June 21, 2010

Summer Reading

Emergency Sex (And Other Desperate Measures): True Stories from a War Zone
by Kenneth Cain, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomson

My next choice for summer reading was significantly different. This book is a meaty, intense read, far from the light fare so many pick for a beach or camp book. That said, read it immediately.

This memoir from three perspectives details a decade of service in the Red Cross and United Nations. The authors are deployed in Cambodia, Haiti, Bosnia, Rwanda, Somalia, and Liberia with stopovers in New York throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. They are young, attractive, clever, and hopeful in Cambodia, there to help democracy reach the oppressed masses. Thrown into situations they don't fully understand and surrounded by the luxury and excitement of being a liberated and comparatively rich white civilian in a tropical paradise. They are naive, idealistic, adventurous and excited, and it is beautiful. Heady by their success, they keep their positions with the UN and seek deployment in the newly developing wars across the world.

Of course, as they face genocide, hatred, and corruption, each of the authors must reexamine their own motivations and positions. Their perspectives, while immersed in the chaos in each of the above nations, reveals the failures and poor choices of the US and UN leaders, the fallibility of individuals on either side, but also those glorious moments of pure and noble humanity so starkly exposed against the horrors.

Regardless of how thorough your history of the 1990s is, this well written set of vignettes and essays will give you an entirely new way to look at the involvement of the UN and US in developing situations around the world then and, in all likelihood, now.

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