In Their Own Write

We are pleased to present this year’s collection of new books by members of the Foreign Service community and their families.

Davide Bonazzi

The Foreign Service Journal is pleased to present our 22nd 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, is 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 47, down from 62 last year. 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 and we can add it to next year’s collection. We accept submissions for the November FSJ all year, by mail or email to

For inclusion, books must be available for purchase. Please note that we use publisher list prices as of press time.

Also note: Inclusion of a book in this collection does not imply endorsement by the American Foreign Service Association or the FSJ. AFSA welcomes the opportunity to share the news of books published by members of the FS community but does not vouch for the contents of the books.

Further: We feature only one book by each author, chosen by the author, and list other titles in the author note.

This year, in addition to six works of history or biography and five books on policy and issues, we have 12 memoirs, 19 works of fiction, and two volumes of poetry. Another three titles under “Potpourri” include a book on birding in Brazil.

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 assembled by Publications Coordinator Hannah Harari and written by Associate Editor Donna Gorman.

—Shawn Dorman, Editor in Chief


Spanish Connections: My Diplomatic Journey from Venezuela to Equatorial Guinea

Mark L. Asquino, independently published, 2023, $19.99/paperback, e-book available, 350 pages.

Growing up, Mark Asquino was fascinated by his mom’s tale of an uncle who may—or may not—have fought and died in the Spanish Civil War. This fascination led to a lifelong interest in all things Spanish and an eventual, almost accidental, career as a Foreign Service officer with the U.S. Information Agency.

Asquino’s memoir, Spanish Connections, tells the tale of his roundabout road into the Foreign Service, which he joined in 1978 after completing his Ph.D. and serving as a Fulbright lecturer in Spain. He covers the pain of passing the exam and languishing on the hiring list, surviving A-100, and convincing his mom that his new career path in the “foreign legion” wasn’t as dangerous as she imagined after watching the 1952 spy thriller “Diplomatic Courier.”

During his three decades in the Foreign Service, Asquino served in Latin America, Europe, Central Asia, and Africa, capping off his career as ambassador to Spanish-speaking Equatorial Guinea. He writes about going through a divorce while serving in Madrid, attending the funeral of a Kazakh contact who was assassinated, seeking medical care for a sick parent from overseas, and dealing with his own spiral into depression that needed to be treated medically while he was in Russian language training. All these stories are woven into tales of his work and colleagues at each post.

Ambassador Mark Asquino retired in 2015. He and his wife, Jane, live in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he is president of Global Santa Fe.


Kept: An American Househusband in Paris

Gregory E. Buford, Moontower Press, 2022, $11.99/paperback, e-book available, 240 pages.

In this follow-up to his first memoir, An American Househusband in India, author Gregory Buford lands in Paris with his three children and his wife, Foreign Service Officer Dana Williams. But before he can get there, he first needs to survive life as a stay-at-home dad in Arlington, Virginia, and a series of disastrous job interviews with the CIA.

In what may be a first for the State Department, his wife convinces the embassy to allow Buford and the kids to travel to post ahead of her. Much hilarity ensues as he tries to enroll kids in school, navigate the grocery store, and complete all the other tasks of an FS spouse with limited French.

Gregory Buford is also the author of Making Ghosts Dance (2017), which was both a Montaigne Medal and Eric Hoffer Award finalist, and Kept: An American Househusband in India (2018). He currently lives in Turkmenistan, where he’s working on a memoir of his time in Cambodia and a novel set in Austin, Texas. A Texas native, Buford has lived in the Dominican Republic, Japan, India, France, Cambodia, and Switzerland.


Africa, You Have a Friend in Washington: An American Diplomat’s Adventures in Sub-Saharan Africa

Herman J. Cohen, New Academia Publishing/VELLUM, 2023, $24.00/paperback, print only, 142 pages.

After being sworn into the Foreign Service in July 1955, Herman Cohen immediately failed his French language exam. Twice. He was then sent to Paris for his first assignment and given one final opportunity to pass the language exam or face separation from the Service. He passed and went on to spend 38 years in the Foreign Service.

In his memoir, a volume in the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training’s Memoirs and Occasional Papers series, Cohen offers a fascinating insider’s perspective on the political and cultural changes taking place across the African continent in the 1960s.

He recalls joining the newly organized Bureau of African Affairs just as 35 British and French colonies were becoming independent countries. Cohen helped create a new embassy in Kampala before moving on to the racially segregated city of Salisbury in Southern Rhodesia, where, as the regional labor officer, he worked with separate Black and white labor unions.

As a senior officer, Cohen had numerous interactions with department leadership. He writes about meeting with Secretaries of State James Baker and George Shultz, along with various African leaders. He also writes about his 1984 assignment as principal deputy assistant secretary for personnel, when he negotiated with AFSA leadership to resolve employee grievances and had to make difficult decisions regarding curtailments and other matters.

During his time in the Foreign Service, Herman Cohen served in France, Uganda, Southern Rhodesia, Zambia, Zaire, and Washington, D.C., before becoming U.S. ambassador to Senegal and The Gambia. Among other high-level positions related to Africa, he served as assistant secretary of State for African affairs from 1989 to 1993. He retired in 1994 with the rank of Career Ambassador and is now president and CEO of Cohen and Woods International. He received the 2019 AFSA Award for Lifetime Contributions to American Diplomacy and is also the author of The Mind of the African Strongman: Conversations with Dictators, Statesmen, and Father Figures (2015) and US Policy Toward Africa: Eight Decades of Realpolitik (2020).


Learning Diplomacy: An Oral History

Luigi R. Einaudi, independently published, 2023, $26.99/paperback, e-book available, 686 pages.

The Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training (ADST) has the largest collection of U.S. diplomatic oral history, covering the stories of known and not-so-known diplomats alike. ADST interviewed retired FSO Luigi Einaudi beginning in 2013; Learning Diplomacy: An Oral History is the compilation of those interviews.

The story begins with Einaudi’s birth in 1936 and covers his education, military experience, and professional experience, including as a Foreign Service officer. The story gives an insider’s view of the work of the policy planning staff in the 1970s under then–Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and in the 1990s during Warren Christopher’s tenure as Secretary.

It covers events that occurred during Einaudi’s tenure with the State Department, including the Peru-Ecuador War, border conflicts in Central America, the 1973 Chilean coup, and more. He also discusses the future of the department, saying it needs the resources to enable personnel floats that allow time for training and education.

Luigi Einaudi joined the Foreign Service as a reserve officer in 1974, after a decade at the RAND Corporation. His 23-year career culminated in service as the U.S. special envoy to the peace talks between Ecuador and Peru in 1998. He served twice on the Secretary of State’s policy planning staff and was director of policy planning for inter-American affairs (1977-1989) and ambassador to the Organization of American States (1989-1993). In 2000 Einaudi was elected assistant secretary general of the OAS and later served as acting secretary general (2004-2005). He is also the author of Beyond Cuba: Latin America Takes Charge of Its Future (1974) and other works.


My Two Centuries in Africa (Book One): Epic Fights, Long Flights, Mosquito Bites

Carl William Henn, independently published, 2023, $24.99/paperback, e-book available, 200 pages.

As a child in Indiana, Carl William Henn longed to do something exciting. He got his chance in 1981, when he joined the Peace Corps and moved to Morocco. He fell in love with Africa and ended up spending most of his career on the continent, working primarily as a public health specialist. The first volume of a two-part memoir, this book covers 1980 to 2000, and the second covers the 21st century.

Henn briefly recounts his childhood before moving on to his tour in Marrakesh, where the Peace Corps assigned him to work at a home for boys whose bodies were ravaged by polio. From there, after a stint in the U.S. with his new Moroccan wife, he joined a nonprofit in Burkina Faso. The author’s conversational style draws the reader in as he details slaughtering sheep after converting to Islam for his wife, letting his young children sit on a crocodile in Burkina Faso, and working to destigmatize HIV-AIDS in West Africa. In the process, he offers his unique and insightful views on varioius experiences in Africa.

After facing a devastating personal loss, Henn joined USAID and returned to Africa, first to Zimbabwe. He was then assigned to Zambia from 2004 to 2010 to work on HIV-AIDS prevention and treatment, as well as drought relief and refugee feeding, and later served in Burundi, from 2018 to 2019.


A Professional Foreigner: Life in Diplomacy

Edward Marks, Potomac Books, 2023, $34.95/hardcover, e-book available, 304 pages.

Edward Marks spent 40 years in the Foreign Service, serving primarily in Africa and Asia from 1959 to 2001, including assignments as ambassador to Guinea-Bissau and Cabo Verde. He admits that during his long career, he “always seemed to be at the opposite end of the [African] continent from the hottest developments,” but no matter—even his most mundane recollections are compelling in the retelling.

In A Professional Foreigner, Marks describes life as an American diplomat in a mostly bygone era. He writes about his accidental discovery of and application into the Foreign Service as a Jewish college student from Detroit, talks about getting into trouble at a Georgetown bar one night during A-100, and gives just enough details about life in the Service back then to keep present-day FS members riveted. (Fun fact: Corridor reputation was important even a half century ago.)

Yet he also manages to explain what diplomacy is, going back to the start of the Foreign Service in a way that will bring in the newbies without boring those who have been around awhile.

Marks shares what it was like to be a participant on the fringes of some of the century’s biggest historical moments: he was at U.N. headquarters in New York when the Cold War ended, and he served in Africa during the decolonization era. But he also includes a tale of rescuing an American citizen from a “house of ill repute” in Mexico and writes of buying and restoring an old Jaguar sedan in Sri Lanka.

A former FSJ Editorial Board member and chair, Ambassador Marks contributes to various periodicals and is the author of Complex Emergencies: Bureaucratic Arrangements in the U.N. Secretariat (1996) and co-author of U.S. Government Counterterrorism: A Guide to Who Does What (2012) and U.S. Counterterrorism: From Nixon to Trump—Key Challenges, Issues, and Responses (2017). He writes, speaks, and consults widely, mostly with the Department of Defense.


Memoirs from Overseas and Back

Carol Mathia, Proteus Press, 2023, $9.99/e-book, 789 pages.

Carol Mathia started writing Memoirs from Overseas and Back as one chapter in the book Let Your Light Shine, a collection of stories about female educators who were born before 1950. Mathia quickly realized that her life as a Foreign Service spouse had given her enough material to fill an entire book.

Memoirs from Overseas and Back starts with Mathia’s childhood as a twin sister from a working-class Catholic family in Indiana before pivoting to college—which included a year abroad in Spain—and marriage to Bob Mathia, who became a USAID economics officer in 1971. The couple’s first assignment was to Tegucigalpa, where Mathia made the critical faux pax of neglecting to wear nylons to a ladies luncheon. This and other tales of life as a spouse in the 1970s and 1980s are sure to entertain.

Mathia spent 23 years as a Foreign Service spouse, working as an educator throughout. She, her husband, and two daughters were posted to Honduras, Panama (twice), Pakistan, and the Dominican Republic. She returned to the United States in 1993 and continued to work as an educator in Indiana. In 2021 Mathia took part in an oral history project for spouses of Foreign Service employees through the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training.


Washington Heights – Muskoka: A Bicultural Upbringing

Bob McCarthy, independently published, 2023, $14.50/paperback, e-book available, 270 pages.

In the introduction to Washington Heights – Muskoka: A Bicultural Upbringing, Bob McCarthy acknowledges that his life doesn’t readily lend itself to writing a memoir: There were no dramatic events, disasters, or shifts of fate to give his story a true narrative arc. And yet, he writes, “there should be a space for the average guy” to write down his life. McCarthy then gets down to business, writing his “love letter” to the two places he called home before he joined the Foreign Service: the bustling Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City and the quiet Canadian lake town, Muskoka, where he spent summers with his mother’s family.

Thanks to the free Russian-language classes offered by Fordham University during the Cold War, the author developed an interest in Russian while in high school, which led to his eventual career in the Foreign Service, with several assignments to Eastern Europe and Russia. Anyone interested in what life was like for a kid in New York in the 1950s will be charmed by this book, as well as anyone interested in what diplomats do.

Bob McCarthy joined the State Department in 1973 and served in Belgrade, Budapest, Moscow (twice), Podgorica, and St. Petersburg. He retired from the Foreign Service in 2002. Washington Heights – Muskoka is his first book.


From American Diplomat to Diplomatic Educator: Building Global Bridges to Understanding

Richard W. Mueller, Arlington Hall Press, 2023, $18.99/paperback, e-book available, 355 pages.

During his 32-year career as a Foreign Service officer, Richard Mueller worked for Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, and James Baker. In this memoir, a volume in the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training’s Memoirs and Occasional Papers series, Mueller writes about his experiences with these men, giving a personal spin on decades of global foreign policy.

He also writes about serving at the U.S. embassy in Saigon during the Vietnam War, at the United States Liaison Office in Beijing in the 1970s before the establishment of a formal embassy, and as the highest-ranking U.S. diplomat in Hong Kong before it returned to Chinese control. The book is intended to give average Americans insight into the inner workings of the State Department’s global network of embassies and other missions.

The book also covers Mueller’s second career after he retired from the Foreign Service in 1998. As the title of the book suggests, Mueller moved into the field of education, becoming the head of school first at Northfield Mount Hermon School in Massachusetts and later at Hong Kong International School and Shanghai American School. Mueller explains the connections he sees between diplomacy and education, as both fields work to “build bridges to understanding among diverse countries and peoples.”

Richard Mueller and his wife, Claire, live in Golden, Colorado.


Paths I Have Walked

Jo Ann Fuson Staples, FriesenPress, 2023, $29.99/paperback, e-book available, 378 pages.

From a childhood of poverty and abuse in the mountains of southeastern Kentucky, Jo Ann Fuson Staples grew up to travel the world as a Foreign Service spouse. In Paths I Have Walked, Staples tells the story of that journey.

The story is deeply personal, covering her mother’s murder at the hands of an abusive spouse and her own troubled relationships, including with a man suspected by the FBI of being skyjacker D.B. Cooper. While on a flight to visit the D.B. Cooper suspect in prison, she met George Staples. The two were married, and she encouraged him to apply for the U.S. Foreign Service. Their first posting together was in the 1980s in El Salvador, where the author details daily life as an FS spouse. She also shares experiences from their life at their other posts, before going on to describe her life in retirement, which includes an attack by a grizzly bear in Alaska.

Jo Ann Fuson Staples is married to Ambassador (ret.) George Staples, who served as the Director General of the Foreign Service from 2006 to 2007. As a 26-year Foreign Service spouse, she was assigned to San Salvador, Montevideo, Malabo, Nassau, Harare, Manama, Kigali, Yaoundé, and Mons.


Tell the Truth … Until They Don’t Like What You Have to Say: The Abridged Testimonial of a US Constitutional Oath-Taking US Department of State Survivor

Michelle L. Stefanick, Trine Day, 2023, $24.95/paperback, e-book available, 480 pages.

On Aug. 7, 1998, Michelle Stefanick was serving as the Financial Management Center director at U.S. Embassy Nairobi when terrorists set off a truck bomb outside the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. She was traveling regionally in Kenya on the day of the attack that killed many of her colleagues, yet the experience profoundly affected her. She began to suspect a conspiracy involving numerous officials throughout the government, including in the State Department, the FBI, the military, and elsewhere. This book represents her attempt to convince others of her theories.

Michelle Stefanick joined the Foreign Service as a financial management officer and served in Cameroon, Kenya, Russia, Sudan, Germany, and Washington, D.C., before resigning in 2013.


La Dolce Italia: Tasty Food, Amazing Travels, and the Sweet Life, Vol. Red

Mikkela Thompson, Blurb, 2023, $22.00/paperback, e-book available, 124 pages.

In this third volume of her La Dolce Italia trilogy, Mikkela Thompson details the foods she found in various cities and towns across Italy. She also offers her perspective on Italian people and culture, and provides lists of seasonal fruits and vegetables by month. Part memoir, part travelogue, the book lays out Thompson’s favorite restaurants and shops in Amalfi, Sicily, Umbria, and elsewhere. She recalls her favorite restaurants, coffee shops, and beaches. She even includes a chapter on Parmesan cheese production.

Mikkela Thompson joined the Foreign Service as an office management specialist in 2011. She has served in Dhaka; Bogotá; and as an OMS rover out of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Caracas, Nassau, Vancouver, Santo Domingo, and Port of Spain. She has also worked at the Family Liaison Office and the American Foreign Service Association. As the child of an FSO, Mikkela lived in Denmark, England, Finland, Korea, Sweden, and the United States. She is currently assigned to eDiplomacy, where her job is to help her colleagues with technology and knowledge management.



A Legacy of America’s Global Volunteerism: International Voluntary Services, 1953-2002

Edited by Gary Alex, Mike Chilton, and Frederic C. Benson, Peace Corps Writers, 2022, $20.00/paperback, e-book available, 370 pages.

From 1953 to 2002, more than 1,300 young people worked overseas for the International Voluntary Services (IVS), a precursor to the Peace Corps and other U.S. government volunteer programs. A Legacy of America’s Global Volunteerism tells the inside story of IVS, with former volunteers sharing both personal stories and the origins and structure of the program, along with lessons learned by its architects.

Volunteers write about the risks they faced, avoiding land mines, charging elephants, poisonous snakes, and gunfire. But they also discuss the success of their work teaching English and improving agricultural projects, translating for injured Northern Vietnamese soldiers, teaching metalworking techniques in Papua New Guinea, and preventing malnutrition in remote villages in India.

Many of the volunteers served in or near Vietnam during the Vietnam War, risking their lives as they went about their workdays. Others served in more stable yet still difficult environments, such as rural health clinics and villages without potable water. Some relate romances that led to marriage and children.

The collection is edited by three former USAID employees: Gary Alex was a Foreign Service officer from 1977 to 1996, serving in Bolivia, Nepal, Burma, Sri Lanka, and Washington, D.C. Originally from Iowa, Mike Chilton worked as a USAID contractor in Thailand and Vietnam from 1966 to 1975. Frederic Benson was a USAID contractor in Laos from 1970 to 1974.


Knights of Freedom: With the Hell on Wheels Armored Division in World War II, A Story in Photos

Fred C. Brems, with Fred G. Brems, Stackpole Books, forthcoming, $29.95/paperback, 320 pages.

In 1941, six months before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the author’s father—also named Fred Brems—was drafted into the U.S. Army and served as a tanker with the 2nd Armored Division, eventually rising to command a platoon and then a company of Sherman tanks. Along the way, he took more than 600 photos, and when he returned home after the war, he shared the stories behind the photos with his son.

The younger Fred Brems became a student of military history who never forgot his father’s stories or photos. He embarked on a project to digitally scan and enlarge the photos, and eventually decided to compile the digitized photos, as well as his dad’s stories, into a book. Students of World War II military history and fans of old photography will find a new and personal look at the era within the book’s pages.

Fred G. Brems is the spouse of retired USAID FSO Susan Brems. He and his spouse served in Lima, La Paz, Managua, and Manila. He has an M.A. from the University of Maryland and a B.S. from Georgetown University.


Missing in Mexico: A True Mystery

Robert Richard Downes, independently published, 2022, $14.95/paperback, e-book available, 279 pages.

In 1982 Robert Richard Downes was a first-tour consular officer serving in Mazatlán, Mexico, when a U.S. citizen, Professor Nicholas Schrock, was reported missing in Downes’ consular district. For the rest of his tour, Downes helped lead the search for Schrock. The search continued for years after Downes had moved to a new post, but Schrock was never found.

After he retired, Downes decided to write the story of the search for the professor. Missing in Mexico draws on his personal recollections as well as cables, letters, and newspaper articles from the time to show the behind-the-scenes work that went into the search. Downes writes that he wanted “to show a broader audience a series of events from the viewpoint of Foreign Service officers serving abroad and trying to protect American citizens.” It also gives a view of life at a consulate in the days before emails, cell phones, and desktop computers.

Robert Richard Downes is a retired Senior Foreign Service officer with the State Department. During a 37-year diplomatic career, he served overseas in Mazatlán, Stuttgart, Bangkok, Bonn, Berlin, Canberra, Caracas, and Managua. He currently lives in Texas.


The Extraordinary Leadership of Eleanor Roosevelt: Why It Matters Today

Emilio Iodice, independently published, 2023, $15.00/paperback, e-book available, 220 pages.

Former Foreign Service Officer Emilio Iodice is back with his newest book, this one on the life and leadership of Eleanor Roosevelt. In his opening disclaimer, Iodice notes that “parts of this work are fiction,” with various names, places, and events imagined by the author. He adds, though, that it reads more like a biography, with quoted material from those close to Roosevelt taken from the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Library.

Iodice was moved to write the book, he explains in an author’s note, because he believes that Roosevelt’s leadership and ideals were inspirational, and “a new generation needs Eleanor Roosevelt as a guide to know what to do in a time of conflict, contradictions, and anguish.”

Emilio Iodice served in Brazil, Mexico, Spain, and Italy before retiring from the Foreign Service in 1998. He 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.


Hobbes’s Creativity

James J. Hamilton, Palgrave Macmillan, 2023, $119.99/hardcover, e-book available, 271 pages.

In Hobbes’s Creativity, retired FSO James J. Hamilton examines the work of Thomas Hobbes, focusing on the effect of the philosopher’s environment and culture on his creative thinking and development.

Hamilton first studied Hobbes as a graduate student. But upon retiring from a 26-year Foreign Service career in 2006, and while casting about for a new hobby or interest, he discovered that research focused on Hobbes had expanded dramatically, and he decided to take a fresh look. Hamilton defines “creativity” before moving on to an overview of Hobbes’s upbringing, education, personality, and passions, all of which led the young philosopher to develop his ideas on political theory and what he called the “state of nature.”

James Hamilton joined the Foreign Service in 1979, serving in Porto Alegre, Lisbon, The Hague, Luanda, and at the U.S. Mission to International Organizations in Vienna over a 26-year career. He has a Ph.D. in political science from Columbia University and taught briefly at Purdue University in Indiana.


Imperfect Partners: The United States and Southeast Asia

Scot Marciel, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers/The Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, 2023, $39.95/paperback, e-book available, 560 pages.

Part memoir, part foreign policy explainer, Imperfect Partners begins in 1986, 10 months after author Scot Marciel moves to Manila to begin his first Foreign Service assignment. As he returns home from a date with his future wife, Marciel unwittingly drives through a protest that turns out to be the beginning of the Philippine People Power revolution.

From that inauspicious beginning, the writer goes on to serve 37 years in the Foreign Service, most of it in Southeast Asia. Imperfect Partners covers revolution in the Philippines, U.S.-Vietnam relationship building in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, postwar Cambodia, and other hot spots in U.S. foreign policy.

In his review of the book (October 2023 FSJ), Ambassador (ret.) Ted Osius notes: “Marciel provides an insider’s view of events while remaining scrupulous about history and evenhanded in his analysis. Rather than writing a memoir, Marciel chose to weave his insights into the story of recent diplomatic engagement in the region in which he spent most of [his career].”

This helps the book go beyond a mere academic viewpoint—what other policy handbook reflects on singing karaoke with the Indonesian defense minister on the margins of an ASEAN Regional Forum meeting?

Scot Marciel retired from the Foreign Service in 2022. He served as U.S. ambassador to Myanmar and Indonesia and was ambassador for ASEAN affairs. He also served as principal deputy assistant secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific affairs and in the Philippines, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Türkiye, and Brazil. Marciel is currently a fellow at Stanford University’s Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center and a senior adviser at BowerGroupAsia.



The Manager’s Workbook: Six Worksheets for the Evaluation Cycle

Virginia Blaser, independently published, 2022, $4.99/paperback, e-book available, 68 pages.

In an April 2023 Foreign Service Journal article, author Virginia Blaser writes: “During my three decades in the State Department, I saw how some extremely poor evaluation practices entrenched in our culture disadvantaged those who may not be strong writers, are not familiar with how to game the evaluation system, or who have supervisors who are not fully engaged in the evaluation process or poor writers themselves.”

Blaser’s attempt at a solution to this critical human resources problem can be found in The Manager’s Workbook: Six Worksheets for the Evaluation Cycle. This slim book—available online for free—helps new managers develop a system that works across the evaluation cycle. There are sections on onboarding new employees, creating a predictable system of check-ins, and, because every post is marked by yearly employee churn, a chapter on predeparture reviews.

With worksheets, questionnaires, and even a list of bonus questions to help trigger useful dialogue, Blaser’s book is a must-read for anyone thinking about the upcoming evaluation season.

During 34 years in the Foreign Service, Virginia Blaser served in Madrid, Brussels, London, San Salvador, Port Louis, Kampala, Dar es Salaam, Cape Town, and Washington, D.C., with four tours as a deputy chief of mission and principal officer. She was also a Presidential Rank Award recipient. Blaser retired in 2022 and lives in Cape Town.


The Everyday Feminist: The Key to Sustainable Social Impact Driving Movements We Need Now More Than Ever

Latanya Mapp Frett, Wiley, 2023, $28.00/hardcover, e-book available, 240 pages.

Latanya Mapp Frett defines “everyday feminists” as ordinary people who use their voice and personal resources to push for transformational social change within their communities. In this book, she shares compelling stories of some of the ordinary women with whom she worked throughout her career, introducing readers to little-known feminists and exploring how these women have been successful in their activism.

For example, while in law school, she studied in Nairobi, where she met a hairdresser whose salon doubled as a center for community debate and activism. The experience expanded Frett’s understanding of the ways and places in which activists could serve. From there, she met other women doing the same hard work throughout the global south and in the U.S., working first as a lawyer with the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, later as an FSO with USAID, and then as the executive director of Planned Parenthood Global.

Frett also offers actionable advice for social impact professionals in larger organizations—like USAID and the State Department—as well as for lawmakers, entrepreneurs, and nonprofit professionals looking to replicate the grassroots success of these women. With a foreword by Cecile Richards, former president of Planned Parenthood, this book is a must-read for anyone looking to make a difference in the lives of women around the world.

During a 10-year career with USAID, from 2001 to 2011, Latanya Mapp Frett was posted in Mali, Iraq, Nigeria, and Egypt. She is currently the president and CEO of Global Fund for Women. She also serves on the board of directors at Oxfam America and CHANGE, and is an adjunct professor at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.


Boots and Suits: Historical Cases and Contemporary Lessons in Military Diplomacy

Edited by Philip S. Kosnett, Marine Corps University Press, 2023, available (free) online:, 440 pages.

Edited by Ambassador (ret.) Philip Kosnett, Boots and Suits is a compilation of essays by nearly two dozen authors, from the U.S. and abroad, with wide-ranging experience in the military, the Foreign Service, academia, and other areas of international development. The authors discuss various aspects of military diplomacy, which they differentiate from both “military confrontation” and “diplomatic overtures.”

As retired FSO Robin Holzhauer notes in her FSJ review of Boots and Suits (September 2023), the book “offers valuable insights for military personnel, policymakers, students, and researchers interested in the military’s evolving role in diplomacy.”

State Department authors include Eugene Fishel, deputy director in the State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research; John Hennessey-Niland, former U.S. ambassador to Palau; retired Foreign Service Officer Yaropolk Taras Kulchyckyj; Ronald Neumann, a retired ambassador and Vietnam veteran; and FSOs Heather Steil, Alison Storsve, and Stallion Yang.

In part one, the history of military diplomacy is covered, with essays on the Ottoman Empire, the U.S. Confederacy, and the Carter and Reagan eras. Part two features contemporary challenges in Ukraine, Russia, China, and even the Netherlands. The final section offers “lessons from practitioners” about adapting to foreign cultures, bridging the military-civilian divide, and more.

Career FSO Philip Kosnett served as U.S. ambassador to Kosovo from 2018 to 2021. He also served as chargé d’affaires in Türkiye and Iceland, and deputy chief of mission in Uzbekistan, along with four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He retired in 2021 and lives in Black Mountain, North Carolina.


Forging the Nation: Land Struggles in Myanmar’s Transition Period

SiuSue Mark, University of Hawai‘i Press, 2023, $28.00/paperback, e-book available, 248 pages.

A military coup in Myanmar in February 2021 brought the country’s young democracy to a quick end, as the junta imprisoned the political opposition and deployed lethal force to stop dissent. But the coup’s leaders underestimated the degree to which ordinary citizens would fight back through civil disobedience and strikes.

In Forging the Nation, USAID Foreign Service Officer SiuSue Mark explains the role land ownership played in this struggle for power. Because Myanmar is an agriculture-based economy, land is “the ideal lens” through which to view the country’s political development in recent decades. Mark examines the connection between Myanmar’s democratic transition, ethnic politics, and global capital pressures on land to understand the role of land in political and economic transitions.

A political economist and development practitioner with two decades of experience across Asia and Latin America, SiuSue Mark joined USAID in January 2022 and is currently posted in Kazakhstan as a democracy and governance officer. Earlier she consulted with the World Bank and the United Nations in the governance of land and natural resources in transition and post-conflict settings. From 2008 to early 2019, she lived in Burma/Myanmar and was involved with its democratic transition.


China’s Relations with Africa: A New Era of Strategic Engagement

David H. Shinn and Joshua Eisenman, Columbia University Press, 2023, $35.00/paperback, e-book available, 504 pages.

China’s rising influence in Africa has prompted a great deal of concern and commentary in recent years. In their latest book-length collaboration, China’s Relations with Africa, retired FSO David Shinn and his co-author Joshua Eisenman cover the topic in detail.

Shinn and Eisenman look at the diplomatic tactics China has been using since 2012, when Xi Jinping became president of the People’s Republic of China, to strengthen relations with political and military leaders throughout Africa. The authors detail China’s expansion into the global south through arms sales, port calls, educational exchanges, and space cooperation. They close with a series of predictions about the future of China-Africa relations.

During a 37-year career in the Foreign Service, David Shinn served as ambassador to Burkina Faso (1987-1990) and Ethiopia (1996-1999). He also served in Lebanon, Kenya, Tanzania, Mauritania, Cameroon, and Sudan. Shinn teaches African studies at the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University and is a nonresident scholar at the Middle East Institute. Joshua Eisenman is an associate professor of politics at the Keough School of Global Affairs at the University of Notre Dame and senior fellow in China studies at the American Foreign Policy Council. Shinn and Eisenman also co-authored China and Africa: A Century of Engagement (2012).



Paris Gold: Ten Tales of Treasures Lost and Found

Judith Baroody, independently published, 2022, $9.99/paperback, e-book available, 227 pages.

In the introduction to her second collection of stories, Paris Gold: Ten Tales of Treasures Lost and Found, retired FSO Judith Baroody confesses that they are all “based in some way on real events or people.”

Many of the stories are set in places Baroody and her spouse were posted or visited, including Cyprus, Russia, Morocco, and Northern Virginia. Perhaps most memorably she tells of an art collector hiding from the mob, an American tourist who helps her Russian tour guide defect to the United States, and a town transformed when one of their own buys a winning lottery ticket but then refuses to come forward.

Judith Baroody started her career as a television reporter in Norfolk, Virginia, before joining the Foreign Service. As a public diplomacy officer from 1984 to 2011, she served in Damascus, Tel Aviv, Casablanca, Nicosia, Santiago, and Baghdad, with a final overseas posting as minister counselor for public affairs in Paris. She served on the editorial board of The Foreign Service Journal from 2011 to 2013 and taught at American University and the National War College. Baroody is also the author of Casablanca Blue (2020).


The Tea Merchant

Leena Bhatnagar, independently published, 2022, $14.99/paperback, e-book available, 417 pages.

Set in Boston in the weeks and months leading up to the 1773 Boston Tea Party, the precursor to the American Revolution, this novel by Leena Bhatnagar tells the story of a widowed tea merchant named Constance Pruitt who becomes a smuggler and spy for the Sons of Liberty. Hailing from a prominent family in New England, Constance is still mourning the death of her brother, whose murder three years prior remains unsolved.

At 400-plus pages, The Tea Merchant covers Constance’s fight for independence from her Loyalist parents, who want to see her remarried in London, and her struggle against the British East India Tea Company’s sinister plans for the colonies. Along the way she meets various men—including several from the company—who propose marriage. She also meets a mysterious housekeeper who works for a handsome company man while hiding secrets of her own. History buffs will be interested in the descriptions of events leading up to the Boston Tea Party in colonial Massachusetts.

Leena Bhatnagar is the daughter of Foreign Service Officer Alka Bhatnagar. She works as an economist at the U.S. Treasury Department and is a volunteer at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of American History.


Shadow of the West: A Story of Divided Berlin

Sarah Brotherhood Chapman, Black Rose Writing, 2023, $22.95/paperback, e-book available, 301 pages.

In her debut novel, third culture kid Sarah Brotherhood Chapman follows the happenings of Kate, a new girl at Berlin American High School, and Anika, an East German girl who finds herself in danger on the other side of the Berlin Wall. Foreign Service kids will warm to the story of being the new person on campus, trying to find friends and fit in. And any adults who remember serving in a divided Berlin before the wall fell will likely enjoy the author’s description of the city, its people, and the nightlife of the time.

The story is also accessible to those outside the Foreign Service, as the author finds ways to explain the work of diplomacy and the political situation of the time without interrupting the flow of the story. Although the book is billed as a young adult novel, there’s plenty for everyone as Kate looks for friends, love, and purpose in her new country.

The child of Foreign Service parents, Sarah Brotherhood Chapman grew up in Germany, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Holland, and the USSR, graduating from high school in West Berlin. After college, she lived and worked in Türkiye for three years before returning to the United States to work at National Geographic and Smithsonian Magazine. Chapman and her FSO husband have been posted in Kingston, Ankara, Istanbul, Athens, Geneva, Bangkok, and Rome. They are currently based in Munich.


Blow Up

Ellen Crosby, Severn House, 2023, $18.99/paperback, e-book available, 240 pages.

Blow Up is the third book in Crosby’s mystery series featuring international photojournalist and amateur sleuth Sophie Medina. The book opens with her husband’s mysterious death after he tries to complete a project on behalf of the CIA. As Sophie is trying to find out what happened, she goes for a run and finds Everett Townsend, a Supreme Court justice, lying in an alley, clinging to life. Soon Sophie is on the run, using her photos of Washington’s unhoused residents to uncover the secret that got Townsend killed.

In addition to this three-part series of thrillers centered on Sophie Medina—the first two being Multiple Exposure and Ghost Image (both re-released in 2022)—Crosby is the author of the stand-alone novel Moscow Nights (2000), which is based loosely on her time as a Moscow correspondent in the late 1980s. She has also published a series that takes place in Northern Virginia, the Wine Country Mysteries.

A former journalist, Ellen Crosby is married to André de Nesnera, a Foreign Service officer who retired from the Voice of America in 2015. The couple have lived in England, France, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, and the former Soviet Union. They now reside in Northern Virginia.


The Last Violinist

Kenneth Dekleva, independently published, 2023, $11.99/paperback, e-book available, 192 pages.

In this sequel to The Negotiator’s Cross, which was featured in the FSJ’s 2022 roundup, protagonist Jong-un is a gifted North Korean violinist whose talent takes him out of his homeland and into love—and trouble—in South Korea, Austria, Russia, and elsewhere.

Jong-un is drawn into a web of espionage and diplomacy before he embraces his faith in God and discovers where he truly belongs. Several characters from the first novel, including Father Ismael and a legendary CIA station chief known as the Musician, make an appearance in this sequel.

Kenneth Dekleva was a regional medical officer/psychiatrist with the State Department from 2002 to 2016, serving in Moscow, Mexico City, New Delhi, Vienna, and London. Now a practicing psychiatrist in Dallas, Dekleva is also a senior fellow at the George H.W. Bush Foundation for U.S.-China Relations and a professor and director of psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.


The Exile’s Promise: Burden of the Banished, Book One

Elizabeth A. Drysdale, Stag Beetle Books, 2023, $13.99/paperback, e-book available, 322 pages.

Like all humans in this young adult novel, Mariel has been banished from land by the evil Faes and is resigned to a life at sea, where she collects and incinerates human garbage alongside her dad, brothers, and friend Ry. But when her brother disappears during a storm, she suspects he may not be dead and decides she must search for him on land, where she risks capture and execution by the Faes.

Once on land, Mariel is discovered by a Fae captain who suspects she may be human but decides to trust her. The two travel to the capital together, and Mariel gets involved in a rebellion started by her missing brother. Can she find him before the Faes hunt her down?

This is the third novel by Elizabeth Drysdale, 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 (2020), was a Swoony Award finalist. She resides in a small town in northern Utah with her husband and three sons.


Murder in the Pacific: A Jake Maguire FBI Mystery

Fritz Galt, independently published, 2022, $14.99/paperback, e-book available, 188 pages.

Special Agent Jake Maguire has taken a break from his work as an FBI agent to go on a honeymoon in Hawai‘i with his new bride, sexy journalist Amber Jones Maguire. But when Jake goes out for a morning run, he stumbles across a crime scene: A U.S. Marine from the nearby military base has been murdered while out surfing. Jake and Amber are soon pulled away from their vacation and into the murder investigation. They begin to learn about island surf culture as they work to uncover a murderous white supremacist group within the military. Murder in the Pacific is the fourth installment in a series.

Foreign Service spouse Fritz Galt, who co-founded Tales from a Small Planet ( in 1999, has also written a series of thrillers featuring protagonist Mick Pierce. Galt and his wife, Foreign Service Officer Jennifer Zimdahl Galt, have been posted in Belgrade, Taipei, Mumbai, Beijing, Shanghai, Brussels, Guangzhou, Honolulu, and Ulaanbaatar, where his wife served as U.S. ambassador to Mongolia. They currently live in Washington, D.C., where Galt is hard at work on his next book.


Finding Kony

Robert E. Gribbin, independently published, 2022, $15.99/paperback, e-book available, 267 pages.

Set in Uganda in the early years of the 21st century, the novel Finding Kony traces the quest of Paul Simmons, a Black man from Alabama with a degree in journalism, to find Joseph Kony. Kony was the real-life leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (which terrorized Ugandans, murdering civilians and abducting children) from 1987 until his disappearance in the 1990s somewhere along the border between South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Central African Republic. In this work of fiction, Simmons is determined to locate Kony and discover his motives in becoming a killer.

Having spent most of his adult life and career in Africa, author Robert Gribbin ably explains the politics and fighting that led to Kony’s rise, capture, and subsequent disappearance as he follows the protagonist on his journey.

Ambassador (ret.) Robert Gribbin served in the State Department Foreign Service for 35 years, including postings in 15 African countries and on delegations to the U.N. General Assembly and U.N. Human Rights Commission. He was the U.S. ambassador to Rwanda (1996-1999) and the Central African Republic (1993-1995). Gribbin also wrote The Last Rhino (2020), which takes place in the Congo, and The Serpent of the Nile (2021), an adventure story set in South Sudan.


Burying the Pawn

Jonathan Kaufman, River Grove Books, 2023, $22.95/paperback, e-book available, 430 pages.

Burying the Pawn follows its main characters across time, frequently skipping between decades in Venezuela, Florida, and North Carolina, as it tells the stories of Zeb Ackerman, an adventure tour operator stymied by attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; Black immigrant Kiara Battle, an educational psychologist with anger issues who struggled with learning disorders and racism as a child; and Leo Bello, a Venezuelan-born financier who grew up in poverty but became a success after immigrating to the United States.

Zeb’s business has been sabotaged by angry rivals, while Kiara, his elementary school crush, is trying to become a better person and doctor. Leo’s support could help them both, but a partnership between the three seems unlikely, as both Zeb and Kiara have reason to dislike him—Leo publicly humiliated Zeb and rejected Kiara’s romantic overtures.

The author’s first novel, Burying the Pawn shines a compelling light on the challenges of individuals with learning differences. Proceeds from the book benefit Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities and the University of North Carolina Learning Center.

Jonathan Kaufman, whose father, Robert, was a Foreign Service officer from 1959 to 1980, grew up in Washington, D.C., Paris, Brussels, and London. He holds a B.A. and an MBA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.



Lydia Kiesling, Crooked Media Reads, 2023, $28.00/hardcover, e-book available, 368 pages.

In her second novel, author and former Foreign Service kid Lydia Kiesling tells the story of Bunny Glenn, an American teen who, at the start of the novel, is living in Azerbaijan with her FS family. Her father’s job exposes her to some of the behind-the-scenes machinations of the oil and gas business in the time leading up to the global war on terrorism. Bunny grows up and accidentally, apathetically, finds her own career in the oil industry, where she struggles with the ethics of her work. Traveling across the globe, she matures and struggles to find purpose in her adult life. Scenes dealing with divorce in the Foreign Service and its effects on the left-behind spouse are particularly poignant.

Lydia Kiesling is the daughter of former Foreign Service Officer John Brady Kiesling, who resigned from the Service in 2003 because of his opposition to the war in Iraq. As a child, she was posted with her family to Tel Aviv, Casablanca, Yerevan, and Athens. Kiesling’s first novel, The Golden State, was named one of NPR’s best books of 2018. The Portland, Oregon–based writer has a degree from Hamilton College.


The Pomegranate Peace

Rashmee Roshan Lall, Quercus, 2022, $3.99/e-book, 320 pages.

The Pomegranate Peace takes place on the U.S. embassy compound in Kabul shortly after the embassy is attacked in September 2011. The protagonist feels as though she is trapped in a prison, unable to leave the compound for security reasons. When her Afghan colleague, Najim, begins sharing food from home, she finally begins to feel as though she is experiencing Afghanistan. And as she becomes familiar with American programs and actions, she begins to see U.S. efforts to stabilize the country as absurd.

The new edition of this wry account of the U.S. engagement in Afghanistan, and the first in print, was released recently in India in paperback and is available in the U.S. as an e-book.

Rashmee Roshan Lall is a journalist and the spouse of retired Foreign Service Officer Michael Macy. She began her career with The Times of India in Delhi and later moved into broadcasting with the BBC World Service in London, where she met Macy. The couple served together in India, Haiti, Tunisia, and Afghanistan. Roshan Lall has written for numerous publications, including The Guardian, The Economist, and The New York Times. Holding an M.A. in creative writing and a Ph.D. in creative writing/critical research, both from the University of East Anglia, she is a lecturer in journalism at Goldsmiths, University of London, and writes This Week, Those Books.


Ivan and Phoebe

Oksana Lutsyshyna, translated by Nina Murray, Deep Vellum Publishing, 2023, $26.95/hardcover, e-book available, 425 pages.

Ivan and Phoebe are a young, married couple who were active as students in the Ukrainian independence movement of the 1990s. The story moves between small-town Uzhgorod, where Ivan grew up in a traditional family, and the big cities of Kyiv and Lviv, where the protests took place. Ivan and Phoebe grapple with the trauma of surviving the revolution—Ivan refuses to talk about his torture at the hands of the KGB, while Phoebe uses poetry to describe her experience.

Oksana Lutsyshyna, a Ukrainian author and poet who teaches at the University of Texas at Austin, was awarded the Lviv City of Literature UNESCO Prize and the Taras Shevchenko National Prize in fiction, two of the most prestigious literary awards in Ukraine, for this book.

Her research interests center on the issue of metropolitan modernity and Central and Eastern European identity in literature. She has also written a collection of poetry.

Translator Nina Murray is a Foreign Service officer and an award-winning poet. She won the 2021 Ukrainian Institute London Prize for Ukrainian Literature in Translation and is the author of five collections of poetry, including her most recent, Glapthorn Circular: A Gleaner's Journal. Murray served in Vilnius, Toronto, and Moscow before becoming director of the Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Arts Envoy Program in Washington, D.C. She has been on leave since 2021.


Lady Joanna’s Bed

Rebecca Nugent, independently published, 2023, $15.99/paperback, e-book available, 373 pages.

When her Aunt Alexandra dies, Sandy Morgan inherits the entire estate—including a mysterious antique bed hidden in a secret room of her aunt’s home. Sandy and her childhood friend, Kella, take turns in the bed, where they dream of sexual encounters with men from other times and places. As the dreams become more realistic, Sandy works to uncover the mystery behind the magical bed. She and Kella travel to long-ago Iceland, Denmark, Ireland, and elsewhere, experiencing “amazing nights of passion and romance” in the secret room.

Rebecca Nugent is the spouse of retired Foreign Service Officer Allen Nugent. She and her husband were posted to Rangoon, Asunción, Guangzhou, Canberra, Bangkok, and U.S. Embassy Koror in Airai, Palau. Lady Joanna’s Bed is Nugent’s third novel but her first romance work. She lives and writes in South Carolina.


Caleb Johnson Mountain Man: For Hearth and Home: A Frontier Western Adventure

Charles Ray, independently published, 2023, $8.99/paperback, e-book available, 104 pages.

Charles Ray is back with another book in his Caleb Johnson Mountain Man series. This time Caleb, Flora, and their furry sidekicks, Dog and Snuffy, are planning to go hunting near the Colorado–Wyoming border. Along the way they encounter two bad guys who are shooting buffalo and beating up an unarmed stranger. Caleb steps in to stop the mischief, and that’s when he learns about a nearby community being threatened by a rancher looking to drive the settlers off their land. Caleb’s crew heads into town to put a stop to the rancher’s plans.

This book is just one of several published by Charles Ray in recent years. He is the author of numerous mysteries and Western series, as well as several leadership books. Ray served for 20 years in the U.S. Army and then 30 years in the U.S. Foreign Service, including as U.S. ambassador to Cambodia and Zimbabwe, before retiring in 2012 and beginning a new career as an author.


Cold Peace: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift, Part I

Helena P. Schrader, Cross Seas Press, 2023, $23.95/paperback, e-book available, 516 pages.

Cold Peace is the first book of an intended trilogy about the Berlin Airlift, the Soviet-imposed blockade on the western sector of Berlin in 1948. Western governments either needed to withdraw from Berlin or find another way to support the 2 million civilians living in what came to be West Berlin, and they made the risky decision to deliver food and fuel by air.

Author Helena Schrader lived in Germany for 26 years, earning a Ph.D. in history from the University of Hamburg before becoming a Foreign Service officer in 2005. When commissioned by the History Press to write a book on the Berlin Airlift for the 60th anniversary, she began interviewing eyewitnesses to the event who lived in Berlin and the U.K., which inspired her to write a novel (or three) about the airlift. This first part covers the period from 1947 until the blockage in June 1948. It is intended to introduce all of the main characters and give readers a feel for what it was like to live in postwar Berlin.

Retiring from the U.S. Foreign Service in 2018, Helena Schrader now writes full-time from an island in Greece. As an FSO, she spent most of her career in Europe and Africa. Her last post was as an economic officer in Addis Ababa. She has published 18 historical novels; Grounded Eagles (2021), an anthology of three novellas set during World War II; and a nonfiction book, The Holy Land in the Era of the Crusades: Kingdoms at the Crossroads of Civilizations, 1100-1300 (2022).


Beautiful in Death

Caroline Taylor, Tuxtails Publishing, 2023, $16.99/paperback, e-book available, 290 pages.

When Roxy Halstead finds business partner Mandy dead in the office, she knows she’s going to be a suspect—not only did she dislike the lying, cheating Mandy, but Roxy has her own secret past, including a dishonorable discharge from the U.S. Army, that would interest the police. But then Roxy’s brother is murdered; she knows she needs help. She turns to Kane Llewelyn, a fit and handsome musician who lives in her building.

The story unfolds in a flurry of hidden flash drives, insulin overdoses, and armed intruders. Meanwhile, Roxy finds herself falling for Kane—if only his music weren’t so terrible.

Caroline Taylor was in the Foreign Service from 1969 to 1972 as a secretary in Tel Aviv and Quito. She has since written numerous mysteries, including her most recent, The Killer’s Stepsister, The Pit Road War, and Juror Number 10 (all published in 2023). A member of Mystery Writers of America, Taylor lives in North Carolina.


The Damascus Affair

Shawn Tenbrink, Scoutswell, 2023, $12.99/paperback, e-book available, 217 pages.

Dubbed Shawn Tenbrink’s “debut novel,” this book reads much more like a memoir. Tenbrink’s protagonist is also named Shawn, and like the author, the character is a Foreign Service officer whose first overseas assignment is to Damascus, just after the start of the Arab Spring.

The novel elucidates what embassy life is like in a country embroiled in civil war, where the host government is at odds with the U.S. He describes everyday life, from learning to navigate traffic circles to meeting with the ambassador. Tenbrink also describes how Shawn falls in love with a Syrian woman, Amal, before ending on a cliffhanger: He departs Damascus as the violence heats up, leaving Amal behind and leaving the reader to wonder what will become of their relationship as Syria collapses.

An active-duty political officer with the State Department, Shawn Tenbrink joined the Foreign Service in 2010. He has served in Damascus, Muscat, and twice in Beirut. Currently the political and economic chief at the U.S. consulate in Casablanca, Tenbrink was also a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco from 2006 to 2008.


Mañana Is Yesterday

Irving Tragen, independently published, 2023, $9.95/paperback, e-book available, 370 pages.

At 100 years old, retired Foreign Service Officer Irving Tragen embarked on a new challenge: writing his first novel. Mañana Is Yesterday tells the story of Leona, a woman from a wealthy Salvadorean family whose silence during a critical political meeting will move her country backward, unleashing a series of development errors. The story delves into Leona’s childhood as she searches for a way to confront powerful relatives and fix her mistake.

Irving Tragen worked at the State Department and USAID for 33 years and spent another 14 at the Organization of American States, including nearly a decade as the executive director of the Inter-American Drug Commission. During his career, Tragen worked in all 33 Latin American and Caribbean countries, focusing on development and the fight against drug trafficking. Tragen holds a B.A. and a J.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. His autobiography, Two Lifetimes as One: Ele and Me and the Foreign Service, was spotlighted in The Foreign Service Journal in October 2019.


Best Served Cold

David P. Wagner, Poisoned Pen Press, 2023, $16.99/paperback, e-book available, 256 pages.

American Rick Montoya, an interpreter living in Rome, is working on a translation for a police case involving the mafia when an old college friend calls out of the blue. The friend, now a priest, is in Italy for a religious tour of Assisi, but the tour guide has gone missing. Rick agrees to meet his friend and help lead the tour.

But when the tour guide is found dead, Rick finds himself helping the local police interview the rich and entitled tour group members—could one of them be the murderer?

David Wagner is a retired Foreign Service officer who spent nine years and three tours in Italy, never realizing that he was researching his future mystery novels. Other diplomatic assignments included Brazil, Ecuador, Uruguay, and Washington, D.C. He and his wife, Mary, live in Pueblo, Colorado.


Life’s Journey: The Poetry of Life, Love, and Beyond

Sherman L. Grandy, independently published, 2023, $18.99/paperback, e-book available, 125 pages.

Foreign Service Officer Sherman Grandy has spent the past five decades writing poetry from wherever he’s been in the world. He was inspired to start after a chance encounter with a stranger in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in 1972, and continued to write through marriage, children, and new overseas posts. His wife, Kate, also contributed several poems to the collection. The poems are mostly spiritual in nature—Grandy is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who began his overseas journey with a two-year church mission in Brazil.

Sherman Grandy joined the Foreign Service in 2001 and served in Seoul, Baqubah, Baghdad, Islamabad, Manila, and Lagos before retiring in 2019. He is currently a consular fellow in Recife, Brazil. Grandy holds a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University and master’s degrees from Yale and the National Intelligence University.


Tagore’s Gitanjali: A New Translation with the Bengali Originals and the Tagore Translations

Prasenjit Gupta, Parabaas, 2023, $24.95/hardcover, print only, 300 pages.

The original Gitanjali, a collection of poems by Rabindranath Tagore, was published in Bengali in 1910. Tagore himself translated 53 of the original poems into English in 1912, and while he received the Nobel Prize for Literature for his translation of the collection, some critics noted that his translations were not always accurate.

In 2023, retired FSO Prasenjit Gupta published a new translation of the poems alongside the original poems and their original translations. Gupta also includes an afterword about the ethics of translation, arguing that “for a translation from a formerly colonized people’s language, such as Bengali, into the language of the former colonizer, English, it is a significant question whether the translator identifies as a member of the colonizing people or the colonized.” He calls his translation of Gitanjali “an act of political resistance.”

Prasenjit Gupta retired from the State Department in 2021 after serving in Chennai, Belfast, Colombo, Hong Kong, Kolkata, and New Delhi. He won a Fulbright Award in 1998 for his translations of Nirmal Verma’s fiction and a U.S. National Endowment for the Arts fellowship for his translations of Ashapurna Debi’s fiction. He holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a Ph.D. in comparative literature from the University of Iowa.



Letters and Such…

Raymond Malley, Xlibris, 2022, $16.99/paperback, e-book available, 198 pages.

Since retiring from the Foreign Service in 1983, Raymond Malley has been a prolific author—not just of books (this is his fourth)—but of letters to various editors, from the Valley News of Lebanon, New Hampshire, to The Foreign Service Journal, and beyond. In this book, he collects letters, both published and unpublished, along with other written pieces from throughout his career.

The collection includes a February 2012 missive, “Dems Not Taking Advantage of Bush Mistakes,” another from 2015 about military bands, and several that were originally published in the FSJ, including “Merge USAID Fully into State” (November 2009). He devotes an entire section of the collection to letters on diplomacy, with another focused on foreign assistance, and still another on the military. The topics are wide-ranging: A 2017 letter asks of Afghanistan: “Do we really have to be forever engaged at great cost in a forlorn country halfway around the world to protect ourselves?” A 2018 letter questions the decision to create the U.S. Space Force.

Senior Foreign Service Officer Raymond Malley spent 23 years with the U.S. Agency for International Development, serving mainly in Asian and African countries. After retiring from the Foreign Service, he held executive positions with a global Korean industrial manufacturing group. His previous book, Cold Waters: My Ship Adventures in the Arctic, Antarctica, and North Atlantic, was included in the November 2018 FSJ’s In Their Own Write compilation. Malley and his wife, Josette, who retired from the World Bank, live in Hanover, New Hampshire, where they write, lecture, and teach part-time.


Birding Brazil

Scott Rauland, Blurb, 2022, $88.08/hardcover, e-book available, 48 pages.

This slim e-book catalogs many birds unique to each of Brazil’s six biomes, including the Amazon rainforest and the Pantanal, the world’s largest wetland area. Brazil is home to more than 1,800 species of birds, but their important habitat is being destroyed by human activities in the region. Author Scott Rauland was able to photograph more than 800 species of birds during numerous trips throughout Brazil; this book features 100 of those species divided into chapters devoted to each of Brazil’s biomes.

Scott Rauland spent 27 years with the U.S. Information Service and the State Department, serving in Baku, Berlin, Islamabad, Quito, Yekaterinburg, Frankfurt, Kabul, Kuala Lumpur, and Minsk before retiring in 2020 and following his spouse, Foreign Service Officer Frances Rauland, to Brasilia. Rauland spent his first two years of retirement studying and photographing the birds of Brazil. He and his spouse are currently based in Geneva.


Integrating Evidence-Based Mental Health Practice in Hawai‘i for New Practitioners

Edited by Marta Garrett, Allan Berg, and Richard Roberts, BookBaby, 2023, $99.00/paperback, print only, 400 pages.

This text is intended to give mental health practitioners based in Hawai‘i a better understanding of evidencebased practice and clinical outcome research that will guide them as they begin clinical work serving the culturally diverse clients in the state. It is intended for both students and new practitioners looking to better understand the unique cultural aspects of practicing in Hawai‘i.

One of the book’s three main editors, Richard M. Roberts, is the deputy cultural affairs officer and the American presence officer at the U.S. embassy in Brasilia. Since joining the State Department in 2006, he has served in Niamey, Tokyo, Seoul, Naha, and Brasilia. Before joining the Foreign Service, Roberts taught psychology for the University of Maryland Global Campus in Europe and Asia. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Memphis. Roberts has also co-authored three books on adult language learning, cross-cultural communication, and the relationship between language and aging.

Profits from the sale of this book are donated to the graduate student organization in the psychology department at Hawai‘i Pacific University.