Books by Foreign Service Authors - 2014

We are pleased to present this year’s roundup of books by members of the Foreign Service community.


The Foreign Service Journal is pleased to present our annual Foreign Service authors roundup in plenty of time for holiday orders. Whether you read the listings in print or online, we urge you to visit our online bookstore when a title strikes your fancy. There you will find all the books in this edition, as well as the volumes that have been featured in previous years (

Below is our annotated list of some of the books written, edited or translated by Foreign Service personnel and family members in 2013 and 2014. This is not a definitive record of works by FS authors; we rely on the authors themselves to bring their books to our attention. The roundup was assembled with the vital assistance of Assistant Editor Brittany DeLong, Contributing Editor Steven Alan Honley, and editorial interns Aishwarya Raje and Trevor Smith.

Our list contains a weighty and wide-ranging history section, a solid policy and issues section, an array of memoirs, a rich variety of fiction, three photography books and an eclectic potpourri on topics ranging from cooking and long-distance management of real estate to Yemeni silversmiths and microcontroller projects.

We also include our customary list of books “of related interest” to diplomats and their families that were not written by FS authors.

As has been the case for a decade, a significant portion of the titles are self-published. In acknowledgement of this, we have included a sidebar spotlighting some of the recent trends in this new and dynamic corner of the publishing world.

Our primary purpose in compiling this list each year is to celebrate the wealth of literary talent within the Foreign Service community, and to give our readers the opportunity to support colleagues by sampling their wares. Each entry contains full publication data along with a short commentary.

This year, to showcase the many authors listed here, we will host the very first “AFSA Book Market” event here at our headquarters building on Thursday, Nov. 13, from 1 to 4 p.m. Participating authors will be here to sell their books and talk with readers who will attend on a “flow-through” basis during the afternoon. Light refreshments will be available.

Once again, although many of these books are available elsewhere, we encourage our readers to use the AFSA website’s online bookstore to place your orders. The AFSA Bookstore has links to Amazon and, at no extra cost to you, each book sold there generates a small royalty for AFSA.

For the few books that cannot be ordered through Amazon, we have provided alternative links or, when the book is not available online, the necessary contact information.

But enough crass commercialism. On to the books!

History & Biography

Mussoorie and Landour: Footprints of the Past

Virgil Miedema and Stephanie Spaid Miedema, Rupa & Co., 2014, $42, paperback, 260 pages.

In the early 1800s, the British founded twin hill stations in the Indian towns of Mussoorie and Landour, as refuges from the heat and dust of the country’s summer season. Both sites continue to attract many visitors today, thanks to their salubrious climate and leisurely way of life. While Mussoorie is more “touristy” and bustling, Landour is a quiet getaway for those seeking a break from city life. Much has changed over the years, but both places retain an old-world charm, adding to their appeal.

This book takes the reader on a journey through their history, from the late 18th century—when Frederick Young, the founder of Mussoorie and Landour Cantonment, was born in Ireland—up to India’s attainment of independence in 1947. (A brief postscript brings the story up to today.)

The authors, a Foreign Service father-daughter team, lived in India in the waning years of the 20th century and the early years of the new century, where they became acquainted with Mussoorie and Landour. Treasured leisure time there, away from the heat and bustle of New Delhi, combined with an interest in British colonial history, led to this book.

A retired FSO with USAID, Virgil Miedema spent more than 30 years in Nepal, Pakistan, Indonesia and India as a teacher, economic development officer and agro-marketing businessman. He is the author of Murree: A Glimpse Through the Forest (Riverby Books, 2003).

Stephanie Spaid Miedema, a social science researcher, recently completed several years of United Nations-funded research in the Asia-Pacific region.


Collecting Shakespeare: The Story of Henry and Emily Folger

Stephen H. Grant, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014, $29.95/hardcover, $16.49/Kindle, 264 pages.

In Collecting Shakespeare, Stephen H. Grant recounts the American success story of Henry and Emily Folger of Brooklyn. Shortly after marrying in 1885, the Folgers began buying, cataloging and storing all manner of items about the Bard of Avon and his era. Emily earned a master’s degree in Shakespeare studies. The frugal couple financed their hobby with the fortune Henry earned as president of Standard Oil Company of New York, where he was a trusted associate of John D. Rockefeller.

While several universities offered to house the couple’s collection, the Folgers wanted to give it to the American people. The Folger Shakespeare Library was dedicated on the Bard’s birthday, April 23, 1932.

On Capitol Hill, it now houses 82 First Folios, 275,000 books and 60,000 manuscripts. It welcomes more than 100,000 visitors a year and is also a vibrant cultural center for plays, concerts, lectures and poetry readings.

The library provided Stephen H. Grant with unprecedented access to the primary sources within the Folger vault. He also drew on interviews with surviving Folger relatives, and visits to 35 related archives in the United States and in Britain.

Stephen H. Grant, a senior fellow at the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training, served for 25 years with USAID. His Foreign Service postings included the Ivory Coast, El Salvador, Indonesia, Egypt and Guinea. He is the author of Peter Strickland: New London Shipmaster, Boston Merchant, First Consul to Senegal (New Academia, 2006), as well as three books that use old picture postcards to recount social history.


Frances Elizabeth Willis

Nicholas J. Willis, self-published, 2014, $24.95/paperback, $9.95/Kindle, 461 pages.

Born at the turn of the century, Frances Elizabeth Willis (1899-1983) lived an extraordinary life. She was the first person to receive a Ph.D. in political science from Stanford University (in 1923) and the first woman to make a career in the U.S. Foreign Service (from 1927 to 1964).

Willis started off as a “Foreign Service Officer–Unclassified” and worked her way up the Foreign Service ladder. In 1953, she was appointed U.S. ambassador to Switzerland, the first female career officer to become an ambassador, and subsequently served as chief of mission in Norway and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). In 1955, she was given the title “Career Minister” and in 1962 attained the highest rank in the Foreign Service, “Career Ambassador.”

A genuine trailblazer, Ms. Willis’ accomplishments are all the more impressive in light of the severe gender bias then prevalent in both the State Department and Foreign Service. How she overcame those barriers is the subject of this engaging biography.

Nicholas J. Willis is the nephew of Frances Elizabeth Willis and knew her well. He graduated from Stanford University on a U.S. Navy scholarship in 1956 and, after five years on active duty, spent the rest of his career on military radars and their countermeasures. He wrote this book following his retirement to Carmel, Calif.


American Political and Cultural Perspectives on Japan: From Perry to Obama

John H. Miller, Lexington Press, 2014, $80/hardback, $68.40/Kindle, 184 pages.

American Political and Cultural Perspectives on Japan: From Perry to Obama is a comprehensive survey of how Americans have viewed Japan over the past 160 years. It encompasses the diplomatic, political, economic, social and cultural dimensions of the relationship, with an emphasis on changing American images, myths and stereotypes of Japan and the Japanese.

John H. Miller begins his account with the American “opening” of Japan in the 1850s and 1860s. Subsequent chapters explore American attitudes toward Japan during the Gilded Age, the early 1900s, the 1920s, the 1930s and the Pacific War. The second part of the book, organized around the theme of the postwar Japanese-American partnership, covers the Occupation, the 1960s, the troubled 1970s and 1980s, and the post–Cold War decades down to the Obama presidency. Miller concludes with some predictions about how Americans are likely to view Japan in the future.

John H. Miller, a retired Foreign Service officer, served in Japan, Korea, the Philippines and Canada. Following his retirement from the Service, he taught at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu, and was the Asia area studies chair at the Foreign Service Institute. He holds a Ph.D. in Japanese history from Princeton University, and is the author of Modern East Asia: An Introductory History (M.E. Sharpe, 2007).


102 Days of War: How Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda & the Taliban Survived 2001

Yaniv Barzilai, Potomac Books, 2014, $24.95/hardcover, $13.99/Kindle, 194 pages.

Almost 10 years before Osama bin Laden was killed, the United States had a rare opportunity to decapitate the organization that had just carried out the deadliest foreign attack on American soil in history. During battles that raged across Afghanistan in the 102 days after 9/11, CIA officers and special operations forces allied with local Afghan resistance forces to topple the Taliban and go after al-Qaida. Yet bin Laden escaped, and al-Qaida and the Taliban endured the initial onslaught.

In 102 Days of War, Yaniv Barzilai takes the reader from meetings in the White House to the most sensitive operations in Afghanistan to explain how America’s enemies survived 2001. Using a broad array of sources, including interviews with U.S. officials at every level of the war, Barzilai concludes that the outcome stemmed both from tactical errors and, more importantly, failures in policy and leadership.

Yaniv Barzilai is a first-tour Foreign Service officer serving in Baku. Prior to joining the Service, Barzilai was awarded the Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship from the U.S. Department of State in 2009. He worked in the Office of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the Office of Afghanistan Affairs, as well as the Office of the Special Representative for Somalia at Embassy Nairobi. For Barzilai’s take on publishing in the Foreign Service, see the June FSJ.


A Body of Language: Revealing the Common Mind of Mankind

Matt A. Ellsworth, Amazon Digital Services, Inc., 2013, $5, Kindle.

A Body of Language: Revealing the Common Mind of Mankind offers a great boost for those learning Arabic and a good read for anyone who loves anthropology, linguistics, the common origins of humankind—or a good mystery.

Matt Ellsworth proposes the solution to an ancient linguistic mystery, which the Arabs refer to as the phenomenon of al-ishtiqaq al-akbar (when several words share the same letters, those words are often akin in meaning). The theory behind the phenomenon is that each phonetic character of the Semitic mother tongue had a particular semantic value—or meaning—in the remote past.

Ellsworth shows that the sounds of the Arabic alphabet derive their meaning from reference to the shape and function of parts of the human body. Readers are guided through the author’s journey in this daunting project, with descriptions of how he found the meanings of particular sounds, demonstrations of how the sounds and their meanings work together “as semantic molecules” to form words, a review of writings on the al-ishtiqaq al-akbar phenomenon and the author’s thoughts and ideas, which he calls “digressions,” along the way.

Matt A. Ellsworth, currently a general services officer in Kinshasa, has served in Asia, Africa, North and South America and the Middle East. He speaks French, Spanish, Arabic and Russian, and is a trained conference interpreter. Originally from Arizona, his interest in linguistics started during his missionary experience in Chile in the 1970s and continued through studies at Brigham Young University, the Monterey Institute of International Studies, the Defense Language Institute and the Foreign Service Institute.


Outsmarting Apartheid: An Oral History of South Africa’s Cultural and Educational Exchange with the United States, 1960-1999

Daniel Whitman, ed., with assistance from Kari Jaksa, SUNY Press, 2014, $105/hardcover; $29.95/ebook, 470 pages.

Outsmarting Apartheid is a major contribution to the study of ‘soft diplomacy,’” says John Campbell, retired FSO and author of Nigeria: Dancing on the Brink. “It is a wonderful picture of the way the public diplomacy section of an embassy works, and the positive impact it can have on advancing U.S. interests.”

For several decades prior to South Africa’s first democratic elections in December 1994, some 3,000 South Africans participated in cultural and educational exchange programs with the United States through the Department of State. Many of those individuals were involved in helping to bring about the peaceful end of apartheid and build a post-apartheid democratic system. They now occupy important positions in academia, the media, parliament and the judiciary of South Africa.

With an introduction and final note by Daniel Whitman, a former program development officer at Embassy Pretoria, the book consists of interviews with more than 30 South Africans and Americans who administered, advanced and participated in the government-funded exchange. The result is a detailed account of the workings and effectiveness of such long-term programs.

Daniel Whitman is assistant professor of foreign policy at American University’s Washington Semester Program. During a 24-year Foreign Service career, he served in Denmark, Spain, South Africa, Haiti, Cameroon and Guinea, as well as in Washington, D.C. FSO Kari Jaksa is currently posted in Shanghai.


A Concise History of Economists' Assumptions about Markets: From Adam Smith to Joseph Schumpeter

Robert E. Mitchell, Praeger, 2014, $35.15, hardcover, 180 pages.

Here is a highly readable account of the evolution of economic thinking, as the subtitle states, from Adam Smith to Joseph Schumpeter. Author Robert Mitchell’s focus is on the assumptions that economists make about the nature of markets and economies and their behavior through different eras as they attempt to identify the drivers of economic change.

The book assesses the legacies of major economists, including Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, David Ricardo, Alfred Marshall, John Maynard Keynes, Karl Marx, Thorstein Veblen and Joseph Schumpeter. Each chapter covers the major economic, political and social challenges of the day to establish a realistic context for economists’ efforts to explain and predict contemporary economic developments.

It also documents the differences between, as well as interaction among, the various schools of thought and models, and discusses the implications of this history for economics and the policy sciences in the decades ahead.

The book is based on a course, “Changing Mental Models of Markets and Economies,” the author gave for fellow non-economists at the Harvard Institute for Learning in Retirement in 2013.

Robert Mitchell retired in 1995 from the USAID Foreign Service following long-term postings in Egypt, Yemen and Guinea-Bissau. Prior to his diplomatic career, Mitchell directed two survey research centers and two long-term task forces for the Florida governor and state legislature, and served as the U.S. member on a United Nations special committee on planning for urban areas. He lives in Brookline, Massachusetts.


Citizen-General: Jacob Dolson Cox and the Civil War Era

Eugene Schmiel, Ohio University Press, 2014, $26.95, paperback, 352 pages.

A special selection of the History Book Club, Citizen-General chronicles the life of Jacob Dolson Cox, a former divinity student with no formal military training who emerged as one of the best commanders in the Union army.

During his school days at Oberlin College, no one could have predicted that. Yet the reserved and bookish Cox helped secure West Virginia for the Union; jointly commanded the left wing of the Union army at the critical Battle of Antietam; broke the Confederate supply line, thereby helping to precipitate the fall of Atlanta; and held the defensive line at the Battle of Franklin, a Union victory that effectively ended the Confederate threat in the West.

In fact, in each of his vocations and avocations—general, governor, Cabinet secretary, university president, law school dean, railroad president, historian and scientist—the intellectual Ohioan was recognized as a leader. Cox’s greatest fame, however, came as the foremost participant-historian of the Civil War. His accounts of the conflict are to this day cited by serious scholars and are the basis for interpreting many aspects of the war.

FSO Eugene Schmiel was an assistant professor of history at St. Francis University in Pennsylvania and has taught at Marymount, Shenandoah and Penn State universities. He retired from the Foreign Service in 2002, after service as chargé d’affaires in Djibouti, Bissau and Reykjavík, among many other assignments, and has since worked in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.


The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames

Kai Bird, Crown Publishers, 2014, $26, hardcover, 430 pages.

In this biography of CIA agent and Middle East hand Robert Ames, Kai Bird paints a vivid picture not only of the life and work of Ames, but of Beirut, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran and the wider Middle East during the tumultuous years of the 1960s through the 1980s, including the early years of the Palestinian struggle for independence.

Ames, the son of a Philadelphia-area steel worker, played basketball at LaSalle University, served in the Army Signal Corps in what is now Eritrea, took and failed the Foreign Service exam, and then joined the Central Intelligence Agency, where he specialized in the Middle East. His first CIA posting was to Dhahran, where his cover was as a Foreign Service commercial officer.

A gifted intelligence officer and incorruptible, Ames became the most important U.S. authority on the Middle East. He established connections with critical Arab figures, including an early back channel to Yasir Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization. Tragically, he was killed at the age of 49 in the April 1983 terrorist attack on Embassy Beirut.

As it happens, Kai Bird’s FSO father was posted with his family in Dhahran at the same time as Ames. The author’s personal familiarity with the topography of his protagonist’s life and his access to many who knew and worked with Ames greatly enrich his prodigious and detailed research, making The Good Spy a powerful and engaging page-turner. (For a detailed review, see the October FSJ.)

Kai Bird won the Pulitzer Prize for his 2005 biography of J. Robert Oppenheimer, American Prometheus (Vintage Books, 2006), and is the author of a memoir, Crossing Mandelbaum Gate: Coming of Age Between the Arabs and the Israelis, 1956-1978 (Scribner, 2010).


Diplomacy in Black and White: John Adams, Toussaint Louverture and Their Atlantic World Alliance

Ronald Angelo Johnson, University of Georgia Press, 2014, $24.95/paperback, $21.34/Kindle, 216 pages.

Diplomacy in Black and White is the first work to explore the 1798-1801 alliance between American President John Adams and Toussaint Louverture, leader of the slave revolt in the French colony of Saint-Domingue that culminated in the elimination of slavery there and the founding of the Republic of Haiti.

Author Ronald Johnson delves into the rich history of the Americans and Haitians of the time, and explains how these two revolutionary peoples played significant roles in shaping the Atlantic world. The book recounts the U.S. Navy’s first military mission on behalf of a foreign ally, as the United States moved to support Haitian revolutionaries during the conflict. The shared history of Adams and Louverture also demonstrates the power of individual leaders during key moments in history.

“John Adams’ presidency and Saint Domingue’s revolutionary regime rarely get the attention they deserve in explaining the acquisition of Louisiana and shifts in the slavery debates in the United States,” says historian Nancy Isenberg, adding that Johnson’s book is “a fascinating and original study of diplomacy across the color line.”

Ronald Angelo Johnson is an assistant professor of history at Texas State University. He has served as a U.S. diplomat in Gabon and Luxembourg, and has worked as an analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency. He is also associate minister at Mount Olive Baptist Church in Austin, Texas.


Policy & Issues

Talking to Strangers: The Struggle to Rebuild Iraq's Foreign Ministry

Ghassan Muhsin Hussein and David Dunford, Southwestern College Academic Press, 2013, $18.95/paperback, $12/Kindle, 212 pages.

The existential threat posed by the Islamic State group underscores just how far Iraq still has to go to recover from the 2003 U.S. invasion. Against that backdrop, Talking to Strangers: The Struggle to Rebuild Iraq’s Foreign Ministry has only become more prescient in the year since its publication.

The task on which Iraqi Ambassador Ghassan Muhsin Hussein (no relation to Saddam Hussein) and retired U.S. Ambassador David Dunford collaborated after the American military victory was daunting but relatively straightforward, at least on paper: reconstituting the Iraqi Foreign Ministry, essentially from scratch. Working under the aegis of the U.S. Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, the pair initially made considerable progress at professionalizing Iraqi diplomacy.

But then ORHA made the colossally shortsighted decision to bar all senior members of the Baath Party from holding any position within the Iraqi government. Amb. Hussein, who had spurned enticements to join the ruling party, retained his post, but the directive quickly stripped the foreign ministry and other Iraqi offices of their most experienced civil servants, with dire consequences for the society’s stability.

Reviewing Talking to Strangers in the March FSJ, Jack Binns hails the book as “a most valuable addition to the literature about working-level diplomacy and governance.”

Ambassador Ghassan Muhsin Hussein is a retired Iraqi career diplomat and artist. Ambassador David Dunford, an adjunct instructor at the University of Arizona’s School of Government and Public Policy, retired from the U.S. Foreign Service in 1995 after a distinguished career. He worked for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad from April to June 2003.


Counterinsurgency in Eastern Afghanistan, 2004-2008: A Civilian Perspective

Robert Kemp, Vellum/New Academia, 2014, $26/paperback; $9.99/ebook, 246 pages.

In this authoritative overview, Robert Kemp looks at the U.S. and allied engagement in Afghanistan following the 2001 ouster of the Taliban. Drawing on his experience on the ground, Kemp gives a firsthand, unfiltered view of how U.S. military and civilian officers coped with a confusing, constantly changing situation. He analyzes the policies and practices the allies developed while learning to work with the Afghans—and each other—and offers lessons learned.

Kemp also looks at the insurgency—how it gained momentum beginning in 2005, turning into a multifaceted challenge involving groups such as the Taliban, the Haqqani network and al-Qaida. He describes the complexities of the border with Pakistan, tribal and ethnic relations, poppy and opium production, corruption and how the army and police developed.

The book is “a must-read for all those following developments in Afghanistan since 2001,” says Arturo Muñoz of the Rand Corporation. “It succeeds both as thoughtful analysis and as a practical guide for military and civilian personnel in the field.”

With a foreword by Ambassador Ronald E. Neumann, Counterinsurgency in Eastern Afghanistan, 2004-2008: A Civilian Perspective is part of the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training’s Memoirs and Occasional Papers series.

FSO Robert Kemp served in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2005, from 2007 to 2008 and for two shorter assignments. He was deputy director of the Pakistan desk in Washington, D.C., and also completed several short-term assignments in Pakistan. He has also served in China, the Philippines, Belgium, Bolivia and Brazil.


The Devouring Dragon: How China's Rise Threatens Our Natural World

Craig Simons, St. Martin’s Griffin, 2014, $16.99/paperback, $8.89/Kindle, 304 pages.

Craig Simons’ The Devouring Dragon explains how an ascendant Beijing has quickly surpassed the U.S. and Europe to become the world’s leading polluter.

In a few short years, the country has become the planet’s largest market for endangered wildlife, its top importer of tropical trees, and its biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. Indeed, its rapid economic growth has driven up the world’s metabolism. In Brazil, farmers clear large swaths of the Amazon to plant soybeans, while Indian poachers hunt tigers and elephants to feed Chinese demand. Meanwhile, clouds of mercury and ozone drift earthward to America after trans-Pacific jet-stream journeys.

Combining in-depth reporting with wide-ranging interviews and scientific research, Simons argues that China’s most important 21st-century legacy will be determined not by jobs, corporate profits or political alliances, but by how quickly its growth degrades the global environment and whether it can—and will—stem the damage.

A Foreign Service officer since 2012, Craig Simons recently completed a two-year tour in Chengdu and is now preparing for a Havana assignment. Prior to joining the Service, Simons was the Asia bureau chief for Cox Newspapers from 2005 until 2009 and before that wrote about China and Asia for Newsweek, Reuters and other publications. He first moved to China as a Peace Corps Volunteer in 1996. In 2009, he was a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT. During the summer of 2011, he was a public policy scholar at the China Environment Forum.


Jews, Confucians, and Protestants: Cultural Capital and the End of Multiculturalism

Lawrence E. Harrison, Rowman & Littlefield, 2013, $35/hardcover, $19.24/Kindle, 224 pages.

Multiculturalism—the belief that no culture is better or worse than any other; it is merely different—has come to dominate Western intellectual thought and to serve as a guide to domestic and foreign policy, and development aid. But what if multiculturalism is flawed? What if some cultures are more prone to progress than others and more successful at creating the cultural capital that encourages democratic governance, social justice and the elimination of poverty for all?

In Jews, Confucians, and Protestants: Cultural Capital and the End of Multiculturalism, Lawrence E. Harrison takes the politically incorrect stand that all cultures are not created equal. Analyzing the performance of 117 countries, grouped by predominant religion, Harrison argues for the superiority of those cultures that emphasize Jewish, Confucian and Protestant values. A concluding chapter outlines ways in which cultural change may substantially transform societies within a generation.

Lawrence E. Harrison directed USAID missions in the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Haiti and Nicaragua between 1965 and 1981. Now a senior research fellow and adjunct lecturer at the Fletcher School at Tufts University, Harrison is the author of Underdevelopment Is a State of Mind: The Latin American Case; The Pan-American Dream: Do Latin America’s Cultural Values Discourage True Partnership with the United States and Canada?; and several other books; and co-editor, with Samuel Huntington, of Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress.


Righting the Balance: How You Can Help Protect America

Daniel Serwer, Potomac Books, 2013, $26.95/hardcover, $14.82/Kindle, 240 pages.

Drawing on two decades of Foreign Service experience, Daniel Serwer has come to see a critical imbalance between U.S. civilian institutions and the military as they work to protect national security and build peace and democracy abroad. In Righting the Balance: How You Can Help Protect America, he offers a radical solution.

First, he says, it is time to abolish the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Foreign Service. In their place, a new foreign office would carry out their core functions, with help from an array of nongovernmental organizations. These would operate, with at least some federal funding, to support political and economic reforms in autocratic countries, to help them transition peacefully into sustainable societies.

You can view Serwer’s discussion of his proposals at an AFSA Book Notes event on Jan. 30 at

Daniel Serwer’s 21-year Foreign Service career culminated with assignments as deputy chief of mission and chargé d’affaires in Rome from 1990 to 1993, and special envoy and coordinator for the Bosnian Federation from 1994 to 1996. He is now a professor of conflict management and senior fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and a scholar at the Middle East Institute. In 2012, with David R. Smock, he co-authored Facilitating Dialogue: USIP’s Work in Conflict Zones.


The Demilitarization of American Diplomacy: Two Cheers for Striped Pants

Laurence Pope, Palgrave Pivot, 2014, $45/hardcover, $23.87/Kindle, 90 pages.

In this hard-hitting monograph, retired Ambassador Laurence Pope documents the growing dysfunction of American diplomacy. As Pope documents, the State Department has already ceded most foreign policy functions to the White House staff, and allowed political appointees to marginalize career Foreign Service members.

Writing both as an insider and a historian, Pope observes that even as the Pentagon and the military services are busily reinventing themselves for the post-9/11 era, State merely promises to do a better job of nation-building next time. Yet in the information age, diplomacy is actually more important than ever. And in its absence, America may be drawn into more wars it cannot afford to fight.

While not particularly sanguine about prospects for reversing these trends, Pope insists that “the time has come to restore the institutions of American diplomacy for a world of sovereign states.” To see Pope’s April 29 AFSA Book Notes discussion, please got to

Laurence Pope, a Foreign Service officer from 1969 to 2000, served as ambassador to Chad from 1993 to 1996, among many other assignments. He was also nominated as chief of mission in Kuwait in 2000, but the Senate never acted on his nomination. Ambassador Pope was briefly recalled from retirement to serve as chargé d’affaires in Libya from 2012 to 2013. He is the author of François de Callières: A Political Life (2010), a biography of the author of On Negotiating with Sovereigns, an iconic work that has remained in print for nearly three centuries.


American Ambassadors: The Past, Present, and Future of America's Diplomats

Dennis Jett, Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, $40, hardcover, 270 pages.

The behavior of several political appointees for ambassadorial positions in confirmation hearings earlier this year scandalized Washington and drew unusual attention to the role of ambassadors in U.S. foreign affairs.

“Everyone is familiar with the title ‘ambassador,’ and many people think they know what the job entails,” Dennis Jett writes in the introduction to his timely work, American Ambassadors. “Most of those impressions are wrong, however. Few people have any idea who gets the title or what that person really does. And in today’s world of instant communications, the question is often raised as to whether they are necessary at all.”

To address these issues, Jett, a retired FSO and two-time ambassador, has written a book that explains where ambassadors come from, where they go, what their work entails and why they still matter. He describes the different paths to the title that are taken by career diplomats and political appointees, how an ambassador’s effectiveness is measured and why at least four ambassadors in recent years have resigned because of poor performance. He makes the case for why, in today’s ever more globalized world, their work is more important than ever.

Dennis Jett is a professor at Pennsylvania State University’s School of International Affairs. During a 28-year Foreign Service career, he served on three continents and in Washington, D.C. He was appointed U.S. ambassador to Mozambique in 1993 and ambassador to Peru in 1996. A frequent contributor to the Journal, he is the author of Why American Foreign Policy Fails: Unsafe at Home and Despised Abroad (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008).


Managing Overseas Operations: Kiss Your Latte Goodbye

Gregory W. Engle and Tibor P. Nagy Jr., Vargas Publishing, 2012, $18.99, paperback, 236 pages.

Named the Paris Book Festival’s 2014 winner for nonfiction, Managing Overseas Operations: Kiss Your Latte Goodbye is a compilation of rock-hard practical advice delivered in a highly digestible manner. As retired FSO Bob Houdek stated in his Journal review (February 2013), the book “should be on the reading list of every U.S. firm sending managers overseas.”

The authors, both veteran FSOs and ambassadors, draw on a combined six decades of international experience to address the challenges of managing international organizations, diplomatic missions and nongovernmental organizations. There are no footnotes. Neither are there extensive empirical data or theoretical nostrums. The chapters are presented as briefings by one of the authors on each topic, and anecdotes from their own careers underline their advice in such areas as cross-cultural factors, safety and security, crisis management, local employees and local practice, and more.

Ambassador Tibor P. Nagy Jr. is vice provost for international affairs at Texas Tech University. He joined the Foreign Service in 1978 and served in Zambia, Seychelles, Ethiopia, Togo, Cameroon and Nigeria, in addition to assignments in Washington, D.C. He capped his career with ambassadorships in Guinea (1996-1999) and Ethiopia (1999-2002).

Ambassador Gregory W. Engle joined the Foreign Service in 1981 after a tour as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Korea. He served in Pakistan, Germany, Ethiopia, Cyprus, Malawi and South Africa before being appointed ambassador to Togo in 2003. After serving as minister counselor for management affairs at Embassy Baghdad in 2005, he retired in 2008.



The Kennan Diaries

George F. Kennan, edited by Frank Costigliola, W.W. Norton & Co., 2014, $39.95/hardcover, $19.24/Kindle, 768 pages.

This landmark collection, spanning 90 years of U.S. history, presents the never-before-published diaries of George F. Kennan (1904-2005), America’s most famous diplomat.

On a hot July afternoon in 1953, George F. Kennan descended the steps of the State Department building as a newly retired man. His career had been tumultuous: early postings in Eastern Europe, followed by Berlin in 1940–1941 and Moscow during the final year of World War II. In 1946, the 42-year-old Kennan authored the “Long Telegram,” a 5,500-word indictment of the Kremlin that became mandatory reading in Washington. And a year later, writing as Mr. X in Foreign Affairs, he outlined “containment,” America’s guiding strategy in the Cold War.

What should have been the pinnacle of his career—an ambassadorship in Moscow in 1952—was sabotaged by Kennan himself, deeply frustrated at his failure to ease the Cold War that he had helped launch. But despite that setback, Kennan would become the most respected foreign policy thinker of the 20th century. Over the half-century following his resignation from the Foreign Service, he advised presidents, gave influential lectures and authored 20 books, winning two Pulitzer prizes and two National Book awards in the process.

Through it all, Kennan kept a diary. Spanning a staggering 88 years and totaling over 8,000 pages, his journals brim with keen political and moral insights, philosophical ruminations, poetry and vivid descriptions. In these pages, we see Kennan rambling through 1920s Europe as a college student, despairing for capitalism in the midst of the Depression, agonizing over the dilemmas of sex and marriage, becoming enchanted and then horrified by Soviet Russia, and developing into America’s foremost Soviet analyst.

But it is the later entries that reveal Kennan the gifted author, wise counselor and biting critic of the Vietnam and Iraq wars. They showcase this remarkable man at the height of his singular analytic and expressive powers, before giving way, heartbreakingly, to some of his most human moments, as his energy, memory and, finally, his ability to write fade away.

Masterfully selected and annotated by historian Frank Costigliola, the result is a work of profound intellectual and emotional power. These diaries tell the complete narrative of Kennan’s life in his own intimate and unflinching words and, through him, the arc of world events in the 20th century.


Seriously Not All Right: Five Wars in Ten Years

Ron Capps, Schaffner Press, 2013, $25, hardcover, 255 pages.

A veteran of five wars, Ron Capps recounts the hardships he endured while serving overseas from Afghanistan and Iraq to Kosovo and Darfur. His experience as a senior military intelligence officer and as a Foreign Service conflict observer is revealed in a wrenchingly honest account of his struggles with post-traumatic stress and depression.

Capps explains some of the methods he used to cope with the horrors he witnessed, including creation of a scale to evaluate his well-being from day to day that ranged from “all right” to “seriously not all right”—from which the book’s title is taken. The memoir chronicles his time as a peacekeeper and his long road home after a miraculous return from the brink of suicide. (See Douglas Koneff’s review in the June FSJ.)

As Capps explained at an AFSA Book Notes event on July 24, he turned to education in his ongoing recovery. A founder of the Veterans Writing Project in Washington, D.C., he teaches veterans the skills to tell their own stories, so that they may, as he puts it, “write their way home.”

Ron Capps served in the U.S. military for 25 years, enlisting in the National Guard in 1983 and serving on active duty for nine years before returning to the Army Reserve. As a reservist, he was recalled a number of times to active service, including work with special operations forces in Central Africa, a combat tour in Afghanistan in (2002-2003), and work as an international peacekeeper in Darfur. Capps served as an FSO from 1994 to 2008.


Memoirs of a Foreign Service Arabist

Richard B. Parker, Vellum, 2013, $26, paperback, 290 pages.

In this book, published posthumously as part of the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training’s Diplomats and Diplomacy series, readers follow Ambassador Richard Parker’s extraordinary 31-year Foreign Service career.

Parker joined the Foreign Service in 1949, following military service in World War II, and shortly began concentrating on the Middle East. He went on to become renowned for his expertise on the region and its culture and for his fluency in Arabic.

Throughout the memoir, Parker comments with the dry, acerbic wit for which he was known on thorny Middle East issues of the time, and offers a first-person viewpoint and analysis of historic events that occurred during his time in the Foreign Service.

FSO Richard Parker (1923–2011) served in Israel, Jordan, Morocco and Egypt, in addition to assignments in Washington, D.C. His career culminated with assignments as U.S. ambassador to Algeria (1975-1977), Lebanon (1977-1978) and Morocco (1978-1979). Following retirement in 1980, he continued to share his deep expertise in Arab culture—as a diplomat in residence at the University of Virginia, as editor of the Middle East Journal and as the author of seven books on the region, including North Africa: Regional Tensions and Strategic Concerns (1987), The Politics of Miscalculation in the Middle East (1993), The Six-Day War: A Retrospective (1996), The October War (2001) and Uncle Sam in Barbary: A Diplomatic History (2004).


Ballet in the Cane Fields: Vignettes from a Dominican Wanderlogue

Judith Ravin, Inkwater Press, 2014, $13.95/paperback, $2.99/Kindle, $2.99/ePub, 254 pages.

Part travel diary, part cultural commentary, Judith Ravin’s bilingual memoir covers her three years as an information officer at Embassy Santo Domingo. Translated into Spanish by Ana E. Martínez, Ballet in the Cane Fields reflects the colorful society of the Dominican people, their daily struggles and enduring traditions.

Its short chapters recall everyday occurrences, such as coping with the seemingly endless rainy season, and more somber moments, such as witnessing a community come together after the death of a local teenager. The varied people of the country are woven throughout the vignettes: impoverished street vendors, chivalrous young men, energetic hip-hop dancers and improvisational taxi drivers all make appearances.

Ravin’s reflections on what has been called the “loudest place on earth” give readers an in-depth glimpse into the Dominican Republic with descriptive and refreshing language and imagery. Spanish author Eleonora M. Smolensky comments that each of Ravin’s stories gives “an added pleasure to daily life.”

Judith Ravin joined the Foreign Service in 2003 and has served in Mexico, Cameroon, Sudan, the Dominican Republic and Pakistan. She also spent many years living and working abroad as an editor, translator and journalist in various countries. She is editor of the travel guide series La Guía Pirelli Argentina (Turisticas, 1995) and La Guía Pirelli Uruguay (Turisticas, 1996) and co-author of Traditional Tutsi (Khartoum, 2010).


Accidental Patriot: A Diplomat's Journey in Africa Rediscovering America

Kirsten Bauman, CreateSpace, 2014, $9.95/paperback, $4.99/Kindle, 282 pages.

Accidental Patriot tells the story of a collision of two worlds: American suburbia meets Africa. While on assignment at Embassy Addis Ababa, Kirsten Bauman inadvertently rediscovers the United States—the home country she long took for granted. In this memoir, she describes life in Africa as told through the true stories of the Ethiopians she has met, and discusses how these experiences renewed her admiration for America as a place of dreams for people the world over.

During her three years in Ethiopia, Bauman witnesses human suffering from extreme poverty to ideologically fueled violence. She works to reconcile the privileged existence she enjoys as a U.S. diplomat with the struggling world outside her Ethiopian home’s protective compound.

Bauman’s account conveys the realities of a Foreign Service life and also brings alive the world of the Ethiopians—the good, the bad and the heartbreaking. It is a world of stark contrasts, where the cost of a manicure could clothe many homeless children, and the bill for one meal at a restaurant could help feed the city’s starving. Bauman says she hopes that readers will come away with a sense of the incredible strength of the human spirit to endure.

Kristen Bauman joined the Foreign Service in 2000 and has served in France, Greece, Ethiopia, South Korea and Washington, D.C. She is married to a fellow diplomat, and the couple has two children.


On the Front Lines of the Cold War: The Adventures of an American Service Family

Frederic S. Mabbatt, Dog Ear Publishing, 2013, $12, paperback, 160 pages.

The story of Frederic Mabbatt’s life abroad reads like something out of an action movie. From having his shirt ripped off while escaping an enraged mob during riots in the Sudan to the evacuation of his wife, 3-year-old daughter and infant son on the eve of war in the Middle East, On the Front Lines of the Cold War is a compelling account of one American diplomat’s life during a turbulent era.

Mabbatt’s narrative of life in the U.S. Foreign Service incorporates case studies on the use of various public diplomacy tools to support American foreign policy objectives during the Cold War, such as preserving the cooperation of the Jordanian government in the aftermath of the 1967 Arab/Israeli War, blunting the anti-American propaganda and policies of the Tanzanian government under President Julius Nyerere and convincing the Dutch that installation of intermediate-range nuclear missiles would help preserve peace.

In an epilogue, he outlines some lessons learned from the Cold War era and includes a set of concise guidelines that he developed over the years to help readers arrive at informed judgments of American foreign policy.

Frederic Mabbatt joined the Foreign Service in 1963 and served with the U.S. Information Agency in Sudan, Jordan, Brazil, Tanzania, Indonesia and the Netherlands, accompanied by his wife and two children. He now resides in Sun Valley, Idaho, where he lectures and writes about contemporary foreign policy issues, and has been a moderator for the Foreign Policy Association’s Great Decisions Program for 25 years.


You Are the Needle and I Am the Thread: A Memoir of an American Foreign Service Wife

Pamela Joy Anderson, WestBow Press, 2014, $13.94/paperback, $3.99/Kindle, 192 pages.

Though often rewarding, being a Foreign Service spouse has its challenges. Pamela Joy Anderson writes about her journey as an FS spouse and one challenge that was a constant in her and her family’s lives throughout their deployments: retaining their religious beliefs while posted in different countries and cultures throughout the world. Her stories reflect their adaptation to life overseas, as well as back home, in this faith journey and memoir.

In the late 1980s, after quitting his job and attending classes at the Center for World Missions, her husband, Tim, joined the U.S. Agency for International Development. During his career, the couple and their children lived in Pakistan, Egypt, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Washington, D.C.

Anderson relates experiences ranging from the everyday to once-in-a-lifetime events. In Pakistan, they attended a church where they worshiped with families from many different countries and denominations, before being evacuated during the lead-up to the Persian Gulf War. In Egypt, Anderson taught English-writing skills and went on excursions with her students to see the site of the Burning Bush. Throughout it all, Anderson deals with her father’s Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis and subsequent death from halfway around the world. Ultimately, she finds that home is where the U.S. government sends you.

Pamela Joy Anderson studied six languages and taught while living abroad. Many of her vignettes were previously published in The Foreign Service Journal. Currently retired, she and her husband live in Lacey, Washington.


On the Road with a Foreign Service Officer

William F. Penoyar, self-published, 2014, $2.99, Kindle, 143 pages.

Much has been written about U.S. diplomacy, the operation of U.S. embassies, the challenges and dangers faced by FSOs and their families. Yet despite all the work and hardship which the career entails, many people are still attracted to this life. Why?

This memoir is William Penoyar’s answer to that question. As he says in the introduction: “I became an FSO with USAID for the opportunity to contribute to a better world and, to be honest, for the adventure. I embraced a hope that I could make a positive difference in the lives of many people. Finally, the portfolio of USAID projects in most countries: health, economic development, agriculture and food security, democracy building and environment ensured that I would not be bored.”

Here he recounts the entertaining, unpredictable and sometimes dangerous adventures he’s had with USAID in Mozambique, Kosovo, Armenia and Iraq, as well as with the Hash House Harriers running-walking-social clubs, from 2009 to 2013, and urges colleagues associated with American embassies and USAID to “get out of the diplomatic bubble” and “experience life more.”

William F. Penoyar retired from the Foreign Service after a 21-year career with USAID. Prior to the adventures related in this book, he undertook many short-term visits to Central and Eastern Europe, as well as Russia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. He also worked for five years in Ukraine and three years in Zambia, in addition to short-term stints in South Africa and Malawi.


Tales from the Boardroom

Drew Tanzman, CreateSpace, 2014, $15.22, paperback, 310 pages.

In a year when Lou Gehrig’s Disease, or ALS, gained prominence due to the popular social media phenomenon, the “Ice Bucket Challenge,” FSO Drew Tanzman puts a face on the devastating disease with Tales from the Boardroom, his memoir that was published posthumously.

Readers follow Tanzman through significant life events like his first foray into the corporate world, the birth of his children and his devastating ALS diagnosis in 2013. His lessons range from the charitable (“Focus where your influence can cause change”) to the aspirational (“In order to succeed, be willing to accept failure”).

Numerous tributes to Tanzman are included throughout the book and serve to underline the ideals of hard work, compassion and courage that he continually demonstrated. “The effort he [made] to keep connected with people is amazing. I was so moved when he flew halfway around the world to come to my wedding,” wrote Randy Lee, a friend and former colleague of Tanzman’s.

An athlete and avid surfer, he rode waves all over the world for as long as he could, and relished downhill snow skiing right up until his death. In an epilogue, Tanzman’s wife, Lara, related that, never leaving any task unfinished, he had finished dictating his memoir the day before his death.

Drew Tanzman died in February 2014 at the age of 56. After an illustrious banking career and work as a consultant, teacher and high school basketball coach, he joined the State Department Foreign Service in 2009. He served in Montenegro and was posted in Bangladesh when he received the ALS diagnosis that ended his diplomatic career.


Escaping Iran: A True Account of the Best Bad Idea

Mark Lijek, Deeds Publishing, 2014, $19.95, paperback, 358 pages.

Escaping Iran is a revised and expanded version of Mark Lijek’s 2012 book, The Houseguests: A Memoir of Canadian Courage and CIA Sorcery (see the November 2013 FSJ), the true story that inspired the 2013 Oscar winner, “Argo.”

Lijek notes that “this book began as a jumble of notes, written in the middle of 1980” when he recognized a need to keep a factual account of his experience as one of the six Americans who escaped capture during the seizure of Embassy Tehran in 1979. His compelling account discusses why the “Canadian Six” were in Iran, what went wrong and how they managed to escape the embassy compound.

“This very readable account is at least as suspenseful as any fictional drama would hope to be,” states William Daugherty, one of the captives in the 444-day Iranian hostage crisis. Roger Lucy, first secretary at the Canadian Embassy in Tehran from 1978 to 1980, adds, “While I was there at the time and thought I knew the story, I found myself sitting on the edge of my chair as I read this account.”

Mark Lijek, a Foreign Service officer from 1978 to 1996, served in Tehran, Hong Kong, Kathmandu, Warsaw, Frankfurt and Washington, D.C. He now lives in the state of Washington with his wife, Cora, also one of the six. He is treasurer of the Anacortes Sister Cities, a position he has held for 12 years. His account of the filming of “Argo” was featured in the October 2012 FSJ (“‘Argo’: How Hollywood Does History”).


Fencing with Fidel and Other Tales of Life in the Foreign Service

John Ferch, Miniver Press, 2014, $9/paperback, $2.99/Kindle, 200 pages.

In this memoir of his 30-year diplomatic career, retired Ambassador John Ferch does not simply give an account of his profession and the times in which it was rooted, but includes insights into the peoples and cultures of Latin America and the diplomats themselves. Ferch also includes recollections from his wife, Sue—as he says, the pair always considered their Foreign Service experience to be a “twofer” arrangement.

Ferch writes with candor and a sense of humor, starting with his first assignment in Buenos Aires where, on his very first day, he is given a case involving an American citizen who committed suicide and left a request that the consulate put a pox on Argentina. He openly discusses his experiences with culture shock and concerns in the field, which include attempted bribery by Dominican politicians and confessions of inconsistency by Mexican diplomats.

As for the fencing with Fidel he mentions in the title, Ferch describes several conversations he had with the leader and what it was like to operate as chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana during the early 1980s.

John Ferch served eight times in Latin America, including as deputy chief of mission in Mexico and ambassador to Honduras. Prior to his diplomatic career, he attended Princeton University and worked as an economist. He is a collector of Latin American contemporary and folk art and is an accomplished carpenter.


A Dimanche Prochain: A Memoir of Survival in World War II France

Jacqueline Mendels Birn, self-published, 2013, $49.95, paperback, 213 pages.

The remarkable story of a Jewish family’s survival in Nazi-occupied France, A Dimanche Prochain illuminates the dark history of France from the invasion in 1940 to its liberation at the end of 1944. “As moving as it is engaging,” says Michael S. Koppisch, Michigan State University emeritus professor of French, it is “a story that readers will not soon forget.”

Jacqueline Mendels Birn was a hidden child, a Holocaust survivor in France. She was 4 years old when World War II began. In this memoir, supported by meticulous research and enriched by a wealth of photographs, she depicts the painful and overwhelming daily existence of those fortunate enough to have escaped a fate in a concentration camp. She tells the story of how, despite terrifying circumstances, her family was able to give her a happy childhood.

Jacqueline Mendels Birn was born in Paris in 1935. She trained at the Conservatoire de Musique de Paris, pursuing the cello, and then obtained a degree in organic chemistry. In 1958, after a whirlwind trans-Atlantic romance, she married American Richard Birn and moved to New York.

When her husband joined the U.S. Information Agency Foreign Service, Mrs. Birn began two decades as a diplomatic spouse in Helsinki, Hong Kong, Washington, Toronto, Valletta and Mexico City, in addition to raising two children and playing the cello semiprofessionally all over the world.

In 1978, when her family returned to Washington D.C., she embarked on a new career as a French-language and -culture instructor at the Foreign Service Institute. Since her retirement in 2007, she has devoted much of her time to Holocaust education.


Us and Them: An American Family Spends Ten Years with Foreigners

Bill Meara, CreateSpace, 2014, $19.95/paperback, $9.99/Kindle, 218 pages.

In the summer of 2000, Bill and Elisa Meara, accompanied by 2-year-old Billy and 4-month-old Maria, left their home in suburban Washington, D.C., and moved to the Azores.There they experienced the highs and lows of diplomatic life in a small, isolated corner of the world. Three years later they relocated to glittering London, and four years after that they moved to Rome, where they lived for three years.

Two homes, two apartments, five schools, four different health care systems, one earthquake and many other events and experiences later, they returned to the United States in 2010 with a changed view of the world. This memoir tells their story.

FSO Bill Meara spent five years in the U.S. Army before joining the Foreign Service. Elisa Meara is a garden designer who was born and raised in the Dominican Republic. Billy and Maria are currently students in Northern Virginia.


You Can't Beat the Issues: Fifty Years with the U.S. Government in Peace and War

William Lenderking, Xlibris, 2014, $19.99, paperback, 230 pages.

In You Can’t Beat the Issues, Bill Lenderking discusses his long and eventful diplomatic career with oral historian Charles Stuart Kennedy.

A volume in the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training’s Diplomatic Oral History Series, the memoir follows Lenderking’s Foreign Service career from Castro’s Cuba to the post-9/11 period. An FSO with the United States Information Agency, he also served with the Department of State in the United Nations and in the bureaus of political-military affairs and East Asian and Pacific affairs.

William Lenderking served in the U.S. Navy, the Foreign Service and the Federal Emergency Management Agency for more than 50 years of U.S. government service in nine countries on four continents. Born in Great Neck, N.Y., he was educated at Dartmouth College. A freelance writer and book dealer, he now resides in Washington, D.C. He is the author of The Soul Murderer: A Psychological Mystery (2013).


A Diplomat's Journey from the Middle East to Cuba to Africa: Ambassador Joseph Sullivan

Joseph G. Sullivan, Xlibris, 2014, $19.99, paperback, 214 pages.

Growing up on the far side of Boston in Dorchester, Joseph Sullivan could never have imagined the career he eventually had. But with his parents’ encouragement, he studied at Boston Latin School and Tufts and Georgetown Universities, and entered the U.S. Foreign Service in 1970.

A volume in the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training’s Diplomatic Oral History Series, A Diplomat’s Journey from the Middle East to Cuba to Africa recounts Joe Sullivan’s fascinating story in interview form.

His 38-year career included assignments in Mexico, post-revolutionary Portugal, Israel, Cuba, South Lebanon, Angola and Zimbabwe. He served as deputy assistant secretary for Latin American affairs from 1989 to 1992, and as principal officer of the U.S. Interests Section in Cuba from 1993 to 1996. He was appointed U.S. ambassador to Angola in 1998 and ambassador to Zimbabwe in 2001.

In Washington, Ambassador Sullivan worked on controversial policy issues. He chaired the Israel-Lebanon Monitoring Group, served as special Haiti coordinator and was also a diplomat-in-residence at Georgetown University and at Tulane University. While at Tulane, from 2003 to 2006, he coordinated international aspects of the U.S. response to Hurricane Katrina.

Amb. Joseph Sullivan retired in 2008 as a career minister. He is the recipient of two Presidential Distinguished Service Awards and the editor of Embassies Under Siege: Personal Accounts by Diplomats on the Front Line (Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, 1995).


A Conversation With Anne Dammarell

Anne Dammarell, Xlibris, 2014, $15.99/paperback, $3.99/Kindle, 88 pages.

On April 18, 1963, a truck loaded with 2,000 pounds of military-grade explosives drove into the front door of Embassy Beirut, killing 63 people, among them 17 Americans. The nascent Iranian-backed terrorist organization Hezbollah had begun its campaign against the United States, as USAID FSO Anne Dammarell would later recount in a paper for her master’s degree at Georgetown University.

In this volume in the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training’s Diplomatic Oral History Series, Dammarell talks with ADST oral history interviewer Charles Stuart Kennedy about her life, her family and her experience in the Foreign Service, including her survival of the first suicide attack on an American embassy.

Anne Dammarell was born on Jan. 2, 1938, in Cincinnati, Ohio. After college she worked for Proctor and Gamble before moving to Europe for two years. In 1965 she joined the U.S. Agency for International Development, serving in Lebanon, Sri Lanka and Washington, D.C., among other postings during a 23-year diplomatic career.

After retiring in 1988, Dammarell taught English at the Coptic Catholic Seminar in Cairo for three years, and then in Washington, D.C., at the Sitar Center for the Arts and at the Sacred Heart School. She received her M.A. from Georgetown University in Middle East studies. More recently, she and her sister, Elizabeth, have been teaching Buddhist monks for three months a year at Wat Worachanyawat in Bangkok.


Memoirs of an Agent for Change in International Development: My Flight Path into the 21st Century

Ludwig Rudel, Arlington Hall Press, 2014, $17.95/paperback, $2.99/Kindle, 358 pages.

In this memoir, a volume in the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training’s Memoirs and Occasional Papers Series, veteran FSO Ludwig “Lu” Rudel describes his experiences with U.S. foreign economic aid programs during some of the most dramatic international events in the postwar period.

Rudel’s unique firsthand accounts—of Iran after the fall of Mohammad Mosaddegh (1959-1960), Turkey from the military coup of 1960 to the start of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, India after the death of Jawaharlal Nehru (1965-1970) and Pakistan following the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1988—offer many insights.

He shares important lessons about the conduct and effectiveness of foreign aid derived from his experience in these and other major developments of the past half-century, such as the political metamorphosis of the Group of 77 nations.

After retiring from the Foreign Service in 1980, Rudel launched a second career, applying what he’d learned from his work in international development to the creation of a 1,000-acre land development and resort in rural Appalachia.

Finally, Rudel examines global trends of the past 80 years in four critical areas of change—population growth, science and technology, economic systems and political structures—and draws some surprising conclusions and projections.

Ludwig Rudel, a Holocaust refugee, came to the United States in 1938. After serving for more than 25 years in the Foreign Service and U.S. military, he now lives in Flinton, Pa. He is the author of Foreign Aid: Will It Ever Reach Its Sunset? (Foreign Policy Association, 2005).


Old Man on a Bicycle: A Ride Across America and How to Realize a More Enjoyable Old Age

Don Petterson, Outskirts Press, 2014, $13.95, paperback, 227 pages.

A solo bike ride across the United States at 70-plus years of age? You’ve got to be kidding! Retired FSO Don Petterson wasn’t.

In May 2002, Petterson set out from his home in New Hampshire on a 3,600-mile journey of challenge and discovery. Sixty-five riding days later, he reached his goal: riding up to and across the magnificent Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

Along the way, he faced many trials, including strong headwinds and severe weather, riding his loaded bike over the Rocky Mountains and Sierra Nevada, crossing the Great Plains in brutal summer heat, dealing with the aftermath of a collision with a car and traversing the Nevada basin and range country and the Great Salt Lake’s desert. But the spectacular landscapes and grand vistas afforded just as many rewards.

In Old Man on a Bicycle, Petterson relates how he prepared for the journey and gives a crisp, detailed account of what he saw and did during two months on the road. Combining journal entries and reflective commentary, the compelling narrative includes thoughtful discussion about the meaning of aging and research-based advice on its physical aspects that all readers of a certain age will find valuable—bicyclists or not.

Don Petterson’s Foreign Service career included ambassadorships to Somalia, Tanzania and Sudan. He is the author of Inside Sudan (Basic Books, 2003) and Revolution in Zanzibar (Basic Books, 2004).


A Man Named Jay

Damian Wampler, self-published, 2014, $41.41, paperback, 35 pages.

A Man Named Jay is a tribute to the late Jason Whitney Chellew (1973-2006) by his friend Damian Wampler. He wrote the book for Jason’s son, who never had the chance to meet his father.

An avid traveler, Jason Chellew met his wife, Pei, while traveling in Taiwan. The two married, relocated back to California, and were expecting their first child when Jason tragically died. He was in his home when a sinkhole opened beneath the house; by the time rescue workers finally reached him, it was too late. Pei gave birth to their son, Phoenix, four months later.

In this short, whimsical and richly illustrated book, Wampler paints a poignant portrait for Phoenix of his father, Jay.

Damian Wampler, a photographer, playwright and graphic novelist, joined the Foreign Service in 2009. He has served in Dushanbe and Harare, and is now posted in Karachi. Prior to joining the Service, he had served with the Mercy Corps and as a Peace Corps Volunteer, with Jason Chellew, in Kyrgyzstan.


Fiction & Poetry

Whisper in Bucharest

Kiki Skagen Munshi, Compania, 2014, 35 Romanian LEI ($10.15), paperback, 344 pages.

Kiki Skagen Munshi’s intimate knowledge and appreciation of all things Romanian propels this passionate novel, covering the country’s turbulent history from 1939 to 1987. It draws much of its inspiration from the life of George Muntean, who was born in Bilca and for whom the loss of northern Bukovina was an unhealed wound. However, as Munshi says in her introduction, “Authors are thieves, stealing bits and pieces of other people’s lives and weaving them into the stories they create. This book is not about any actual individual, living or dead, but it contains snatches of many conversations and memories generously shared by Romanian friends and acquaintances.”

Kiki Skagen Munshi joined the U.S. Information Agency in 1980. Her Foreign Service career was bookended by postings to Bucharest: After serving as assistant cultural attaché during her second tour, she returned nearly 20 years later as counselor for public affairs. Other assignments included Lagos, Bucharest, Athens, Freetown, Dar es Salaam, New Delhi and Washington, D.C.

Though Munshi retired from the Foreign Service in 2002, she returned to head a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Baquba, Iraq, from 2006 to 2007. She received a doctorate in Romanian history from the University of Bucharest in 2006, speaks the language fluently, and continues to visit the country regularly.

This book can be ordered online at


The Feller from Fortune

Robert Mearkle, Lulu Publishing, 2014, $12.45/paperback, $2.99/Kindle, 230 pages.

Inspired by a Newfoundland folk song, FSO Robert Mearkle wrote The Feller from Fortune during Arabic-language training, as “daydreaming of chilly North Atlantic breezes in a simpler time provided refuge from the Arabic verb system and the desert blaze to come.”

His novel is set in a sleepy fishing village in Newfoundland during the 1940s. Cat Harbour has the expected number of drunk sailors and loose girls—and a library. The arrival of two visitors, one quite ordinary and one quite extraordinary, changes the lives of several of the town’s residents forever.

This historically imagined tale, off-color at times and moving at others, serves up a light course of Newfoundland history and culture with tasty Sudanese, French, Austrian, British and Bostonian side dishes.

Robert Mearkle is a Foreign Service officer currently working (quite appropriately) in the Office of Oceans and Polar Affairs. Overseas, he has served in Brazil, Hungary and Iraq.


The American Mission

Matthew Palmer, Putnam, 2014, $26.95/hardcover, $10.99/Kindle, 432 pages.

Matthew Palmer’s first novel offers an insider’s look at the world of American diplomats stationed abroad. He has lived the role for 20 years, so Palmer knows the subject cold. In addition, his brother, Daniel, and his late father, Michael, are both accomplished thriller writers, so an ability to write crime fiction clearly runs in the family.

Palmer’s hero, Alex Baines, works for the State Department, but is helpless to intervene when a massacre occurs in Darfur. Stripped of his security clearance and relegated to a desk job, he is about to resign when his former mentor, now the U.S. ambassador to the Congo, offers him an opportunity to start over there.

Unfortunately, the job is not what it seems. A shady, U.S.-based mining company seems to be everywhere Alex turns—even within the walls of the embassy. When a hostage situation involving a survey team leads to escalating violence, Alex struggles to balance the interests of the United States with the greater good of the people of the Congo—and somehow stay alive.

Matthew Palmer is a 20-year veteran of the Foreign Service, currently serving as political counselor in Belgrade. While on the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff, Palmer helped design and implement the Kimberly Process for certifying African diamonds as “conflict-free.” That experience served as the foundation for The American Mission.

To see Palmer’s Aug. 21 discussion at AFSA on writing in the Foreign Service, go to


No Ransom

J.H. Bartlett, CreateSpace, 2013, $12.95, paperback, 178 pages.

J.H. Bartlett’s second novel opens with a bang. It is April 1980, and Ted Brooks, the U.S. consul general in El Salvador, finds himself on the floor of a small locked room somewhere in Latin America. Drugged, he has no memory of how, when or why he was kidnapped. His last memory is of visiting an old school friend, Alphonso, in Guatemala City.

The consul’s wife, Sue, who had been evacuated from El Salvador along with other embassy dependents when the security situation deteriorated, is living in Boston when she gets word of the kidnapping from the State Department. She is also reminded that the official U.S. policy on kidnappings is not to pay ransom under any circumstances.

The story of Ted’s incarceration unfolds both from his viewpoint and from his family’s. It includes a series of flashbacks and memories that cover the Brooks’ life together in diplomatic posts around the world, from the Vietnam War to Central American atrocities.

Joan H. Bartlett, her FSO husband, Sam, and their three children spent 20 years posted to Paris, The Hague, Cebu, Ottawa, San Salvador and Belfast. Her first novel was Last Summer at the Compound (CreateSpace, 2011).


Broad Horizons

Matt B. Chessen, Amazon Digital Services, Inc., 2013, $3.99, Kindle

A debut novel, Broad Horizons is a satirical, futurist, cyberpunk work in the spirit of Neal Stephenson and William Gibson. Sent to investigate the murder of a senator’s daughter, Ruel Drakkar finds himself peeling the onion of a conspiracy much deeper than he expected. After a climactic battle, in which he’s caught in a temporal rift, Drakkar and a small group of survivors must grapple with the ethical consequences of committing genocide in order to save the Earth’s past and future.

With pointed dialogue, realistic character development and an engaging plot, this is a page-turner that encompasses both a unique take on time-travel and an exploration of weighty philosophical questions. Along the way, the reader is introduced to a bevy of intriguing futuristic ideas, such as haptic tongue control and head sensors.

FSO Matt B. Chessen is the coordinator for cyber policy in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs’ Office of Regional and Security Policy. He has served in Liberia, Iraq and Afghanistan, and in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs and the Office of e-Diplomacy in Washington, D.C. The author of several screenplays and nonfiction articles on investing, technology trends and innovation in government, he is currently at work on his second novel, Used.

Ten percent of the profits from Broad Horizons will go to charities supporting women and children affected by war and violent conflict.


Frontier Justice: The Story of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal

Charles Ray, Uhuru Press, 2014, $9.99/paperback,$5.99/Kindle, 246 pages.

In this work of historical fiction, Charles Ray takes readers back to the southern United States in 1875 and one of early America’s signature phenomena: frontier justice.

“Indian Territory,” as the state of Oklahoma was originally known, was then a magnet for criminals of all kinds who hoped to evade the reach of the law. But when President Ulysses S. Grant appointed a new judge of the Western District of Arkansas, which included the territory, things began to change. Judge Isaac Parker was intent on bringing the fugitives to justice. And in a bold move, he sent 200 deputy marshals to help patrol the lawless territory.

Among Parker’s deputies was a former slave named Bass Reeves. Born a slave in 1838, he had spent the Civil War as a runaway in Indian Territory. An expert tracker who was fluent in five tribal languages, and a daunting figure at 6’2” and 180 pounds, Reeves served as a deputy marshal for 32 years.

Ray’s engrossing account of Reeves’ first two years as a lawman is a fascinating and historically accurate portrayal of the period. Though Reeves, Parker and the other main characters in this story are historical figures, their conversations and particular experiences, like the minor characters, are creations of the author’s imagination.

Charles Ray is a retired FSO who served in the U.S. Army for 20 years before joining the U.S. Foreign Service. A former newspaper and magazine journalist, Ray’s first full-length work was Things I Learned from My Grandmother about Leadership and Life, published in 2008. A native of Texas, Ray now calls Maryland his home, and has devoted most of his time since retiring from the Foreign Service to writing and public speaking. A prolific writer, he is also the author of two new novels (see the following entries) and a coffee table book on Africa.


In The Dragon's Lair

Charles Ray, Uhuru Press, 2013, $12.83/paperback, $6.95/Kindle, 323 pages.

In the Dragon’s Lair picks up where Charles Ray’s White Dragon left off (see “In Their Own Write,” November 2013 FSJ).

The novel revolves around State Department employees in the fictitious country of Dagastan. When their ambassador is mysteriously murdered, Deputy Chief of Mission David Morgan is put in charge until Washington appoints another ambassador. In an unstable political situation, with an array of double-dealing scandals, various murders and Soviet forces sent in to “stabilize” things, the chargé d’affaires finds himself the target of a witch hunt as bureaucrats look for a scapegoat.

With much more than their careers at stake, Morgan and his fellow State Department officials are forced to expose the corruption that lies behind the curtain in Washington, D.C.


Buffalo Soldier: Battle at Dead Man’s Gulch

Charles Ray, Uhuru Press, 2014, $7.19/paperback,$4.99/Kindle, 160 pages.

The seventh installment of the “Buffalo Soldier” series, Battle at Dead Man’s Gulch takes place in the western part of New Mexico Territory. Sergeant Ben Carter and his detachment try to track down a band of renegade Apache who have deserted the reservation. Their search takes them deep into the mountains, where they encounter the renegades, only to have them escape after a brief skirmish. On their journey, the cavalrymen learn they aren’t alone on the ominous mountain. Charles Ray delivers a captivating tale of death, danger and discrimination on the Western frontier. It is a tale of military events written as only a former soldier could do.


Africa's Release: The Journey Continues

Mark Wentling, Peace Corps Writers Book, 2014, $9.76/paperback,$4.99/Kindle, 222 pages.

The sequel to Africa’s Embrace, this book is the story of J.B., who has been mysteriously transported from a small town in Kansas to an even smaller village in Africa called Atuku. As the townspeople of Kansas scramble to uncover the mystery behind J.B.’s life, they come across some very fascinating and surprising information.

Africa’s Release is an intriguing tale of African culture, development and exploration. Despite being a work of fiction, the book offers many practical development ideas. Through his vibrant characters and vivid description of Africa’s lush surroundings, Wentling weaves a captivating tale that leaves you wanting more.

Mark Wentling is a retired Foreign Service officer who began his international career with the Peace Corps in 1970. Since then he has been fortunate enough to travel to all 54 African countries, which inspired him to write his “African Trilogy.” This is the second installment, with the last volume, Africa’s Heart, due to release in January 2015. Wentling was born and raised in Kansas, but says he was “made” in Africa. He currently lives and works in Burkina Faso.


Maggie Minds Her Business: From Serpent Cults to Secret Files, Maggie’s on the Trail of Murder in the Steamy African Nation of Wahwa

Allie Simms, Amazon Digital Services, 2014, $2.99, Kindle, 229 pages.

Maggie is a dutiful diplomat in a collapsing African country, where an evening of glad-handing at the Fourth of July reception ends with a corpse in the garden. Assigned to tie up the administrative details, Maggie learns that the dead woman’s work gave her access to many of the embassy community’s embarrassing secrets.

As she decodes the murdered nurse’s coded medical records, Maggie still has her day job to do: rescuing an anthropologist held hostage by a serpent cult (Maggie hates snakes), saving kidnapped schoolgirls and taking a spoiled congressional wife shopping as rebel rockets fall. A surprise encounter with her old lover, underground since a fling with terrorism in the 1970s, brings her closer to the truth behind the killing. When insurgents close in, Maggie is trapped with the killer, and both are forced to choose between desire and duty.

Allie Simms is the nom de plume of a retired FSO and FSJ contributor whose 28 years in the Service were spent mostly in the Balkans and West Africa. “Allie” explains: “Like most writers, I draw inspiration from real people and real places I knew. In the tiny world of the Foreign Service, readers may be tempted to try and make connections to actual events and personalities. However, Maggie is a work of imagination, not a roman a clef. I chose to write under a pseudonym because I wanted to put some distance between myself and the fictional setting and characters.”


The Poetry of Life II

Walter N. Davenport Jr., Strategic Book Publishing, 2013, $14.50/paperback, $9.99/Kindle, 190 pages.

Walter N. Davenport Jr. describes his second collection of “Poetry of Life” (the first volume appeared in 2001), as representing his search for answers to life’s questions. “Sometimes emotional, sometimes playful, it is based on my personal feelings, observations and experiences in my life and travels. It is a book about everyday occurrences, such as love, relationships, hunger, poverty, war, nature and death.”

The poem titled “Memory,” for instance, describes lovers who are separated by time and distance, but whose love nonetheless remains strong. “Lover’s Prayer,” “Lover’s Thanks,” “Lover’s Questions,” “Response” and “Soulmate” all address the openness between two lovers, while “Celestial” tells of a love that is unattainable.

Born in New Orleans, Walter N. Davenport Jr. is a U.S. Army veteran who also served with the Washington, D.C., metropolitan police force. He was a member of the State Department Foreign Service from 1976 until 1997. Married to a Dutch national, Davenport resides in The Netherlands.


The Perfect Pathogen

Mark M. Atkisson and J. David Kay, Rhino Air, 2014, $12.95/paperback, $6.99/Kindle, 334 pages.

In this futuristic thriller, a dormant pathogen has been awakened and is killing millions around the globe. Dr. Katie McMann, a specialist in the field of aging and longevity, finds herself at the heart of an intense research effort that turns into a race against time for the human race. As she and a team of international experts struggle to track down the source of the killer disease and find a cure, Katie is forced to confront her own mortality and that of those dearest to her.

An intense and fast-paced read, The Perfect Pathogen explores the potential cost of human intervention and mismanagement of our planet and its resources, combining a scientific perspective with a deeply personal one. This debut novel, the first of a planned trilogy, was written while both authors worked at Embassy Baghdad.

FSO Mark Atkisson has been in the government for more than 40 years, serving in the U.S. Navy and as a civilian in federal and local agencies. He lives with his wife, Kathleen, and two teenage children in Canada, where he is the management officer at Consulate General Montreal. J. David Kay has more than 34 years of U.S. Army and federal government experience. He and his wife, Irene, are currently posted to Embassy Baghdad.


Under Chad's Spell

Michael Varga, CreateSpace, 2014, $16.99/paperback, $9.99/Kindle, 369 pages.

This novel follows the lives of two young people, Charlene and Madison, who travel to Chad as Peace Corps Volunteers during the turbulent 1970s. Former lovers, they are assigned to two different parts of the country. In a city, Charlene immerses herself in teaching English. She struggles to communicate in French and African languages and adjust to the strikingly different customs of the country, and feels isolated from both Chadians and the other volunteers. Madison, by contrast, finds himself in a remote village, where he comes to know the country and its people intimately, engaging in tribal rituals and eventually living with a Chadian wife.

When civil war breaks out, the ambassador orders all Americans to evacuate. Charlene begins to worry when Madison fails to show up for departure via truck to neighboring Cameroon. She faces a difficult decision: leave Madison behind and return to the safety of the United States, or stay and try to save him.

Retired FSO Michael Varga is a playwright, actor and author who served in Chad as a Peace Corps Volunteer. After that experience, he joined the Foreign Service, serving in the United Arab Emirates, Syria, Morocco and Canada. Settled now in Georgia, he is working on a new novel that focuses on the Foreign Service.


The Great Game Murders

William S. Shepard, Seth B. Cutler Press, 2013, $2.99, Kindle, 230 pages.

In this latest volume (Book 5) of the “Robbie Cutler Diplomatic Mystery” series, the president of the United States has decided that, in view of Chinese threats over the region, American forces should be reconfigured from the Middle East in a strategic “tilt toward Asia.”

Secretary of State Ronald Adams flies off in Air Force Two on a mission to reassure allies throughout Southeast Asia. His staff assistant, Robbie Cutler, helps plan the trip to Australia, Singapore, Hanoi, Manila, Bangkok and New Delhi. Along the way, al-Qaida hatches several assassination plots against the Secretary—with the help of Chinese covert operatives in the region.

The rivalry between China and the United States calls to mind the Great Game of the 19th century, as Britain and Russia struggled over the approaches to India. The new version concerns much of the same region, but with far higher stakes in the nuclear era. But is official China aware of the working alliance with al-Qaida?

FSO William S. Shepard created the diplomatic mystery series and its protagonist Robbie Cutler after retiring from a Foreign Service career that took him to five overseas missions and numerous assignments in Washington, D.C. “Career diplomats see so many sources of information, that the connection of diplomacy and crime solving seemed natural,” says Shepard. He has since produced four books in the series, in addition to a guide to French wines and other works (see


Multiple Exposure: A Sophie Medina Mystery

Ellen Crosby, Scribner, 2013, $16/paperback, $16.99/Kindle, 320 pages.

“This assured tale of love, loss and secret agendas offers a complex portrait of our nation’s capital, with its historic beauty and roiling underbelly of deceit and danger,” says Publisher’s Weekly of Multiple Exposure, the first installment in a new series by veteran mystery writer Ellen Crosby.

Sophie Medina is a photojournalist living in London. She returns from an overseas assignment to find that her husband, Nick, a geologist and covert CIA operative, has been abducted. Several months later, a friend in the British government tells her Nick has been spotted in Moscow. He is not only a suspect in his boss’s murder, but may also be involved in illicit Russian oil deals, she is told. When Sophie moves back to Washington, D.C., to be near family and friends, she is drawn into a high-stakes game of Russian roulette as she tries to find Nick and prove his innocence.

Ellen Crosby, the wife of FSO André de Nesnera of the Voice of America, began writing mysteries under her maiden name when her husband was posted to Geneva. She has since published eight books—six in the Virginia wine country mystery series featuring winemaker Lucie Montgomery and Moscow Nights, a standalone based loosely on her time as Moscow correspondent for ABC Radio News in the late 1980s. Her ninth book, Ghost Image, the second Sophie Medina mystery, is scheduled for release by Scribner in 2015. You can visit her website at

Though Crosby’s books are available on Amazon, please contact the Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Ariz., for signed copies (


Tzimmes (and don't forget the cheesecake and the strudel)

Arthur Marshall Fell, BookBaby, 2014, $5.18, ebook, 84 pages.

Tzimmes is a humorous story about Dr. Sam Landover, an unpretentious high school mathematics teacher. Grounded in Jewish tradition, Sam gets tangled up in choosing a rabbi for the Shalom Center. As he improvises his way through the confusing jumble, the story becomes a mixed-up stew—like the tasty dessert called tzimmes.

FSO Arthur Marshall Fell retired as a minister counselor from the U.S. Agency for International Development in 1990. During a 21-year diplomatic career, he served as an adviser at the African Development Bank in Abidjan, deputy director of USAID in Yaounde and Dakar, and mission director at USAID’s Regional Economic Development Support Office in Nairobi and in Abidjan. He is the co-author of The Club du Sahel: An Experiment in International Co-operation (OECD, 1984), and has written numerous articles about law, economic development and music. Fell lives with his wife, Teri, on the southern coast of France.


The Berlin-Breslau Affair

Dennis Ortblad, CreateSpace, 2014, $12, paperback, 451 pages.

In The Berlin-Breslau Affair, an engaging political thriller, author Denis Ortblad has sought to depict what FSOs actually do and the pressures they face within an authentic embassy setting—instead of what he refers to as the “fanciful tales of overseas spying.”

Diplomat David Ames is posted to Berlin. When a Fulbright scholar is murdered in Dresden, Ames is assigned to expedite the arrest of the killers, preferably with a roundup of neo-Nazi gang leaders. But in pursuing the murderer, he, instead, becomes the prey as he works his way through a tangle of competing intelligence services scrambling for smuggled Nazi art and gold. The action moves swiftly from Dresden’s Elbe River promenade to Berlin’s Unter den Linden, and ends in a forgotten Hitler bunker beneath a castle in Poland’s Sudety Mountains. Ames’ career is at stake as he struggles to escape a web of blackmail and political payoffs.

Retired FSO Dennis Ortblad served in Krakow, Hamburg, Osaka, Sapporo, Manila, Bern and Berlin, in addition to assignments in Washington, D.C. He has taught English in German universities and in North Africa. He lives in Seattle, Wash., with his wife and children.



M’s Adventures in Bangladesh

Mikkela Thompson, Lulu Publishing, 2014, $35, hardcover, 25 pages.

Vibrant with color and humming with activity, Bangladesh is a photographer’s dream. On M’s Adventures, her blog about food and travel, Mikkela Thompson has photographed and written extensively about her experiences as an expatriate in Dhaka, among many other topics.

A friend asked her to create a “coffee table book” of photos from the blog, and this short but sumptuous volume is the result. Thompson’s vivid color photos and insightful captions combine to draw a fond portrait of Bangladesh.

Mikkela Thompson is a former business manager for The Foreign Service Journal who has contributed articles and art to its pages, and also worked for other sections of AFSA. After joining the Foreign Service as an Office Management Specialist in 2012, she was posted to Dhaka, and has just begun an assignment in Bogotá.

To follow Mikkela’s adventures, and learn more about this fascinating country and the realities of expatriate life, visit


A Portrait of Africa

Charles Ray, Uhuru Press, 2014, $17.96/paperback, $6.99/Kindle, 82 pages.

The typical Westerner thinks of Africa as a strange place full of wild animals, wars, poverty and disease. But in living on the continent for more than six years, and traveling to 10 different countries up and down its expanse, author and photographer Charles Ray discovered that Africa is much more than the distorted images that have been conveyed by popular media.

In this coffee-table book, the author, a former ambassador to Zimbabwe, offers his own take on what Africa is all about. From the Gulf of Guinea to the Indian Ocean, from Mount Kilimanjaro to the Kalahari Desert, he takes you up close and personal to see the diversity of landscapes, wildlife and people that make up this huge and fascinating continent—the birthplace of humanity.

Charles Ray is also the author of two novels and a work of historical fiction


Sacred Landscapes

Daniel Miller, Vajra Publications, 2014, $51.95, paperback, 241 pages.

Daniel Miller first visited Nepal and began trekking in the Himalayan region in 1974. Trained as a rangeland ecologist, he has used photography to document his work and journeys since then—in Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Nepal and Mongolia—and over the years has published many of the photos in books and displayed them in exhibitions.

In this collection of 172 black-and-white images spanning 35 years, Miller presents his vision of the “sacred landscape” of this region. Mountains, of course, dominate the landscape and, as Miller writes in his introduction to the book, “It doesn’t take long among these mountains to acquire a sense of the frailty and insignificance of human life.”

But it is the people who often generate the most lasting memories. In these photos Miller captures the poise, friendliness and generosity with which they pursue their lives in what most Westerners would consider very difficult conditions.

As an ecologist, Miller also focuses on the interactions among vegetation, animals and people on the landscape. Here, the yak is a central feature. And, as Miller says, one cannot travel in the Himalaya and Tibet without also encountering features of Buddhism, from monasteries and their monks to rituals and festivities. All this, too, he captures with his lens.

Daniel Miller is director of the Office of Economic Development and Government for USAID Mission Philippines. He is the author of several previous books about the region, including Drokpa: Nomads of the Tibetan Plateau and Himalaya, (2008). Several of them are available online in ebook format (, and his photographic work can be viewed at



On the Noodle Road: From Beijing to Rome with Love and Pasta

Jen Lin-Liu, Riverhead Books, 2014, $16/paperback, $7.99/Kindle, 400 pages.

As a newlywed traveling in Italy, food writer Jen Lin-Liu was struck by culinary echoes of the delicacies she ate and cooked back in China, where she’d lived for more than a decade. “Who really invented the noodle?” she wondered, like many before her. How had food and culture moved along the Silk Road, the ancient trade route linking Asia to Europe? And what could still be felt of those long-ago migrations?

Lin-Liu set out to discover those connections, both historical and personal, for herself by eating a path through western China and on into Central Asia, Iran, Turkey and across the Mediterranean.

The journey took her into the private kitchens where the headscarves come off, and women not only knead and simmer, but confess and confide. As she stirs and samples, listening to the women talk about their lives and longings, Lin-Liu gains a new appreciation of her own marriage, and learns to savor the sweetness of love freely chosen.

Jen Lin-Liu is the founder of Black Sesame Kitchen, a Beijing cooking school, and the author of Serve the People: A Stir-Fried Journey Through China (Mariner Books, 2008). She is married to FSO Craig Simons, who has been serving in Chengdu for the past two years and is preparing for a Havana assignment next year.


Investment Real Estate for the Absentee Landlord: How to Invest in and Manage Real Estate from Overseas

Brian Kressin, CreateSpace, 2014, $11.99/paperback, $7.99/Kindle, 116 pages.

When Brian Kressin joined the Foreign Service, he recognized that the reality of spending most of his career overseas would conflict with his desire to invest in real estate. And that reality presented him and his wife, Wenli, with a dilemma. They could either forgo the opportunity to purchase properties, or take the leap and operate as absentee landlords.

As its title indicates, this book is geared to the unique challenges faced by Foreign Service personnel and other non-traditional property owners. But it will also be useful to anyone who is considering the real estate market. By sharing a host of lessons learned (sometimes the hard way), and practical tips to avoid or manage those challenges, Kressin gives readers the tools to be successful in real estate while working full time and engaged in other pursuits.

Brian Kressin, a management-coned FSO since 1999, has served in Taipei, Moscow, Kabul and Baghdad. He and his wife have just begun a new assignment in Brussels.


The Calories In, Calories Out Cookbook

Catherine Jones and Elaine Trujillo, Workman Publishing Company, 2014, $24.95/paperback, $13.95/Kindle, 432 pages.

The subtitle of this comprehensive resource says it all: “200 Everyday Recipes That Take the Guesswork Out of Counting Calories—Plus the Exercise It Takes to Burn Them Off.” Award-winning cookbook author Catherine Jones and leading dietician/nutritionist Elaine Trujillo have put together an essential repertoire of nutrient-rich, foolproof recipes tailored for busy families and individuals. Each comes in below 400 calories per serving, and most have fewer than 200 calories. And as a bonus, each recipe tells you how many minutes of walking or jogging will burn off its caloric content.

Catherine Jones, a graduate of La Varenne Culinary School in Paris, is the wife of FSO Paul Jones, who served as U.S. ambassador to Malaysia from 2010 to 2013 and is currently principal deputy secretary in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. Her previous books include Eating for Pregnancy: The Essential Nutrition Guide and Cookbook for Today’s Mothers-to-Be, Eating for Lower Cholesterol: A Balanced Approach to Heart Health with Recipes Everyone Will Love, and A Year of Russian Feasts.

She and her co-author, Elaine Trujillo, MS, RDN—a leader in nutrition at the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health—have also founded Share Your Calories, a nonprofit organization, and are in the process of creating an app of the same name for use in tracking calories and donating the extras through social giving. (Please visit for more details.)


The Expat Activity Book: 20 Personal Development Exercises for Gaining Insight and Maximizing Your Potential Wherever You Are

Jodi Harris, CreateSpace, 2014, $24.99, paperback, 66 pages.

Living in a new place can be a challenging transition, but it doesn’t have to be. Jodi Harris has created a personal development workbook designed to equip those living or moving abroad with tools and insight for personal growth. The book includes self-paced activities which draw on experiences commonly faced by people who move from one country to another, including: understanding how to better live outside your comfort zone, cultivating awareness in the face of culture shock, developing community and preparing for transition.

A long-time expatriate herself, Harris has lived or traveled abroad for more than 15 years. The Expat Activity Book is a culmination of lessons she has learned and techniques she has developed to help others more effectively deal with assimilating abroad. And its lessons don’t just apply to moving situations; since the book’s 20 exercises focus heavily on paying attention to one’s experiences, thoughts and feelings, Harris’s coaching could also be useful for those facing any major life change.

Jodi Harris is a Foreign Service spouse who runs her own life-coaching business, World Tree Coaching. She has three children and has lived in Japan, Northern Ireland, Spain, the Dominican Republic and Madagascar.


Silver Treasures from the Land of Sheba: Regional Styles of Yemeni Jewelry

Marjorie Ransom, The American University in Cairo Press, 2014, $49.50, hardcover, 246 pages.

In the first book ever written about the silver jewelry of Yemen, Marjorie Ransom masterfully documents a disappearing art and cultural tradition. According to Shelagh Weir, former curator for the Middle East at the British Museum, Silver Treasures from the Land of Sheba is “an indispensable reference work for specialists, and an enjoyable feast for all who love the region and its culture.”

Ransom includes an in-depth analysis and history of the subject, in addition to telling the compelling stories of the Yemeni silversmiths and how they pursue their craft. As Andrea Rugh notes in her Journal review (September), “Without exaggeration, this book is the culmination of about as perfect a match of author and content as comes along in the publishing world.”

Marjorie Ransom joined the Foreign Service in 1962 and resigned in 1965, according to regulations of the day, to marry FSO David Ransom. The couple’s first post was Yemen. She rejoined the Foreign Service in 1974, when the rules about marriage changed, and the couple was posted to Yemen from 1975 to 1978, the first State Department tandem in the Arab world. Mrs. Ransom was nominated as ambassador to Yemen in 1999, but was one of 26 FSOs denied a confirmation hearing by Jesse Helms, then chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. She retired from the Foreign Service in 2000.


Princess Bella's Special Summer: The Summer Mommy Had Cancer

Shannon D. Behaj and Isabella Behaj, CreateSpace, 2013, $14.99, paperback, 29 pages.

“Princess Bella is a sweet little girl. She likes to play, sing, dance and whirl.” But one summer, this very ordinary little girl is confronted with an extraordinary challenge: her mother is diagnosed with cancer. This book does not explain the disease or its treatment. Instead, it traces Bella’s experience, capturing the memorable moments shared among a family struggling through a serious illness in a simple, straightforward way that is readily accessible to young children.

“Sometimes it is helpful to see ourselves and our loved ones reflected in the stories we read,” note authors Shannon Behaj and his wife, Isabella. “No jargon, no explanations, no reasons, and no deeper meaning … simply an awareness that we are not alone on these difficult paths.”

Because they found so few inspiring, nonclinical books to help their own daughter in such obviously difficult circumstances, Shannon and Isabella have written her story for others: “We hope this book brings you the rare smiles it brought to us during those emotional times, when we needed it most and found it was waiting to be written.”

Shannon D. Behaj is a member of the U.S. Foreign Service.


Getting Started with Adafruit Trinket: 15 Projects with the Low-Cost AVR ATtiny85 Board

Michael J. Barela, Maker Media, Inc., 2014, $26.99/paperback, $9.99/Kindle, 273 pages.

The Trinket microcontroller offers designers custom programmability in a size and price range suited to modern projects. The number of projects using Trinket continues to grow, and this book is an introduction to some of the possibilities.

The book steps through basic projects, working up to more challenging circuits and code. All of the code for the examples is supplied in the book and online. Familiarity with electronics and project assembly is helpful but not required for later projects. Diagrams illustrate point-to-point wiring of electrical circuits and use of a solderless breadboard makes the project easy to complete.

An engineer, maker and innovator, Mike Barela is a member of the Senior Foreign Service with the Department of State. A graduate of both Whitman College and the California Institute of Technology in electrical engineering, he worked at Hewlett-Packard, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Boeing before joining the Foreign Service. Barela has traveled the world providing security to American embassies, and is currently division director of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s Countermeasures Program.


Field Guide to the Natural World of Washington, D.C.

Howard Youth, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014, $24.95/paperback, $13.99/Kindle, 400 pages.

Reviewing this book for American Reference Books Annual, Scott R. DiMarco notes: “To most people, the only animals in Washington, D.C., are political animals. But how wrong they are!” Nature awaits discovery at almost every turn in the complex ecosystem of Washington, D.C. And in Field Guide to the Natural World of Washington, D.C., naturalist Howard Youth takes us on an urban safari, describing the wild side of the nation’s capital.

Detailed drawings by Carnegie artist Mark A. Klingler and photography by Robert E. Mumford Jr., enhance Youth’s text, revealing the rich color and stunning beauty of the flora and fauna surrounding Washingtonians. Whether seeking a secluded jog or an adventurous outing, residents and tourists alike will find this handsome guide indispensable for finding oases away from the noise of the city.

Howard Youth is a freelance natural history writer and editor. He previously worked at Friends of the National Zoo, the Worldwatch Institute and the American Automobile Association, where he edited tour books. While overseas, he has written articles for a variety of publications, including Audubon magazine, National Wildlife and the Washington Post. He is the husband of Foreign Service officer Marta Costanzo Youth and has been posted in Chennai, Madrid, Quito, Ottawa and Managua.