Notes on a Foreign Country : An American Abroad in a Post-American World
by Hansen, Suzy

1 First Time East: Turkey
2 Finding Engin: Turkey
3 A Cold War Mind: America and the World
4 Benevolent Interventions: Greece and Turkey
5 Money and Military Coups: The Arab World and Turkey
6 Little Americas: Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Turkey
7 American Dreams: America, Iran, and Turkey

A contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine describes how her post-9-11 move to Istanbul has taught her a great deal about the region's culture, history and politics, but also how it taught her a great deal about America.

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

*Starred Review* Americans are taught that they are exceptional, brave, and fearless. Hansen's must-read book makes the argument that Americans, specifically white Americans, are decades overdue in examining and accepting their country's imperial identity. In 2007, journalist Hansen won a fellowship to live abroad and chose Turkey because American author James Baldwin wrote he felt more like himself, a gay, black man living in the 1960s, in Istanbul than New York. How could that be? Hansen's argument goes beyond the factual assertion that Americans are ignorant of the country's long, complicated, invasive histories with many other countries around the world. She makes the paradigm-breaking claim that what Americans are taught about their national and personal identities disallows the very acquisition of this knowledge. When a mine collapses in the Turkish city Soma and she asks for the cause, she's stunned that people want to talk about American foreign policy from the 1950s. Only after years of living in Turkey can Hansen frame interview questions with an awareness of her American biases. Hansen builds her winning argument by combining personal examination and observation with geopolitical history lessons. She is a fearless patriot, and this is a book for the brave. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

A journalist questions the notion of American exceptionalism.When New York Times Magazine contributing writer Hansen arrived in Turkey in 2007 on a research fellowship, she harbored a deep faith in America's "inherent goodness, as well as in my country's Western way of living, and perhaps in my own inherent, God-given, Christian-American goodness as well." She assumed that any nation's move toward modernity "in the American sense" meant progress. Growing up in suburban New Jersey, where international geography had been cut from the school curriculum, she knew little about the world; even as an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania, she hardly noticed international events. Living in a "zone of miraculous neutrality" about her country's role in foreign affairs, she naively and complacently believed America to have "uniquely benevolent intentions toward the peoples of the world." That view changed dramatically as she traveled through the Middle East, reading history an d political analysis and conducting many interviews in Turkey, Afghanistan, Greece, Egypt, Iraq, and Iran. She discovered that fear of "communism, Islamism, or any other enemyism of the United States" led America to foster military dictatorships rather than risk the outcomes of democratic elections. Talking with Egyptian dissidents and Muslim Brothers, for example, Hansen learned of the corruption, torture, and repression resulting from American efforts to undermine Egypt with the aim of gaining power in the Arab world. She concludes that keeping Americans unaware about global issues has served such efforts, unleashed hatred abroad, and contributed to the rise of Donald Trump. Examining her own identity as an observer and writer forms a recurring theme: was she endorsing America's penchant for denial if she wrote about a foreign country without fully understanding its history, including America's role? Hansen offers a heartfelt plea for empathy and a recognition of "the real i ties of millions of people," but honing a sophisticated global perspective seems far more complicated than she acknowledges here. A mostly illuminating literary debut that shows how Americans' ignorance about the world has made turmoil and terrorism possible. Copyright Kirkus 2017 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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