We are pleased to present this year’s collection of books by members of the Foreign Service community.
The Foreign Service Journal is pleased to present our 21st annual Foreign Service authors roundup.
We compile “In Their Own Write” for publication to celebrate the wealth of literary talent within the Foreign Service community, and to give our readers a chance to support colleagues by sampling their wares. The collection of titles here, in particular the memoirs, are also a terrific resource for anyone contemplating a career in international affairs. And it comes to you in time for holiday shopping.
Each entry contains full publication details along with a brief commentary. All listings are for the paperback edition unless there is only a hardcover edition, and where an e-book is available, that is noted.
This year our list of books written, edited, or translated by Foreign Service personnel and their family members stands at 62, down from 100 last year when, we assume, the products of COVID-19 isolation and the inspiration to put pen to paper were still in the pipeline. The list is not a definitive record of works by FS authors; as always, we rely on the authors themselves to bring their books to our attention. If your recent book is not presented here, please let us know so we can add it to next year’s collection. We accept submissions for the November FSJ all year, by mail to AFSA, 2101 E St., NW, Washington, D.C., 20037, or email to email@example.com. For inclusion, books must be available for purchase.
To better manage page space and keep the presentation balanced, we introduced a new policy this year on multiple books by one author: We feature only one, chosen by the author, and list other titles in the author note.
In addition to 8 works of history or biography, we have 5 books on policy and issues, 19 memoirs, 14 works of poetry and fiction, 5 novels for young adults, and 3 children’s books. Another 8 titles under “How-To & Self-Help” include a Ukrainian cookbook and a variety of guides for everything from learning the Indonesian language to relocating to Africa as an African American.
We also include a selection of recent books “of related interest” to diplomats and their families that were not written by FS authors.
It takes a village to put this collection together. This year, it was written and assembled by Publications Coordinator Hannah McDaniel, Managing Editor Kathryn Owens, Senior Editor Susan Brady Maitra, and former FSJ staff Dmitry Filipoff and Donna Scaramastra Gorman.
—Shawn Dorman, Editor in Chief
Henry L. Clarke, New Academia Publishing, 2022, $28/paperback, print only, 238 pages.
Creating new embassies was a significant aspect of strategic engagement with newly formed republics after the disintegration of the Soviet Union. In A New Embassy along an Ancient Route in Uzbekistan, Ambassador (ret.) Henry L. Clarke discusses the process of forming and strengthening new diplomatic ties through his experience as the first U.S. ambassador to Tashkent.
The formation of new countries and establishment of new embassies are not everyday occurrences. From weathering conflict with neighboring nations to the shift in the nation’s official language and alphabet, the road to stability after gaining independence involved many challenges, and U.S. support across political, economic, humanitarian, and other sectors proved crucial. This book is the 75th volume in the ADST-DACOR Diplomats and Diplomacy Series.
Henry Clarke obtained degrees from Dartmouth and Harvard before entering the Foreign Service in 1967. In addition to Uzbekistan, he served in Germany, Nigeria, Romania, Russia, Israel, and Washington, D.C. He also worked as an adviser to the National War College at Fort McNair and contributed to restitution of property seized by Nazis and communists in Eastern Europe. In retirement, he worked in various capacities on U.S. missions to Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iraq. He now resides in Virginia.
Nicholas Reynolds, Mariner Books, 2022, $29.99/hardcover, e-book available, 512 pages.
Need to Know is a detailed history of the origins of America’s intelligence capability. Before 1940 the United States had only a few codebreakers and no organization. Author Nicholas Reynolds traces how the intelligence establishment we know today was built “from scratch” starting during the run-up to the Second World War. The storyline is supported by extensive research and includes an overview of the most notable characters involved, from Vincent Astor to Herbert Yardley, in addition to comprehensive primary sources, glossary of terms, and abbreviations list.
Former CIA Deputy Director and Acting Director Michael Morell asserts: “Need to Know is the most thorough and detailed history available on the origins of U.S. intelligence.” Says Library Journal: “Based on extensive primary research, this striking and compelling account should be read by anybody interested in the development of U.S. intelligence agencies and special operations during World War II.”
Nicholas Reynolds, a historian and former CIA agent, grew up in the Foreign Service. His father, retired FSO George Edward Reynolds, served from 1945 to 1974; his mother, Ilona V. Reynolds, was a Foreign Service National working in the legation in Budapest in 1947. Reynolds is also the author of the bestseller Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy: Ernest Hemingway’s Secret Adventures, 1935-1961 (HarperCollins, 2017).
Christopher M. Smith, Brookings Institution Press, 2022, $39.99/hardcover, e-book available, 384 pages.
Chris Smith was serving at U.S. Embassy Kyiv when the Euromaidan protests broke out. The anti-corruption and pro–European Union protests of 2013-2014 culminated in the ouster of the Russian-leaning leader of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych. Russia’s seizure of Crimea followed, and soon the two nations were at war in the Donbas.
Smith’s unique account of these events is a mixture of high policy and street-level politics. He offers accounts of the embassy’s reporting and observations as developments were unfolding in real time, highlighting the valuable role of diplomats posted on the front lines of history-making events. Struggles of truth versus lies, pro-democracy versus pro-authoritarian forces, and competing nationalisms characterized the interplay between Russian and Ukrainian interests then, as they do today. In this sense, the book is a firsthand look at the modern origins of the crisis that erupted with the February 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine and points to how the broader conflict grew from festering disagreements on the future of the Ukrainian nation.
Christopher M. Smith is a career U.S. Foreign Service officer who is currently posted at the National Defense University. He has served in Estonia, Lesotho, China, Ukraine, and Washington, D.C.
Lawrence Dolan, independently published, 2021, $12.95/paperback, print only, 82 pages.
The county seat of Caledonia County, Saint Johnsbury, Vermont, is a quaint riverside town surrounded by hills and greenery. Originally established in the late 1700s, Saint Johnsbury was once an important railroad junction and center of the Connecticut Valley’s machine tool industry. Saint Johnsbury Vermont Images takes the reader on a visual tour of the area from 1890 to 1920, the town’s “heyday,” through an antique postcard collection that includes both photographs and illustrations. Commercial and residential views—for example, the power and pumping station, the Fairbanks Scale Factory, and scenic viewpoints from the edge of town—are all presented. Tourism remains an important part of the Saint Johnsbury economy, and author Lawrence Dolan compiled this collection to support those establishments catering to that trade.
Lawrence Dolan is a retired Foreign Service officer who designed and managed education programs throughout Southeast Asia, South Asia, and Africa with USAID. His interest in Saint Johnsbury’s history and development stems from being an urban planner by training. He currently resides in Saint Johnsbury, where he is a member of the town’s Planning Commission.
Ali L. Ezzatyar, Routledge, 2022, $160/hardcover, e-book available, 250 pages.
A demographic often oversimplified in the public sphere, Iranian Jews and their descendants make up a sizable portion of today’s Israeli population and have a rich, unique history that tends to be overshadowed by association with the broad mizrahim, or Middle Eastern Jewish population. Ali L. Ezzatyar demystifies the migration patterns, revolutionary events, and cultural distinctions of the Iranian Jewish community from biblical periods through the present in this, his latest book.
Utilizing personal interviews alongside archival research, Ezzatyar explores the different experiences Iranians making their way to Israel had before and during its establishment as a nation, as well as modern attitudes and ongoing shifts in the Iranian Jewish identity.
Ali L. Ezzatyar is an attorney adviser with USAID. Before joining the Foreign Service, he practiced law at a number of prominent international firms and served as executive director of the AMENA Center for Entrepreneurship and Development at the University of California–Berkeley. He is the author of The Last Mufti of Iranian Kurdistan: Ethnic and Religious Implications in the Greater Middle East (2016) and has contributed articles to numerous global news outlets including Al Jazeera, BBC World, and NPR.
Michael S. Owen, independently published, 2022, $14.95/paperback, print only, 280 pages.
Running more than 3,000 miles from New York City to San Francisco, the Lincoln Highway was the first transcontinental road for automobiles in the United States. In 1919, on the eve of the automobile age, a U.S. military convoy set out on a historic journey to travel the entire route; one of the convoy’s officers was 28-year-old Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower. Author Michael Owen traces Ike’s journey using logbooks and other original materials from the convoy to tell the story of a trip that, as he puts it, “changed the United States and continues to impact us all.”
Though private motorists had made the journey before, the 1919 expedition was by far the largest and best-documented trip to date. It was intended, in part, to publicize the War Department’s participation in the “Good Roads Movement” to encourage further construction of highways as a military asset. Owen’s description of the roads of Washington, D.C., in 1919 will likely fascinate today’s commuters; history buffs will appreciate his depictions of life along the original route.
Ambassador (ret.) Michael S. Owen served in Africa and Asia during a 30-year Foreign Service career, including as ambassador to Sierra Leone from 2010 to 2013. He and his wife, Annerieke, live in Reston, Virginia.
Edited by Sam Alexander, Carol Coultas, Lili Ott, John Ott, and Robert Porter, Merriconeag Grange & Harpswell Historical Society, 2021, $42/paperback, print only, 308 pages.
A collaborative anthology of a Maine town’s social, political, and cultural history, Glimpses of Harpswell Past and Present celebrates the state’s 2020 bicentennial anniversary. Local residents of Harpswell, Maine, penned the book’s 18 chapters discussing the community’s demographics, livelihoods (with an emphasis on fishing and farming), architecture, natural surroundings, and more. Pre-statehood Harpswell and the town’s relational struggle with Massachusetts are also examined. Historical and recent photographs are included, and a collection of poems written by residents, “Harpswell in Verse and Rhyme,” makes up the concluding chapter. Forty local resident volunteers contributed to Glimpses of Harpswell Past and Present, including the Maine Bicentennial Committee editors, and the book was both a finalist in the anthology category for the Maine Writers and Publishers Association Book Awards and a nominee for a Historic New England Book Award.
Robert Porter, one of the five editors of this book, joined the Foreign Service in 1976 and served in Asia, Africa, and Europe before retiring to Maine in 2006, where he now resides. During his Foreign Service career, he held the positions of deputy chief of mission in Hanoi, Phnom Penh, and Bamako. A history enthusiast, Porter is a former member of the Board of the Harpswell Historical Society.
Dave Seminara, Post Hill Press, 2021, $17/paperback, e-book available, 256 pages.
Mad Travelers centers on the life of one William Simon Baekeland (actually Jesse Simon Gordon), a scam artist who preyed on certain wealthy individuals’ desire to travel to the world’s most challenging destinations. During the short life of his Atlas Travels & Expeditions, from 2015 to 2017, Baekeland demonstrated great skill at taking huge sums of money from wealthy, thrill-seeking people determined to travel everywhere. In time, however, even the con artist’s sheer boldness could not maintain his status as the “rock star” of extreme travel; he disappeared, his company went under, and his story now figures as an episode in HBO Max’s docuseries “Generation Hustle.” With the punch and dynamism of a detective thriller, this book is also a cautionary tale.
Former FSO Dave Seminara, a member of the Foreign Service from 2002 to 2007, is a journalist. Mad Travelers is his fourth book. Also passionate about photography, he took second place in National Geographic Traveler’s annual photo contest in 2003. He resides in Florida with his wife and two sons.
Eric N. Richardson, University of Michigan Press, 2021, $29.95/paperback, e-book available, 198 pages.
Drawing on case studies from North Korea, China, Libya, and the United Nations, The Art of Getting More Back in Diplomacy offers an insider’s account of the tactics that lead to more effective problem-solving at the diplomatic negotiation table. Eric N. Richardson examines integrative and distributive negotiation theories, highlighting specific methods from each to provide a comprehensive guide to best practices. Real-world examples from human rights negotiations, atrocity prevention cases, and peace processes support his argument. “For anyone interested in international human rights and negotiations, this book makes a great contribution,” says Sarah Schechter of the U.C. Berkeley School of Law. “It is a fascinating read, with implications extending far beyond the world of international relations.”
Retired FSO Eric N. Richardson, an attorney specializing in international human rights law, served in China, Korea, Libya, Tunisia, New Zealand, Israel, the Palestinian Territories, and the U.S. Mission to the U.N. In 2017 the U.N. Association of the United States named him Outstanding Human Rights Diplomat for his role in Sudan. He is currently a senior adviser at the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, a professor of international law at the University of California in Berkeley, and runs the NGO INHR.org.
Ashley Nichols, New Degree Press, 2021, $15.99/paperback, e-book available, 224 pages.
Many civic-minded individuals are driven by a sense of public service to better the world. But the methods to do so are often unclear and confusing. Tech to Save the World is a conversational guide on how to use technology to foster positive change, one that can be accessed even by those who are not tech savvy.
Tech to Save the World shares stories of how businesses, nonprofits, and everyday individuals harnessed simple technological tools to make a difference. A doctor pioneered a way to save patients using a Solar Suitcase, and a college student helped those suffering with PTSD by creating a smartwatch application. These stories help illustrate how anyone can harness these tools to better lives and communities. The book features blueprints and instructions to help one get started.
Ashley Nichols joined the Foreign Service in January 2022 as a public diplomacy officer. Currently in language training, she will head to her first post, Haiti, in December. She was previously a consulting executive with a global technology company, and before that worked in government, higher education, nonprofits, and communications. She lives with her very old and very grumpy calico cat, Keisha, and her boyfriend, Matt.
Rufus C. Phillips III, University Press of Kansas, 2022, $44.95/hardcover, e-book available, 348 pages.
The record of success in stablizing failing and conflict-ridden states is mixed; the effort has been plagued by mismanagement, strategic ambiguity, and convoluted interagency processes. In this book, the 73rd volume in the ADST-DACOR Diplomats and Diplomacy Series, Rufus Phillips, who died in December 2021, examines critical lessons learned from his career that spanned a wide array of stabilization efforts from Vietnam to Afghanistan. In the May 2022 FSJ review of Stabilizing Fragile States, retired FSO Keith Mines described Phillips as one of America’s “most creative foreign policy thinkers, who worked until his last moments to argue for a new approach to dealing with failed and fragile states.”
Phillips emphasizes that stabilization work defies standard definitions of war or diplomacy. Flexible thinking is a necessity, and a nuanced understanding of specific context is fundamental to making results last, he argues. Phillips recommends that a specialized cadre of stabilization experts under the State Department and USAID be formed to address these challenges.
Rufus Phillips served as a U.S. Army officer, CIA case officer, USAID official, and consultant to the Department of State. He is also the author of Why Vietnam Matters: An Eyewitness Account of Lessons Not Learned (Naval Institute Press, 2008).
Edward L. Peck, Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training, 2022, $15/paperback, e-book available, 57 pages.
Ambassador (ret.) Edward L. Peck presents a concise, organized framework for navigating international relations in Peck’s Postulates, a new volume in the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training Memoirs and Occasional Papers Series. With touches of gentle humor, the author offers four concepts, each explicated with supporting statements and examples. Written as an introduction to the conduct of international relations, the work has, in the author’s view, broader relevance. He states: “Since it is people who decide what nations should do or not do—at whatever level and under whatever political structure—these postulates also apply to individuals’ everyday lives.”
Amb. Peck graduated from high school at 17 and served in the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant and, later, paratrooper and first lieutenant during the Korean War before joining the Foreign Service. He served in Sweden, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Egypt, in addition to ambassadorships to Iraq and Mauritania. Since retiring in 1989, he has been engaged in matters of diplomacy and diplomatic education as executive secretary of the American Academy of Diplomacy and as a lecturer at the Foreign Service Institute, at conferences, and on cruise ships.
Glenn E. Schweitzer, National Academies Press, 2022, $40/hardcover, e-book available, 162 pages.
This report is based on a joint effort between the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences that spanned 25 years to understand the roots of ethnic violence, extremism, and terrorism. Both countries have employed thousands of experts with hands-on analytical experience in understanding these issues and in service of this cooperative effort. This report presents the multifaceted lessons learned to help policymakers and practitioners better manage these threats. It features chapters on securing transportation infrastructure, adequately protecting sensitive radiological storage facilities, and ethnic turmoil in the Middle East. It also discusses critical factors that, if not effectively addressed, could exacerbate conflict in the future.
Glenn E. Schweitzer, a Foreign Service officer from 1956 to 1969, is director of the Office for Central Europe and Eurasia of the National Academy of Sciences. From 1992 to 1994, he was on leave to serve in Moscow as the chair of the Preparatory Committee for the Establishment of the International Science and Technology Center (ISTC), created by the governments of the United States, the European Union, Japan, and Russia. He then served as ISTC’s first executive director. He resides in Menlo Park, California.
Desaix Anderson, New Academia Publishing, 2021, $30/paperback, print only, 458 pages.
Based on Princeton University seminars conducted by author Desaix Anderson in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi, United States–Vietnam Reconciliation examines the Vietnam War in terms of its historical origins and effects. It is the 37th volume in the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training Memoirs and Occasional Papers Series.
“Only Desaix Anderson could have written ... the definitive history of Vietnam’s tempestuous relationship with the United States,” says Ted Osius, a career FSO and U.S. ambassador to Vietnam from 2014 to 2017. With more than four decades of personal and professional experience in Vietnam, Anderson reflects on the evolution of U.S.-Vietnamese relations with a critical lens, incorporating Vietnamese points of reference and encouraging the reader to consider the limits of American power.
Desaix Anderson died in February 2021, just before the publication of this book. After service in the U.S. Navy, he joined the Foreign Service in 1962 and first served in Nepal. Then came six assignments in Vietnam, including as the first chargé d’affaires during the 1995 opening of U.S. Embassy Hanoi, and service as deputy chief of mission in Tokyo. He is the author of An American in Hanoi: America’s Reconciliation with Vietnam (2002) and was the longest-serving board member in the history of the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation.
Anthony C.E. Quainton, Potomac Books, 2022, $34.95/hardcover, e-book available, 336 pages.
Ambassador (ret.) Anthony C.E. Quainton served for more than 30 years in the U.S. Foreign Service under eight administrations, from 1960 to 1997. His assignments in 11 countries on six continents included four ambassadorships. Eye on the World, the 72nd volume in the ADST-DACOR Diplomats and Diplomacy Series, is his autobiography.
Not simply the story of his upbringing and career, Eye on the World is a candid reflection on the making of foreign policy during eventful times, including U.S. policy toward India and Pakistan in the 1970s, covert wars in Latin America during the 1980s, and counternarcotics policies in Peru in the 1990s. In Ambassador (ret.) John Negroponte’s view, the book “should be of strong interest to those who lived the period as well as those aspiring to diplomatic careers of their own.”
Amb. Anthony Quainton is Distinguished Diplomat in Residence at American University in Washington, D.C. During his Foreign Service career, he served as U.S. ambassador to Peru (1989-1992), Kuwait (1984-1987), Nicaragua (1982-1984), and the Central African Republic (1976-1978). In Washington, D.C., he served as coordinator for counterterrorism, deputy inspector general, assistant secretary of State for diplomatic security, and Director General of the Foreign Service.
Judith Mudd-Krijgelmans, Xlibris, 2022, $20.99/paperback, e-book available, 424 pages.
This memoir begins in 1975, when the author, a Black woman who came of age in the Jim Crow era, joins the United States Information Agency (USIA) and moves to New Delhi, India, with her 5-year-old half-Indian daughter, Rekha. Chocolates for Mary Julia shares details of life and work in the Foreign Service of the 1970s and 1980s. Judith Mudd-Krijgelmans writes with humor and grace about meeting then–Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and learning how to thread videos in the American Center when USIA first began experimenting with this new format. She also writes about her struggles as a working single mom (How will Rekha cope when I take a monthlong assignment in another Indian city?), as an overweight woman looking for the right style (That belted leather jacket was a serious mistake!), and as a Black woman in a mostly white man’s world (How can I convince the boss to develop a program about civil rights after Roots is published in the United States?).
Retired FSO Judith Mudd-Krijgelmans served in New Delhi, Mumbai, Dhaka, Taipei, Hong Kong, Brussels, Libreville, Bujumbura, and Brazzaville. She also wrote Flowers for Brother Mudd (2018).
Judy Goodman Ikels, Wheatmark, 2022, $14.95/paperback, e-book available, 235 pages.
Judy Goodman Ikels’ father, Bill Wallace, died before she was born in 1944. A World War II pilot, he sacrificed himself to save his seven crew members when he knew his plane was going down over China. Her mother remarried three years later, and Ikels never gave much thought to her birth father until 2015, when a stranger emailed her looking for information about Wallace. The unexpected email started her on a journey to find out everything she could about her birth father’s life and untimely death. The result is this memoir of her experiences following his wartime path through China, along with photos, letters, and even a pudding recipe from that time.
Judy Goodman Ikels spent 28 years as a civil servant with the State Department. Her late husband, Larry Ikels, was a Foreign Service officer with USIA. During their careers, the couple and their two children were posted in El Salvador, Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico, Brazil, and Greece. Her story of connecting with her father first appeared in the May 2016 edition of State magazine.
Frank J. Young, Page Publishing, 2022, $17.95/paperback, e-book available, 292 pages.
As a teenager living in small-town California, Frank Young dreamed of getting away. He got his chance at Callison College, which required its students to spend a year in India. Young traveled to Bangalore in 1969, faithfully writing “aerogrammes” back home, and became hooked on the idea of living overseas. Not long after college, he joined the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) as a Foreign Service officer.
Years later, visiting his mother in California, he found the collection of aerogrammes stashed away for safekeeping. The discovery prompted him to look again at the rough manuscript typed hastily, if passionately, on his return from that life-changing sojourn. The result was ultimately this book. The author’s reflections on that pivotal year are enriched by his subsequent experiences in India as USAID deputy program officer in New Delhi from 1981 to 1984 and, in 2011, on a temporary assignment as acting director for the USAID mission in Delhi to prepare for then–Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s strategic dialogue with India. If you’ve been posted to India, you’ll no doubt recognize the country in his occasionally heartbreaking descriptions and compelling prose.
Frank Young retired in 2005 after a 33-year Foreign Service career. He served in India, the Philippines, Bangladesh, and Ghana. He lives in Sarasota, Florida, with his wife, Patricia Oxley Young. For insight into how he wrote this book, see Young’s article, “Memoir Writing: The Art of Telling Your Story.”
Marie Yovanovitch, Mariner Books, 2022, $30/hardcover, e-book available, 416 pages.
Marie “Masha” Yovanovitch’s New York Times bestseller is heralded as “moving and illuminating” (Ambassador Eric Rubin, April 2022 FSJ) and, in the late Secretary Madeleine Albright’s words, “essential reading for current policymakers, aspiring public servants, and anyone who cares about America’s role in the world.”
A powerful narrative of personal and professional resilience, Lessons from the Edge encompasses Ambassador (ret.)Yovanovitch’s experiences as a contemplative young scholar, a determined diplomat in a male-dominated field, and an iconic public figure in former President Donald Trump’s impeachment inquiry. Her commitment to integrity, accountability, and the enduring value of democracy throughout these events and as she was called to testify against Trump after her duplicitous removal from Ukraine earned her admiration at home and worldwide.
Marie Yovanovitch’s 33-year diplomatic career included ambassadorships in Ukraine, Armenia, and Kyrgyzstan. In 2020 she retired from the State Department and now is a nonresident fellow at Georgetown University and a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Edited by Robert D. Eldridge, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2022, £78.99/hardcover, print only, 411 pages.
Highly respected yet private and reserved, J. (Jeff) Graham Parsons (1907-1991) kept detailed personal records of his Foreign Service career spanning a tumultuous 40 years punctuated by World War II. During assignments that included Japan, China, Cuba, Washington, D.C., India, Japan, Laos, and Sweden (the latter two as ambassador), he interacted with some of the most famous figures of the 20th century and was known for his “old school” commitment to policy and diplomatic principles.
In this work, historian Robert Eldridge has organized what Parsons called “a hodgepodge of about fifty ‘vignettes’ of varied character” into an absorbing chronicle of one diplomat’s life, including a very helpful preface and introduction. Parsons discusses his professional development and his interactions with prominent political leaders, but also notes: “My little sketches serve to remind that a life in diplomacy is not just a succession of great historical events but is full of unmemorable minutia seldom mentioned in memoirs but often quite entertaining.”
Robert D. Eldridge, a historian of Japanese political and diplomatic history, has lived and worked in Japan for almost 30 years. He is the author of The U.S. Marine Corps and Disaster Response in the Indo-Pacific Region (2020) and The History of U.S.-Japan Relations (2017).
Rae Bourquein, independently published, 2021, $5/paperback, e-book available, 136 pages.
This self-published memoir details a USAID family’s travels from the 1960s through the 1980s. The author opens by stating that such a life “is not possible anymore, since the world has changed so much.” Indeed, current Foreign Service members may gape at the description of traveling first class on a cruise ship to their first posting, in Tokyo, where the author’s husband was assigned to the General Accounting Office.
The couple later served in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Kenya, Sudan, and the Philippines, and the author devotes a chapter to each location, along with chapters on life in Virginia from 1965 to 1967 and 1974 to 1978. The writing throughout calls to mind a personal diary rather than a book, but it is full of small details about Foreign Service life all those decades ago—from leaving calling cards for an ambassador’s wife, to adopting children in Taiwan, to coaching boys’ soccer in Fairfax, Virginia—making it an engaging read.
Rae Bourquein’s husband, Bob Bourquein, served in the Foreign Service and at a UN agency. Rae Bourquein taught elementary school and held other interesting jobs overseas. The Bourqueins now live in Lakeland, Florida.
Edited by Donald M. Bishop, Marine Corps University Press, 2021, available (free) online: www.usmcu.edu, 376 pages.
Rabbi Roland B. Gittelsohn was a remarkable figure for several reasons—his dedication to his faith, his dual identity as a pacifist and a World War II Navy chaplain, and his forthright manner of speaking and writing in all contexts.
Donald Bishop presents Gittelsohn’s story and, with the help of historians and Navy experts, provides supporting remarks on his influence as a leader and, at times, activist. Pacifist to Padre not only documents Gittelsohn’s experiences; it also, as Bishop notes, “provides insight into the world of an unusual American space that has been naturalized as normal: of government-sponsored and managed religion. And it brings that world into focus from the vantage point of a man who never would have predicted pinning the Jewish chaplain’s tablet insignia to his collar.”
Retired FSO Donald Bishop served as a public diplomacy officer for 31 years. His postings included Bangladesh, Nigeria, China, and Afghanistan. He also served as foreign policy adviser to the 34th Commandant of the Marine Corps, General James T. Conway. An Air Force veteran, Bishop served in Vietnam and Korea, and on the faculty of the U.S. Air Force Academy. Currently, he is the Donald Bren Chair of Strategic Communications at Marine Corps University in Quantico, Virginia.
Charles Ray, Uhuru Press, 2022, $15.99/hardcover, e-book available, 186 pages.
Ambassador (ret.) Charles Ray is back with a memoir he describes as “not stories of the author’s life, but from that life.” He writes of growing up impoverished in rural East Texas at a time of legal segregation, joining the Army a mere 13 years after it was integrated, and then joining the U.S. Foreign Service just two years after the Foreign Service Act of 1980 required it to diversify. Amb. Ray sets the story of his life as a Black man in the margins of a world always on the brink of change. He recounts vague memories of his childhood years, when he first “touched the sky” by designing a glider and jumping from a roof, destroying his mother’s best sheets in the process. He paints vivid pictures of a bygone era as he defends himself against bullies, slaughters animals on the family farm, and develops his interest in the outside world after discovering a National Geographic article about China.
A prolific writer, Charles Ray is the author of numerous mysteries, law enforcement and Western series, and leadership books, including many additional titles published this year. He served for 20 years in the U.S. Army and 30 years in the Foreign Service, including as U.S. ambassador to Cambodia and Zimbabwe, before retiring in 2012. For more of Ray’s work, visit https://charlesray-author.com/.
Scottie Pippen, with Michael Arkush, Atria Books, 2021, $18.99/paperback, e-book available, 320 pages.
Michael Arkush’s sixth New York Times bestseller follows basketball star Scottie Pippen’s journey from his upbringing in the small town of Hamburg, Arkansas, to NBA and Olympic legend. Co-written with Pippen, Unguarded reveals the many life obstacles Pippen has confronted, including family tragedy, disregard by collegiate basketball scouts, and even disrespect as he rose to fame with the Chicago Bulls. Kirkus calls it a “closely observed and uncommonly modest” memoir. Pippen shares his experience of growing up with 11 older siblings, as well as behind-the-scenes stories from famous games and interactions with other all-stars such as Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson, and Dennis Rodman.
Michael Arkush is the spouse of retired Foreign Service Officer Pauletta Walsh. While with Walsh on assignments in St. Petersburg and Kyiv, Arkush wrote books. He has authored or co-authored 16 published works, including Losing Isn’t Everything: The Untold Stories and Hidden Lessons Behind the Toughest Losses in Sports History with Curt Menefee (2016) and The Big Fight: My Life In and Out of the Ring with Sugar Ray Leonard (2011). Arkush also regularly contributes to The New York Times. Arkush and Walsh currently reside in Oak View, California, where he continues to write, and she works for the State Department as a reemployed annuitant.
Fran Brokaw Davey, independently published, 2021, $12.95/paperback, print only, 94 pages.
In 1959, Frances (Fran) Brokaw Davey received the call offering her a Foreign Service secretary position with exuberance and a touch of doubt—was she ready to leave Cleveland, Ohio, for an unpredictable life abroad?
Davey’s professional journey takes her far from the Midwest, offering an abundance of cultural experiences and personal growth opportunities. Whether bonding with her first-ever roommate, Dotty, in Washington, D.C., or getting married in Mexico, Davey shares her story with appreciation for each “learning curve” and unexpected encounter—from contending with “a variety of uninvited critters” in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) to learning to drive her first car in Tokyo traffic. Once a self-described “timid Cleveland girl,” Davey exhibits an enthusiasm for the Foreign Service life that enables her to get further out of her comfort zone than she imagined possible and inspires those around her, as well.
During a 20-year career in the Foreign Service, Fran Davey lived and worked in 11 countries, including Ethiopia, Argentina, Israel, and Egypt. Her husband, Richard Davey, also held a position at State during this time. The Daveys have two children and currently reside in Washington state and Arizona, seasonally. To purchase this book, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Francesca Moran, Authorhouse, 2022, $13.99/paperback, e-book available, 138 pages.
Francesca Moran’s 2019 memoir Blown by the Wind chronicled her and David Moran’s love story from their first meeting through David’s descent into vascular dementia in 2013 and his death in 2017. Her latest work, Star-Struck, is a sequel, in which Moran chronicles her grieving and its vast, imaginary landscape. In the first chapter, memories, love letters, and dreams memorialize the couple’s history together as global citizens; but with chapter 2, a different, fantastic dimension opens. The couple becomes, as Moran writes, “ghosts, discovering new life forms on a new planet” and exploring the limits of time and space. Together they encounter stunning landscapes, Indigenous tribal members, and even another human couple, Jackie and Henry, on what Moran describes as “the lost planet” before witnessing a vicious battle and returning to earth years later.
Francesca Moran was born in Saigon in 1943. While attending The George Washington University in 1969, she met and eventually married FSO David Moran (now deceased), who was then studying for his assignment with the Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support Pacification program in Vietnam. The Morans and their two children, Betsy and Danny, traversed the globe together until David’s retirement.
Judith Ravin, Tresmitades, 2022, available (free) online: www.tresmitades.com, 92 pages.
Peru After Chamba—or after “work,” from Peruvian slang—explores the people and spaces of Peru through a series of 30 short, descriptive reports. Infused with “wonder, reflection and humor,” each narrative adds an element to the complex cultural fabric observed by the author, Judith Ravin, during her time in and around Lima. For example, there is an abrupt but friendly exchange with a fuel station attendant and an enlightening experience trading and selling clothing with women in the local marketplace. Ravin’s journalism background aids in capturing visual details, and each setting is presented deliberately and carefully, from the gray skies of Lima to the social tension around translation issues. Also included are pieces from Ravin’s travels to Tanzania during the pandemic and her return to Peru.
Judith Ravin currently serves as consul general at U.S. Consulate General Chennai in India. She served previously in Peru, Pakistan, Dominican Republic, Sudan, Cameroon, and Mexico. Before joining the Foreign Service in 2003, she worked as an editor, journalist, and translator. She has written and contributed to numerous other published works, including Beyond Our Degrees of Separation: Washington Monsoons and Islamabad Blues (2017) and Ballet in the Cane Fields: Vignettes from a Dominican Wanderlogue (2014).
Aaron S. Williams, with Deb Childs, International Division, UW Madison, 2021, $30/hardcover, e-book available, 258 pages.
Aaron S. Williams’ story is an unconventional one, beginning on the South Side of Chicago and eventually encompassing the directorship of the Peace Corps. His story conveys the complexity of U.S. foreign policy and development efforts while spotlighting how the American ethos of hard work and determination can come to fruition.
Williams was a public school teacher before joining the Peace Corps and serving in the Dominican Republic. He then joined the USAID Foreign Service. Work as a USAID FSO took him to many parts of the developing world on challenging missions of international development. He retired after 22 years in the Foreign Service and was appointed director of the Peace Corps in 2009, serving until 2012. Throughout these experiences Williams emphasizes the value of following one’s intuition, having a willingness to take risks, and how notions about what is important in life must account for the unexpected.
Aaron S. Williams is a senior adviser emeritus for international development and government relations at RTI International. The recipient of numerous career service awards and honorary degrees, he lives in Virginia with his wife, Rosa. They have two sons and five grandsons.
Daniel Miller, Blurb Books, 2022, $12.99/paperback, print only, 168 pages.
A wealth of anthropological and ecological insights and lived experiences combine in Daniel Miller’s A Cowboy in Mongolia: Journeys in the Steppe and Gobi Desert, which explores through both narrative and photo essays Mongolian grasslands and herdsmen who live off them. Miller draws comparisons to other distinctive landscapes he has worked on from the plains of Montana to the Tibetan Plateau. Known to some as the “wild yak man,” Miller notes: “Despite the vast distance that separates the ranges they ride across taking care of livestock, the herders of Mongolia and the cowboys of the American West still speak the same basic language.”
Daniel Miller grew up on a dairy farm in southern Minnesota and served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Nepal. He studied rangeland ecology at the University of Montana and worked as an outfitter before contributing to development projects with the Asian Development Bank, World Bank, and other organizations. He joined the Foreign Service in 2003 and served as a USAID agricultural officer with postings in Afghanistan, India, Philippines, Pakistan, and Mongolia. After retiring in 2017, he worked as an adviser to Mongolians raising cattle and settled in his current “home on the range” in Buffalo, Wyoming.
Alexi Panehal, University of Toledo Press, 2021, $19.95/paperback, print only, 132 pages.
The largest island on Lake Erie, Kelleys Island has for decades been a small hub for those in search of a sunny, easygoing getaway during the summer months. Residents who brave the winters there, however, face a test of “planning skills and psychological fortitude”—against harsh weather and without certain modern amenities or regular access to mainland Ohio. Retired Foreign Service Officer Alexi Panehal speaks to both experiences in The Island in Winter: Living Year Round on Kelleys Island. A lifelong visitor, she now looks through the lens of a permanent resident alongside only about 150 others. Finding comfort in the isolated periods as well as the community’s more vibrant moments, such as local holiday celebrations, Panehal combines her personal lessons learned with a detailed guide of the island’s culture, wildlife, history, and character.
Alexi Panehal worked for USAID for more than 35 years before retiring as a member of the Senior Foreign Service. She is a graduate of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, and the National Defense University’s National War College.
Michael Dillard, independently published, 2021, $9.99/paperback, e-book available, 241 pages.
An “accidental diplomat” from humble beginnings, Michael Dillard shares his life experiences and the skills gained as they relate to long-term financial success in this motivational guidebook. Dillard traces his childhood years in Germany and Tennessee before enlisting in the U.S. Army. He speaks to the value of leadership, fortitude, and opportunity through his Army and college experiences, where grueling schedules and limited freedom only strengthened his sense of determination. This, in turn, translated directly to his practice of “failing forward” in his young professional years, as he transitioned from appliance testing to banking and sales before landing on his feet in a position with USAID. The second part of the book contains a collection of recommendations for developing a “Vision Plan.” In part 3, Dillard offers guidance for building lifelong financial stability.
Michael Dillard is a trainer and financial controller with USAID’s Africa Bureau. Since 2010, he has served in the Dominican Republic, Zambia, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Africa. Prior to the Foreign Service, he served in the U.S. Army. He is also the author of Build Generational Wealth: Retire Early (2022) and Achieve Your Goals (2021). For more information and leadership/finance coaching, visit www.madillard.com.
Robert Downes, Balcarres Books, 2022, $14.95/paperback, e-book available, 255 pages.
Collected over a period of nearly 50 years, Robert Downes’ Every Day an Adventure: Cuentos de Mexico is an assortment of anecdotes “more or less in chronological order” from his experiences working and living in Texas, Mexico, and various parts of Latin America. Many stories follow the Texan tradition of telling playfully embellished “tall tales,” according to the author, yet convey the reality of how “small, at the time seemingly insignificant decisions can have a major impact on the direction of one’s life.” Elements of surprise, humor, and, often, brushes with danger find their way into almost every chapter, whether the author is dealing with unusual characters seeking consular assistance in Mexico or witnessing the chaos around election fraud in Venezuela.
Robert Downes spent more than 37 years in federal service, primarily with the State Department. Downes’ postings included Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Thailand, Australia, and Germany. Following his retirement as a Senior Foreign Service officer, he returned to Texas, where he currently spends his time contributing to local and international organizations as well as reading, writing, and kayaking.
Ruth Obee, Clausen Books, 2020, $24.95/paperback, print only, 142 pages.
Ruth Obee’s latest book, a collection of poetry, was named a finalist for the Colorado Book Award in 2022. The author describes Convergences as a “poetic memoir” that draws on both her overseas experiences as a Foreign Service family member and her current life in Colorado. Some of her poems are centered in Africa and the American Southwest, while others focus on political and cultural figures from Stephen Hawking to Nelson Mandela, whom the author met while posted in South Africa. In “Heroes,” which reads more like an essay than a poem, she describes Dr. Anthony Fauci as “made up of pure sinew and bone, fit as a well-seasoned fiddle.” Through her poems, the author explores Mt. Kilimanjaro, Victoria Falls, and—closer to home—Pikes Peak and the Colorado River.
A Foreign Service spouse, Ruth Obee served in India, Nepal, Pakistan, Tanzania, South Africa, and Washington, D.C., with her husband, FSO Kent Obee, who retired in 1995 after a 31-year career with the U.S. Information Agency. She is a former teacher, edited the monthly publication of the Association of American Foreign Service Women, and has published three other books. Obee currently lives in Colorado Springs.
Helena P. Schrader, Cross Seas Press, 2022, $19.95/paperback, e-book available, 436 pages.
In this full-length historical novel, author Helena Schrader combines fine storytelling with an in-depth knowledge of Germany in World War II. The mission that Flying Officer Kit Moran (a bomber pilot) and his crew—all in their early 20s—undertake against Adolf Hitler gives them a 50 percent chance of survival. Moran, who earlier as a flight engineer had been cited LMF (Lacking in Moral Fibre) for refusing to fly after a raid on Berlin that killed his best friend and skipper, is in love with his dead friend’s fiancée. With their fears, courage, and hopes for the future, the characters are all well drawn, and the battle scenes are accurately detailed. The result is a highly engaging work that is, as the author intended, a tribute to those who fought for freedom.
Helena P. Schrader, a career FSO who served primarily in Africa and Europe, earned a Ph.D. in history from the University of Hamburg with a dissertation about a leading member of the German Resistance to Hitler. She retired from the U.S. Foreign Service in 2018 and now writes full-time from an island in Greece. Also recently published are a nonfiction book, The Holy Land in the Era of the Crusades: Kingdoms at the Crossroads of Civilizations, 1100-1300 (2022), and Grounded Eagles (2021), an anthology of three novellas set during World War II.
Phillip Church, Fulton Books, 2022, $20/paperback, e-book available, 354 pages.
In this thriller from retired Foreign Service Officer Phillip Church, three friends, all retired government workers, plan a relaxing fishing trip in Thailand. But when hijackers attempt to take control of their flight to Bangkok, the trip takes a turn into chaos. Soon the friends—a retired CIA officer, a former naval fighter pilot, and a retired commercial attaché—find themselves in the middle of a plot by Chinese organized crime members to bring down Thailand’s economy.
The story, set around the time when the British transferred administration of Hong Kong to mainland China, explores the ties between international finance, economic growth, and human trafficking. The author says his intent was to “place the reader in the middle of contemporary concerns about how global economic growth has too often benefited the few at the expense of the many.”
To weave this dramatic tale of illicit commerce and sex trafficking, Church has drawn on his experiences designing technical assistance programs in South and East Asia with the U.S. Agency for International Development from 1970 to 1995. He resides in Northern Virginia.
H.K. Deeb, independently published, 2022, $10.99/paperback, e-book available, 227 pages.
In his fourth novel, which is listed on Amazon under “occult horror,” author H.K. Deeb tells the story of Thomas and Angelo, former classmates who were once in love with the same woman. Ten years before the novel begins, the woman, Ella Kessel, dies under mysterious circumstances. After her death, the two men go their own ways until Angelo, a lawyer who suffers from mental health issues, encounters the supposedly dead woman while on a business trip to Italy. She tells Angelo to pass a message about a red knife to Thomas; and Angelo, confused by the meaning at the heart of the message, consults with a “biographer of the vanished.”
Foreign Service Officer Hadi Deeb is currently posted in Kuwait with his family. He has served in Mexico City, Moscow, Baku, Manila, and Tashkent. Deeb is also the author of The Black Forest (2019), A Banker’s Tale (2018), and The Haven (2017).
Kenneth Dekleva, independently published, 2022, $17.99/paperback, e-book available, 150 pages.
Diplomacy, crime, and mystery combine in Kenneth Dekleva’s debut novel about a Catholic priest caught in the cross fire of an international geopolitical conflict. Originally from San Antonio, Texas, Father Ishmael “became a priest both by accident and by calling” after serving in the military. When one of his parishioners goes missing, Father Ishmael’s past vocational skills are called upon by the local authorities in Mexico City, where he has been preaching to a community of primarily ex-patriots. Before long, he is swept up in the thrilling pursuit of information and individuals linked to a complicated array of criminal activities from Mexico to Russia. Bestselling author Paul Vidich calls The Negotiator’s Cross a “magical story … [that] speaks to the emotional wisdom of listening to one’s heart while moving through a dangerous and uncertain world.”
Kenneth Dekleva, a former member of the Foreign Service, is a practicing psychiatrist in Dallas, Texas. From 2002 to 2016, he served as a regional medical officer/psychiatrist with the State Department in Moscow, Mexico City, New Delhi, Vienna, and London. He is also a senior fellow at the George H.W. Bush Foundation for US-China Relations and a professor and director of psychiatry at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
Mark G. Wentling, Wild Lark Books, 2022, $19.99/hardcover, e-book available, 186 pages.
Growing up in small-town Kansas has its charming moments—community turtle races and soap box derbies, little league games, and Western film matinees. But for young “Marky,” adolescence also comes with a series of confusing and harrowing experiences that test his courage and conviction as a young man. Years of explosive altercations between his parents lead his mother to abruptly uproot him and three of his six siblings. Ultimately, the boys find themselves in the foster care system and a life of indentured servitude on a desolate farmstead. Marky weathers this with uncompromising fortitude, maintaining his academic performance and involvement in school sports against all odds, until one day, an iconic acquaintance from his past catches up to him by surprise. This coming-of-age novel offers a stirring portrait of an individual, a place, and an era.
Mark G. Wentling retired from the Senior Foreign Service in 1996. During his career with USAID, Wentling served as mission director in six African countries and has spent time in all 54 countries across the continent. Prior to joining the Foreign Service, he both volunteered and held leadership positions with the Peace Corps. Wentling is a regular contributor to The Foreign Service Journal and has published eight books, including a three-volume Africa Memoir (2020). He now resides with his family in Lubbock, Texas.
Ethan T. Burroughs, Morgan James Fiction, 2022, $16.95/paperback, e-book available, 288 pages.
The 2022 winner of a Silver Literary Titan Award, Writ Reveal is the second installment in Ethan Burrough’s Clayton Haley series. The novel picks up where Messianic Reveal left off, with Haley entering a new phase of his diplomatic career in Kuwait. The exhumation of human remains near the Iraqi border leads him on a challenging journey to salvage ancient writings hidden during the Mongol siege of Baghdad in 1258. With the aid of longtime Green Beret and intelligence colleagues, Haley skillfully evades angry mercenaries in his determination to uncover politically and religiously inconvenient truths. “In Writ Reveal, Ethan Burroughs weaves a web of real history and smart fiction, with captivating action, and a professional’s eye of how governments and societies work in the Middle East,” says Clifford Smith, Washington director of the Middle East Forum.
Ethan Burroughs (a pseudonym) is a U.S. Army veteran, political consultant, former teacher, and current member of the Foreign Service. He has studied and served in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Israel, and the Palestinian Territories. His interest in the history and cultures of the region as well as his appreciation for the unsung patriots he has worked with there are driving forces behind his writing.
Ellen Crosby, Severn House, 2022, $17.95/paperback, e-book available, 240 pages.
In the twelfth book of Ellen Crosby’s wine country mystery series, vineyard owner Lucie Montgomery is preparing to get married, but the vineyard she’s chosen as a wedding venue is mysteriously dying off. Local growers suspect the nursery supplier is at fault for the dying vines there and in the surrounding fields, and neighbors begin trading blame and accusations. When a beautiful nursery worker is killed, Lucie is forced to investigate the murder while also solving the mystery of the dying vines. Along the way she discovers her soon-to-be husband’s connection to the dead woman—what can it mean?
Ellen Crosby is a former journalist. In addition to the wine country series and a two-part series on international photojournalist Sophie Medina, she wrote the stand-alone novel Moscow Nights (2000), which was based loosely on her time as a Moscow correspondent in the late 1980s. She is married to André de Nesnera, a Foreign Service officer who retired from the Voice of America in 2015. She and her spouse have lived in England, France, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, and the former Soviet Union. They now reside in Northern Virginia.
Tim Enright, Birch Forest Publishing, 2021, $18.95/paperback, e-book available, 434 pages.
In a thrilling examination of the psychological, relational, and political dimensions of terrorism and the U.S. response, Tim Enright’s novel follows the heroic actions of Ben Brownwell, a Foreign Service officer in Afghanistan. After an American soldier executes the grandson of a powerful Afghan minister, revenge-seeking Afghan officials and their Iranian allies plan a suicide attack; Brownwell finds himself hurriedly working to gain understanding and diplomatic control of the situation before more lives are lost. He is assisted by fellow national security professionals and a British diplomat as his skills are put to the test amid chaos, unpredictability, and an increasingly complex network of international actors.
Tim Enright joined the Foreign Service in 2005 and is currently a stabilization adviser at the Department of State with a focus on West Africa. He has served in Iraq, Russia, the United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Albania, and Turkey, in addition to a stint with the Peace Corps in Kazakhstan.
Emilio Iodice, independently published, 2022, $15/paperback, e-book available, 182 pages.
Set on the island of Ponza, Italy, in 1944, My Soldier follows the experiences of Maria, only 3 years old at the time of the bombing and invasion of Anzio. World War II rages across Europe and mainland Italy while the residents of Ponza struggle with dwindling resources on the island, especially food. The arrival of Allied soldiers brings some relief to Maria’s community and for Maria, a life-changing encounter with a kind American officer. Inspired by a true story, this work is connected to the storyline of author Emilio Iodice’s World War II thriller Liberation (2021), another work of historical fiction.
Retired FSO Emilio Iodice served in Brazil, Mexico, Spain, and Italy. He retired in 1998 and subsequently served as vice president of Lucent Technologies and director and professor of leadership of the John Felice Rome Center of Loyola University until 2016. He serves on the board of Marymount International and is a professor of leadership at LUISS University in Rome and director emeritus of Loyola University Chicago’s campus in Rome. Other books by Iodice include two nonfiction works, Transformation: Hardwire Your Mind for Success and Leadership (2021) and The Commander in Chief (2020). He lives and works in Italy.
Philip J. Skotte, LifeRich Publishing, 2021, $11.99/paperback, e-book available, 120 pages.
Philip Skotte is back with his fourth book, You Say: Lies That Deceive and Kill Us. Set in 2030, the novel follows a Christian who dies in an accident and expects to go to heaven. Instead the protagonist finds himself on a “journey to Old Town,” a purgatory where dead humans go to recover from “modernosis,” a hubristic disease that causes modern individuals to think their technology makes them superior to those who came before them. The newly dead passengers travel through Old Town as they try to heal from the disease so they can enter heaven. En route the protagonist meets odd characters and moves through dreams as he attempts to make sense of his life on earth.
During a nearly 30-year Foreign Service career, Philip Skotte served in Manila, the Vatican, Hong Kong, Budapest, Moscow, and Shanghai, in addition to Washington, D.C. He recently retired and, with his wife, Maribeth, moved to Long Island, New York, where he enjoys tending to the trees in area state and national parks in his spare time. Skotte has also penned 20 Things to do After You Die (2020), Begat: Tales of Disappointment (2020), and Why Jesus Won’t Go Away: A Diplomat Reflects on Faith (2014).
Ryan Peterson, independently published, 2022, $12.99/paperback, e-book available, 294 pages.
James William Shaw, a decorated British Royal Navy lieutenant, is given his most dangerous assignment yet. He must infiltrate the bloodthirsty crew of pirates led by the infamous Black Lion of the sea, Captain Charles Darrow. After scouring the seas of the Caribbean and plundering commercial ships for years, Darrow and his vicious crew have amassed a secret fortune unlike anything seen in the New World.
Shaw must find and join this crew in an undercover mission to find the secret treasure and, ultimately, eliminate the dastardly Captain Darrow. As a clandestine agent, Shaw will find his loyalties ruthlessly tested, friends and foes presenting themselves in unexpected moments, and he will struggle to stay true to himself while living a double life.
Ryan Peterson, an American lawyer and diplomat, joined the U.S. Foreign Service in 2012 and currently serves as deputy consular chief in Phnom Penh. He has lived and worked in Ciudad Juarez, London, and Bucharest. He lives with his wife and two children in Cambodia. Conquistador (2018) was Ryan’s first novel; his second novel, Madrugada, was published in 2019. He also published The Brave Mice of Molgreen, a book for early readers, in 2022.
George Alfred Kennedy and Yvonne D. Merrill, SETAF Publishing, 2022, $20/paperback, e-book available, 276 pages.
Retired Foreign Service Officer George Kennedy joins forces with writer Yvonne Merrill for their second joint novel, Dirty Commodities. Professor Angelica Suarez, an expert in human trafficking, is working at the U.S. embassy in Moldova, where she is trying to halt the flow of refugee women from Ukraine and other neighboring countries who are at risk of being trafficked. Shortly after arriving in Moldova, the professor is herself kidnapped by a Russian mafioso and drug kingpin, and she finds herself a victim of the very criminals she has spent her career working to stop. The story traces the professor’s journey from Moldova to Central America as a prisoner of unknown criminals while the State Department, the FBI, and her university colleagues work together to try to track her down—giving an insider’s view of the ways various agencies and embassies work together in emergency situations.
George Kennedy spent 35 years in the State Department, retiring as a Senior Foreign Service officer after assignments in seven countries, a stint as a deputy assistant secretary, and an assignment as senior adviser to Ronald Brown, the first African American Secretary of Commerce. Kennedy currently lives in Arizona.
James D. Nealon, Koehler Books, 2022, $19.95/paperback, e-book available, 320 pages.
Confederacy of Fenians reimagines the Civil War in a surprising and provocative way. Lee wins at Gettysburg, the British enter the war in support of the Confederacy, and the Fenian Brotherhood, a secret society of Irish revolutionaries based in New York, make a move to secure Irish independence after the war. Of the four main characters who play themselves, one, a leader of the Fenians, was the author’s real-life ancestor. The fictional character, Viola, a free Black woman fighting the Civil War in her own way, channels the author’s voice.
“[James] Nealon’s beautifully written first novel will cause the reader to question his assumptions and what might have been (and give Irish patriots a smile). A must-read,” says Ambassador (ret.) Thomas Robertson about this book. “A perfect book for fiction lovers who love history, or history buffs who love fiction,” says author David P. Wagner.
Ambassador (ret.) James Nealon served at 10 posts in Europe and in North and South America, including as chief of mission in Honduras, during a 33-year diplomatic career. He retired in 2017. Prior to joining the Foreign Service, he was a history teacher. He has published numerous works on foreign policy and immigration and resides in Exeter, New Hampshire.
Elizabeth A. Drysdale, Sweetwater Books, 2021, $16.99/paperback, e-book available, 248 pages.
Seventeen-year-old Sophronia, or “Soph,” has grown up resigned to an existence as only moderately skilled in comparison to her family members, all witches. Not fully sharing her relatives’ magical aptitude, she is still affected by a dark curse that has plagued the family for generations. Soph often feels as if she is an outsider among both the magical and nonmagical communities.
When an opportunity arises for Soph to put her limited abilities—which allow her to engage in time-travel—to use, as well as potentially end the curse on her family, she faces a series of tough decisions. Out of Time follows Soph through this challenging journey from the struggles of a 21st-century teenager to the ominous threats of witch trials in 17th-century New England.
Elizabeth Drysdale is an award-winning author of young adult fiction and the daughter of a Foreign Service officer and Air Force veteran, Clay Allen. She accompanied her father on tours across Asia. Her first novel, Curse of the Forgotten (2021), was a Swoony Award finalist. She resides in a small town in Northern Utah with her husband and three sons.
Paul Crawford, CreateSpace, 2019, $11/paperback, e-book available, 366 pages.
Science fiction meets drama in Paul Crawford’s multidimensional novel for young adults, Destiny’s Cradle. A work of “hard science fiction”—i.e., based on scientific fact and inspired by “hard” natural sciences like chemistry, physics, and astronomy—the book also features well-developed characters and a compelling story.
When a stranger emerges unexpectedly near their cotton field one afternoon, teenage farm-dwellers Ben and Tessa are shocked and intrigued. In time, however, the newcomer, Thomas Morgan, becomes their ally in a tense conflict between the citizens of Ben and Tessa’s rural community and their more technologically advanced ancestors. Set in a picturesque if rigidly delimited biosphere contained within a single starship that is on a thousand-year journey to colonize a distant planet, the story follows the three characters as they boldly uncover the mysteries of how and why they came to be in this space—and what they must do to protect the future of their own existence.
Retired FSO Paul Crawford served in the Peace Corps in Colombia before joining the USAID Foreign Service in 1983. From various locations across Latin America and Africa, he worked to promote agriculture and natural resources programs over the course of a 33-year career. He resides in Ann Arbor, Michigan. For more sci-fi in the form of short stories by Crawford, visit https://paulcrawford-scifi.com/.
Mara Rutherford, Inkyard Press, 2022, $11.99/paperback, e-book available, 384 pages.
Revered as “wonderfully lush and enthralling” and “a beautiful, enchanting tale” by acclaimed authors within the same genre, Luminous is a captivating fantasy centered on a young witch, Liora, and the obstacles she must face to rescue her sister and her closest friend. In Liora’s world, having magical powers is a status that carries with it the constant risk of being identified and forced to serve the king’s devious warlock, Darius, who seeks to expand his own power through the energy of others. Channeling her magical strengths to save her loved ones is a challenge to both Liora’s character and courage.
Mara Rutherford is a California native and a Foreign Service family member currently on her sixth tour in Brussels, where her husband is a political officer for USNATO. She has lived all over the world with her husband and their two sons. Rutherford began her writing career as a journalist but pivoted to fantasy quickly. Her other published novels include the Crown of Coral and Pearl duology (2019, 2020) and the forthcoming The Poison Season, due to be released this December.
David Allen Schlaefer, Dartfrog Books, 2021, $16.99/paperback, e-book available, 366 pages.
This is the story of two young heroes, whose lives intertwine as they battle Löhi, a powerful sorceress and the Far Northern Land’s ancient enemy. One hero is Ulla: From a remote village in Iron-Age Finland, she is mauled by a bear and, though healed by a famous wizard, is left with a stunning scar that evokes an ancient prophecy. The other, Prince Egan, is thrust into power when his father is killed by a horrific shade from hell.
In developing the saga, the author has drawn on Finnish mythology and the world of the Kalevala, Finland’s national epic. An avid fantasy fan, David Schlaefer immersed himself in Finnish language and folklore and joined the Kalevala Society during a four-year tour in Helsinki. He wrote the Far Northern Land Saga over the course of the next several years. Book II, The Heir of Lemminkäinen, was published in March 2022, and the trilogy’s final installment, The Queen of Pohjola, is expected soon.
David Allen Schlaefer, a member of the Senior Foreign Service, is the acting deputy chief of mission and senior assistance coordinator at U.S. Embassy Kyiv. He has served in Brazil, Mexico, Finland, Iraq, Japan, and Romania. His website is www.davidschlaefer.com.
Edited by Marx Pyle, Victoria L. Scott, Anne C. Lynch, and J.C. Mastro, Cabbit Crossing Publishing, 2021, $17.95/paperback, e-book available, 346 pages.
Former Foreign Service Officer Katharine Dow’s story, “The Brooklyn Dragon Racing Club,” is included among 17 unique tales in this collection by a mix of award-winning and emerging authors. The stories range from tales about dragons with wings as long as continents and dragons conquering outer space, to dragons in London, in Brooklyn, and roaming a post-apocalyptic earth. They are grouped in four categories: Dragons of Antiquity; Dragons of Now-ish … & Beyond; Dragons of The Stars; and Dragons of Other Realms. From science fiction to epic fantasy, to mystery thrillers and Westerns, the collection features a wide array of settings and literary genres, considerably broadening the scope of storytelling centered on these enduring mythical creatures.
Katharine Dow’s “The Brooklyn Dragon Racing Club” is about a young woman who buys herself a racing dragon and learns the sport of dragon racing from a veteran. This story, inspired by the local pigeon races the author learned about while living in Brooklyn, addresses change and bias in a big city.
Former FSO Katharine Dow served as a democracy, human rights, and governance officer with the U.S. Agency for International Development in Kenya, Afghanistan, Armenia, and Washington, D.C., from 2008 to 2020. She lives in New York state.
Lily Peterson and Jeremy Peterson, independently published, 2022, $6.99/paperback, e-book available, 244 pages.
Theo, an orphaned teenager living with his grandparents in Shanghai, suddenly develops the ability to shapeshift into a wolf. When a mysterious government organization discovers his newfound abilities, they whisk him away to Geneva to join their ranks and help him learn how to control his powers. The group hides their own abilities and agenda from outsiders, keeping secrets from Theo even as they teach him to fight alongside them. But as the group he joined begins to battle with other groups of shapeshifters, he is forced to ask if he is fighting for the right team.
The father-daughter team of Lily and Jeremy Peterson decided to write this dystopian children’s book when 13-year-old Lily discovered there weren’t any books about shapeshifters in the library and her father, a Foreign Service officer currently serving as a deployment and optimization manager in Washington, D.C., challenged her to write one herself. Jeremy Peterson joined the Foreign Service 11 years ago; the Peterson family has served in Suriname, China, El Salvador, and Thailand, in addition to Washington, D.C.
Monica Jean Normil, independently published, 2022, $15.99/paperback, e-book available, 33 pages.
Unlike some of her classmates, 9-year-old Riley doesn’t have an immediate answer when her teacher asks what each student might want to be when they grow up. Curious to see what people who “look just like [her]” do for a living in the big, busy city she calls home, Riley befriends Kennedy, who works as a diplomat for the “United Countries.” Riley learns from Kennedy all about diplomacy and the different forms it can take, including economic diplomacy, which piques her interest as a mathematics enthusiast. A diplomat’s life is not easy, yet Riley and Kennedy agree that opportunities to see new places and meet people from all around the world make it a unique and rewarding experience.
Monica Jean Normil, an information management specialist currently posted in Lomé, Togo, joined the Foreign Service in 2019. Her first assignment was in Trinidad and Tobago. Prior to joining the Service, she worked in the fields of IT and operations management with several private companies and with the Peace Corps/USAID WASH project in Ghana. She is also the author of a cookbook inspired by her travels, Road to Table: Cooking My Way Around the World (2021).
Joanne Grady Huskey, illustrated by Pixie Percival, Xlibris Us, 2022, $14.99/paperback, e-book available, 32 pages.
This book, delightfully illustrated by Pixie Percival, is the story of a 6-year-old boy and his 3-year-old sister who live for three years in Africa with their Foreign Service parents. In Nairobi, Kenya, they come to know and appreciate the different foods, animals, birds, vegetation, tribes, songs, and traditions of this faraway land. The author’s first children’s book, Christopher and Caroline in Kenya, is dedicated to children everywhere who are curious and want to learn about people and cultures different from their own. As the author says: “It will open your heart and your mind.”
Joanne Grady Huskey is a cross-cultural coach and educator and one of the co-founders and vice president of iLive2Lead Young Women’s Leadership Summit. She has lived and worked all over the world alongside her husband, retired FSO James Huskey. She is the author of The Unofficial Diplomat, a volume in the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training’s Memoirs and Occasional Papers Series published in 2010, and co-author, with Holly Rodgers Wescott, of iCAN!—A Young Woman’s Guide to Taking the Lead (2018). A memoir of her childhood, Growing Up Grady, was published in 2021. She lives and works in Northern Virginia.
Sandra Jacobs, with Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, Alliance for Ukraine, 2022, $30/hardcover, print only, 216 pages.
Babusya’s Kitchen was originally written by and for Peace Corps volunteers in Ukraine, many of whom wanted to learn to cook local cuisine as well as re-create favorites from home. After Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, former volunteers who wanted to help their Ukrainian friends and colleagues decided to sell their cookbook to the general public and donate the proceeds to humanitarian organizations operating in Ukraine.
The book contains all the recipes you might miss from your own time in Ukraine, including borshch, syrniky (a sweet and cheesy pancake), and chebureky (deep-fried meat pastries), along with favorites from home that can be made with Ukrainian ingredients, such as tortilla soup and banana bread. It also includes language tips, ingredient substitutions, and other details that add local flavor, as well as numerous ways to dress up that Ukrainian staple, the humble potato. If you’ve been posted to Ukraine, these recipes will remind you of your former “home.” If you’ve never been there, you can still try them and know that you’re helping Ukrainians through your purchase.
FSO Sandra Jacobs is a former Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine. Currently serving as a Cox Fellow, she compiled this edition of the cookbook with a team of six other former volunteers; personal stories from FSOs Luke Durkin, Eric Jacobs, Anne Neuchterlein, and RaeJean Stokes are also included in the cookbook. The book is available for purchase at allianceforukraine.org.
Ernesto J. Luna, independently published, 2021, $12.95/paperback, e-book available, 173 pages.
Job hunting is one of the most difficult yet essential challenges for many professionals, and every effort should be made to distinguish oneself as the most competitive candidate. Central to any application is the résumé, detailing valuable experience, skills, and know-how that highlight the applicant’s uniqueness and suitability for the role.
But, like the individuals they represent, résumés are always evolving, and there are countless formats and best practices. Blame Your Resume is a step-by-step guide for creating the most competitive and appealing résumé for any position. Blame Your Resume also goes far beyond this critical document to include developing strategies for job interviews and cover letters, building a professional LinkedIn profile, and navigating the preferences of automated software that scans multitudes of applications on behalf of employers.
Ernesto J. Luna is an award-winning Hispanic American educator with more than 13 years of experience teaching around the world. He is married to Public Diplomacy Officer Janelle Luna and received the Secretary of State’s Award for Outstanding Volunteerism Abroad in 2016 for creating an English-language program for the Slovak police force. Luna, who has an MBA, started his business career working for Fortune 500 companies and later transferred this experience to the public sector.
Aaron S. Williams, Taylor A. Jack, and Jennifer M. Brinkerhoff, Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2022, $26.50/paperback, e-book available, 271 pages.
A retired FSO, a development expert and former Peace Corps volunteer, and a university professor teamed up to write this guide to inspire young people to pursue careers in international affairs and, more specifically, to “ensure that Black students and early- and mid-career professionals have the guidance they need to succeed” in the foreign policy arena. In compiling the guide, the authors turned to those in international affairs—Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, now the State Department’s chief diversity and inclusion officer (CDIO), wrote the foreword; and other ambassadors and senior-level Foreign Service officers including Ambassadors Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Johnnie Carson, and Ruth Davis, provided input on topics such as how to gain professionally relevant experience, dealing with racism, and facing the challenges of leadership.
Although intended for early-career Black professionals, the guide offers useful advice for anyone hoping to attain a leadership position within the government or foreign affairs community.
Co-author Aaron Williams spent 22 years at USAID, retiring as mission director for South Africa, and served as director of the U.S. Peace Corps from 2009 to 2012. Former Peace Corps volunteer Taylor Jack now works for an international development consulting firm, and Jennifer Brinkerhoff is professor of public administration and international affairs at The George Washington University.
Tim Collins, John Wiley & Sons, 2022, $26.99/paperback, e-book available, 480 pages.
A comprehensive guide to preparing for the General Education Degree test, GED for Dummies presents a detailed overview of each section of the test, including grammar, punctuation, mathematical reasoning, social studies, and reasoning through language arts. Each part of the book contains practice questions and explains various test-taking skills, such as managing one’s time, solving questions with and without a calculator, and preparing for a successful experience on the day of the test. In addition, two complete practice exams and access to digital resources through the companion mobile app are provided. The final chapter helpfully discusses how to use the GED after testing, taking the reader through practical steps from maintaining self-esteem to exploring new job opportunities.
Regional English Language Officer (RELO) Tim Collins, Ph.D., has worked in the field of education for more than 40 years. He has specialized in materials development for the GED test for more than 25 years and has helped countless learners prepare for and pass this life-changing test. He is currently posted in Kinshasa, where he supports English-language programming in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire) and 10 other countries: Congo-Brazzaville, Burundi, Rwanda, Gabon, Zambia, Malawi, Cameroon, Nigeria, Niger, and Equatorial Guinea. Collins previously served in Kyiv and Kazakhstan.
Dominique Narciso, Outskirts Press, 2020, $15.95/paperback, e-book available, 118 pages.
Based on the experience of overcoming personal and professional challenges as a Foreign Service spouse, Live Your New Story offers a guide for redefining success in varying environments. Dominique Narciso’s seven-step framework—reflect, explore, challenge your beliefs, grow, transform, thrive, and awaken—is designed to empower and motivate, while guiding individuals to embrace their life’s own seasons. “No matter what stage of life you are in, shifting your identity and reinventing yourself is a journey inward as much as it is a journey outward,” says Narciso, who describes herself as a “recovering perfectionist” and is a certified high-performance coach.
Dominique Narciso is the founder of the Narciso Kim Group and host of the podcast “The Positive Success Show.” She specializes in coaching diplomats, entrepreneurs, social innovators, and other professionals and has lived and worked in Costa Rica, Venezuela, Peru, Indonesia, South Korea, California, and Washington, D.C. She now resides in Seoul with her wife and daughters.
Noelle Ojo, independently published, 2022, $24.99/paperback, e-book available, 170 pages.
The word “Blaxit”—a play on the term “Brexit”—describes the migration of Black people to Africa to escape racism or uncover their roots. In this guide, author and experienced Africa hand Noelle Ojo takes readers through the process of successfully relocating to sub-Saharan Africa.
The guide offers tips on deciding where to move, finding employment and housing once you arrive, staying safe, and adapting culturally to your new location. “If you show up without a plan and a solid footing,” writes Ojo, “there is a good chance you will be packing up your belongings and heading right back home within a matter of months.” She encourages readers to consider everything from the broad question of “why” they want to make this move to the more specific “how”—how to budget for the journey is an important early step.
USAID Foreign Service Officer Noelle Ojo is currently the division chief for development programming and partnership in USAID’s Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility. She has lived in Kenya, Nigeria, Cameroon, Senegal, and Ghana over the past 20 years, both as a young single woman and as a married mother of two. The book contains a “bonus” section on making the move with children.
Brandon Possin, Gramedia Pustaka Utama, 2020, $34.99/paperback, e-book available, 74 pages.
Like many tongues, the Indonesian language has more layers than meet the eye because of the combined influences of Javanese, English, Arabic, Sundanese, Chinese dialects, and modern Indonesian social media. Mastering the most useful, if not the most proper, terminology and phrasing is critical for anyone seeking to communicate effectively, and this pursuit steers Brandon Possin’s Maksud Lo? A Guide to the “Real” Indonesian Language. His manual for speaking “everyday Indonesian” helps the reader understand the definitions, purpose, and principles behind slang in order to “let visitors make deeper connections” with native speakers and avoid confusion or being perceived as baku, or “too stiff.”
FSO Brandon Possin is currently a health, space, bioeconomy, technology officer posted to Embassy Tokyo. Prior to that, he served in the Venezuela Affairs Unit at Embassy Bogotá, coordinating humanitarian aid delivery to Venezuela. A Wisconsin native, he joined the Foreign Service in 2008 and has served in Argentina, Pakistan, and Indonesia. He became a dedicated student supporter of Indonesian culture following his experiences with the tradition of gotong royong, or “mutual self-help,” on his travels throughout that country. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book go to BASAbali, an Indonesian organization educating underprivileged children in local resource conservation, as well as Orangutan Foundation International, a bilateral nonprofit dedicated to conserving rainforest habitat in Kalimantan.
Dave Sliter and Karen Sliter, Paradise Point Press, 2022, $14.99/hardcover, print only, 78 pages.
For almost 40 years, Captain Dave Sliter has been entertaining the tourists who visit Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, on the shore of Lake Superior in Upper Michigan. After years of pointing out the area’s unique rock formations from the helm of his boat, he decided to collaborate with his wife, Karen Sliter, a retired Foreign Service officer, to compile a guidebook of facts and photos about the region. This guide will entertain those who have visited this stunning area and remember it fondly; it might also encourage new visitors to explore the area. The authors give pointers for staying safe while kayaking in Lake Superior, share photos of the area’s numerous caves, and offer suggestions for where to kennel your pets if you decide to join a boat cruise and take in the sites from offshore.
Dave Sliter is a boat captain with Pictured Rock Cruises. He is married to Karen Sliter, DVM, a veterinarian and diplomat who, with her husband, four daughters, and numerous cats, horses, and dogs, served in the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s Foreign Service for nearly 30 years. Dr. Sliter retired from APHIS in 2021 as a Career Minister.
When sharing or linking to FSJ articles online, which we welcome and encourage, please be sure to cite the magazine (The Foreign Service Journal) and the month and year of publication. Please check the permissions page for further details.