The Washington Post, journeys behind the lines of jihad—starting in the German neighborhoods where the 9/11 plotters were radicalized, the Iraqi neighborhoods where Sunnis and Shia turned against one another, and culminating on the Turkish/Syrian border region where ISIS is a daily presence. In her travels across the Middle East and North Africa, she documents her chilling run-ins with various intelligence services and shows why the Arab Spring never lived up to its promise. She then returns to Europe, first in London, where she uncovers the identity of the notorious ISIS executioner “Jihadi John,” and then in France, Belgium, and her native Germany, where terror has come to the heart of Western civilization. Mekhennet’s background has given her unique access to some of the world’s most wanted men, who generally refuse to speak to Western journalists. She is not afraid to face personal danger to reach out to individuals in the inner circles of Al Qaeda, the Taliban, ISIS, and their affiliates; when she is told to come alone to an interview, she never knows what awaits at her destination. Mekhennet—“a brave, resourceful, canny and tireless reporter” (The Washington Post)—is an ideal guide to introduce us to the human beings behind the ominous headlines.

© Stocks Photography

© Ben Kilb

Souad Mekhennet is a correspondent for The Washington Post’s national security desk, and she has reported on terrorism for The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune, and NPR. She is the co-author of The Eternal Nazi, Children of Jihad, and Islam. She was a 2012 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, and she is a visiting fellow at the Weatherhead Center for International Policy at Harvard, the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and the Geneva Center for Security Policy.

The Land Between Two Rivers

The Land Between Two Rivers

Graywolf Press
Paperback
272 pp • $16.00
ISBN: 978-1-555-97796-2

Writing in an Age of Refugees

Tom Sleigh

Tom Sleigh describes himself donning flak jacket and helmet, working as a journalist inside militarized war zones and refugee camps, as “a sort of Rambo Jr.” With self-deprecation and empathetic humor, these essays recount Sleigh’s experiences during several tours in Africa and in the Middle Eastern region once called Mesopotamia, “the land between two rivers.” Sleigh asks three central questions: What did I see? How could I write about it? Why did I write about it? The first essays focus on the lives of refugees in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Kenya, Somalia, and Iraq. Under the conditions of military occupation, famine, and war, their stories can be harrowing, even desperate, but they’re also laced with wily humor and an undeluded hopefulness, their lives having little to do with their depictions in mass media. The second part of this book explores how writing might be capable of honoring the texture of these individuals’ experiences while remaining faithful to political emotions, rather than political convictions. Sleigh examines the works of Anna Akhmatova, Mahmoud Darwish, Ashur Etwebi, David Jones, Tomas Tranströmer, and others as guiding spirits. Concluding with a beautiful remembrance of Sleigh’s friendship with Seamus Heaney, the final essays meditate on youth, restlessness, illness, and Sleigh’s motivations for writing his own experiences in order to move out into the world.

Tom Sleigh (c) Annette Hornischer

© Annette Hornischer

Tom Sleigh is the author of a previous essay collection, Interview with a Ghost, and nine books of poetry, including Station Zed, Army Cats, and Space Walk, winner of the Kingsley Tufts Award. He teaches at Hunter College and lives in New York.