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

Notes on a Foreign Country: An American Abroad in a Post-American World

Suzy Hansen left her country and moved to Istanbul and discovered AmericaIn the wake of the September 11 attacks and the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Suzy Hansen, who grew up in an insular conservative town in New Jersey, was enjoying early success as a journalist for a high-profile New York newspaper. Increasingly, though, the disconnect between the chaos of world events an...

Title:Notes on a Foreign Country: An American Abroad in a Post-American World
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:0374280045
Edition Language:English
Number of Pages:288 pages

Notes on a Foreign Country: An American Abroad in a Post-American World Reviews

  • B. Cheng

    While I would definitely recommend this book, I'm very conflicted about it. There is a lot that I loved, mostly focused on the parts that are a travelouge of the author's time in Turkey. The part about her being seen as a potential "spy" or "CIA" also amused me as a longterm expat who sometimes hears that from local friends or those I come across.

    What I didn't like about the book was when she goes forth and moralizes or faces her own white girl/USA privilege. Her complaints about American lack o

    While I would definitely recommend this book, I'm very conflicted about it. There is a lot that I loved, mostly focused on the parts that are a travelouge of the author's time in Turkey. The part about her being seen as a potential "spy" or "CIA" also amused me as a longterm expat who sometimes hears that from local friends or those I come across.

    What I didn't like about the book was when she goes forth and moralizes or faces her own white girl/USA privilege. Her complaints about American lack of knowledge of the wider world isn't something in any way unique to Americans. I know that my background and school quality isn't par for the course in the US, but many of these things she talks about are things that were covered in high school, or at least touched on.

    That leads me to where the conflict comes in. She does make some excellent points that a lot of Americans need to hear, but in the current stratified world we live in, this book is just going to be preaching to the choir, instead of being read by those Americans who most need to read it.

  • Dana DesJardins

    No doubt my rating is skewed by reading this in Istanbul, where I can see proof of Hansen's assertions about the effects of American imperialism all around me. She uses James Baldwin's astute, pellucid writing to establish a paradigm about American "innocence," the willed blindness that allows US citizens not to know who Mossadegh was, even as our tax dollars unseated that democratically elected leader of Iran and ushered in decades of terror, fundamentalism, and economic devastation throughout

    No doubt my rating is skewed by reading this in Istanbul, where I can see proof of Hansen's assertions about the effects of American imperialism all around me. She uses James Baldwin's astute, pellucid writing to establish a paradigm about American "innocence," the willed blindness that allows US citizens not to know who Mossadegh was, even as our tax dollars unseated that democratically elected leader of Iran and ushered in decades of terror, fundamentalism, and economic devastation throughout the Middle East. Hansen extends Baldwin's analysis of structural racism in the US to explain why Americans equate progress and modernity with consumerism, without seeing its human, cultural, and environmental costs.

    Hansen dissects capitalism and Cold War rivalries in not only Turkey, but also Greece and Iran, as well as enumerating the dictators we've propped up in Central and South America, refuting even the benevolence of the Marshall Plan. While none of this is new information to weary students of imperialism, the catalogue of destruction, from mining disasters through coups to torture makes daunting reading.

    Thankfully Baldwin, whose insights are so instructive about how Americans frame cultures we fear as "others" in need of control and debasement, also offers a chilly hope. He lived in Istanbul on and off for ten years, finding in the warmth of the Turkish people an acceptance that eluded him even in Paris and New York. He counsels us all to acknowledge our pasts, bear witness to suffering, and ultimately love as much and as many as we can. "I have to be hopeful," he said to an interviewer, "because I'm alive." A veteran of ten years of reporting in the region including Afghanistan, Hansen herself experiences the pragmatic generosity of Istanbullus when she lives through first the crackdown at Gezi Park and then the coup attempt of 2016. Rather than railing at her for being an American, the grocers from whom she buys water and cigarettes to see her through the uncertainty of the coup give her advice and tell her to take care of herself. They know that while countries as a whole can be monsters, individual people can be neighbors, and we all have to live together. Reading this book will open some people's eyes, confirm the heart-breaking skepticism of others, and attest to the value of admitting what we don't know.

  • Sandy

    Tore through this in a day when I ought to have been working on my own writing. Hansen beautifully blends a travelogue/capsule history of Turkey (and its relationship to the USA) with her own loss of innocence/ignorance about America's heavy cultural and political boot-print in the world.

    Hansen was a successful NYC-based journalist who won a fellowship to live and research abroad. She picked Turkey for an idiosyncratic but ultimately very resonant reason: because she had once stumbled across th

    Tore through this in a day when I ought to have been working on my own writing. Hansen beautifully blends a travelogue/capsule history of Turkey (and its relationship to the USA) with her own loss of innocence/ignorance about America's heavy cultural and political boot-print in the world.

    Hansen was a successful NYC-based journalist who won a fellowship to live and research abroad. She picked Turkey for an idiosyncratic but ultimately very resonant reason: because she had once stumbled across the fact that James Baldwin had lived there and had claimed to be more comfortable as a black, gay man in Istanbul than he'd ever been at home in the US.

    As Americans in the Trump era have now entered a heightened, event violent stage of national self-definition--I'm writing this one week after the alt-right rally in Charlottesville--this is the kind of book we desperately need. We should all hope to hear from more Suzy Hansens: Americans brave enough to deconstruct the patriotic/nationalistic myths we've grown up with and see ourselves the way the rest of the world sees us.

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