Book Reviews

Sky Burial: An Epic Love Story of Tibet

Author: Xinran

Nan A. Talese (July 19, 2005)

From the Book Cover:

It was 1994 when Xinran, a journalist and the author of The Good Women of China received a telephone call asking her to travel four hours to meet an oddly dressed women who had just crossed the border from Tibet into China. Xinran made the trip and met the woman, called Shu Wen, who recounted the story of her thirty-year odyssey in the vast landscape of Tibet.

Shu Wen and her husband had been married for only a few months in the 1950s when he joined the Chinese army and was sent to Tibet for the purpose of unification of the two countries. Shortly after he left she was notified that he had been killed, although no details were given. Determined to find the truth, Shu Wen joined a militia unit going to the Tibetan north, where she meets a sick Tibetan woman also seeking her lover. Shu Wen along with the Tibetan worman become separated from the regiment. Without supplies and knowledge of the language, they wandered, trying to find their way until, on the brink of death, they are rescued by a family of nomads under whose protection she moved from place to place with the season. Shu Wen eventually comes to discover the details of her husband's death.

Review by Ro Leaphart

Two women, each from a different culture, find their lives and quests inextricably woven together. Each seeks to find their lost love. Their quests and journeys transcend the political chaos during and after the Chinese army seeks to liberate Tibet. As with all tales from Tibet, the journey more than the destination leads to truth and enlightenment.

I recommend this book to anyone seeking a different perspective on Tibetian/Chinese relations.

(12/2005 rml)


Bel Canto

Author: Ann Patchett

Harper Collins, June 2001 (note month!)

Interview with Ann Patchett

PS by Ann Patchett

Somewhere in South America, at the home of the country's vice president, a lavish birthday party is being held in honor of the powerful businessman Mr. Hosokawa. Roxanne Coss, opera's most revered soprano, has mesmerized the international guests with her singing. It is a perfect evening -- until a band of gunwielding terrorists takes the entire party hostage. But what begins as a panicked, life-threatening scenario slowly evolves into something quite different, a moment of great beauty, as terrorists and hostages forge unexpected bonds and people from different continents become compatriots, intimate friends, and lovers.

Review by Ro Leaphart

Possibly the most controversial work of fiction in the post 9/11 era! Humanity. Equality. Liberty. Ideals lost, demanded, and expounded. Ideals exquisitely realized for a brief moment, because of a highly under rated ideal... Beauty. In our possessive, capitalistic 21st century world, Beauty is not valued. Yet Bel Canto summons the power of Beauty and gives it tribute!

Then Beauty fades. In the harsh light of day, the dream disappears. The vision slips as the mind awakens. And so, Bel Canto ends at the moment of Reality.

Our recent collective American experience only remembers the Reality. What about the Chezchen children held hostage? Couldn't their kidnappers see the Beauty in these children's faces? Why can't everyone find Beauty in the face of a child? Yet that is the dilemna... Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

This is the conflict of the post 9/11 American reader of Bel Canto. It seems impossible that Beauty (even for a moment) could humanize a terrorist or heal a hostage. And if Beauty can, where is the Beauty in our world that will galvinize cultures? Where is the Beauty that will heal the anguish and pain tormenting the terrorists and the victims alike? Can common ground be experienced as Beauty? Can we possibly believe there is Beauty that can be perceived by all that will calm and unify the world...even for a minute?

Ann Patchett, thank you, for creating a moment of beauty that transcends all disagreement, all suffering. If only our world were a place where Beauty thrived!

Let us remember we are all one. Let us remember that we each suffer. Let us remember we are not alone. Let us seek peace and resolution. Let us seek and find Beauty every day. Let us share the Beauty with another. Make it be so.

(7/2005 rml)


The End of Oil: On the Edge of a Perilous New World

Author: Paul Roberts

Mariner Books, 2004
NPR Interview with Paul Roberts

From the Publisher:

You live in this world. You use oil. You must read this book.

The situation is alarming and irrefutable: within thirty years, even by conservative estimates, we will have burned our way through most of the oil that is readily available to us. Already, the costly side effects of dependence on fossil fuel are taking their toll. Even as oil-related conflict threatens entire nations, individual consumers are suffering from higher prices at the gas pump, rising health problems, and the grim prospect of long-term environmental damage. In this frank and balanced investigation, Paul Roberts offers a timely wake-up call. He talks to both oil optimists and oil pessimists, delves deep into the economics and politics of oil, and considers the promises and pitfalls of alternatives such as wind power, hybrid cars, and hydrogen. A new afterword brings the book up to the minute. Brisk, immediate, and accessible, this is essential reading for anyone who uses oil, which is to say every one of us.

Reviewer: R. Hutchinson "autonomeus" at Amazon:

Paul Roberts has put together a piece of reporting to do his profession proud. This is not just a book about oil, it covers energy as a whole. You can quibble with this or that detail (and I will), but this is an excellent introduction, the best single book on energy now available for ordinary citizens.

Roberts synthesizes the information he gathers superbly. The viewpoint he conveys is more optimistic than Heinberg's excellent THE PARTY'S OVER (see my review) but more urgent and pessimistic than Economist reporter Vaitheeswaran's POWER TO THE PEOPLE (see my review). Roberts has no utopian libertarian illusions about business, but realizes that business is inevitably going to be part of the solutions that emerge, and so he gives careful thought to the role of corporations and industries.

Review by Ro Leaphart:

Lucid. Reasonable. Constructive. Paul Roberts elegantly outlines the past, present and future of oil and civilization. He outlines the pros and cons of alternatives, and the prospects of doing nothing. Science, politics and big corporate interests wrestle with our future. Developing tigers increase energy consumption without consideration of environmental impacts. The US administration knowing the majority of Americans would rather pay less for a gas guzzling vehicle and pay more in fuel costs over time fail to pass new emission standards that could help our environment. And with the US not setting the standard, how can we ask lesser developing countries to implement clean air acts and not use oil.

Paul Roberts states all of this and more. He gave me hope. If our politicians listen to his voice, they will find a measured way to find alternative energy resources, wean Americans off of oil (without going cold turkey), and help to stabilize a world gone mad over oil.

I recommend this book to everyone. It is the best book I've read in years. I'll probably read it again as soon as I get my copy back!



The Coffee Trader

Author: David Liss

A Ballentine Book, Random House, 2003
More Info

From the Book Cover:

Amsterdam 1659: On the worlds' first commodities exchange, fortunes are won and lost in an instant. Miguel Lienzo, a sharp-witted trader in a close-knit community of Portugeuese Jews, knows this only too well. Once among the city's most envied merchants, Miguel has suddenly lost everything. Now, improverished and humiliated, living in his younger brother's canal-flooded basement, Miguel must find a way to restore his wealth and reputation.

Miguel enters into a partnership with a seductive Dutch woman who offers him one last chance at success: a daring plot to corner the market of an astonishing new commodity called "coffee".

Review by Ro Leaphart:

If you are fascinated by trade and by history, this book will captivate you. David Liss reveals the interworkings of the Dutch Exchange in the 1600's, which was the precursor to our present stock, futures and commodities trading arena. The cultural merger of the orient with the northern Europe peppers the novel with insights about the flawed existence of all mankind.



Searching for El Dorado

Author: Marc Herman

Vintage Departures, Random House, 2003
(Non-fiction; travel/adventure)

From the Book Cover:

The real land of El Dorado, deep in the Amazon rainforest, is a far cry from the mythical city of gold: though its soil could potentially yield billions of dollars, Guyana is a nation of “gilded paupers,” one of the very poorest countries in the western hemisphere.

In this adventure-filled narrative, journalist Marc Herman takes us down a supply road in a limping cargo truck, treks into a muggy and muddy mine on foot, and soars above the forest canopy in a skittering plane. He falls in with a rowdy crew of gold miners who measure manliness by the number of times they’ve had malaria, and wear their life savings in the form of oversized rings and huge gold necklaces. He also penetrates the corporate façade of international strip-mining operations, which despite tremendous technological and political power have failed to alleivate the area’s poverty. Searching for El Dorado is an eyeopening look at the scandals, the business, the mythology of gold—reaveling a fascinating, contradictory part of the world and of the human psyche. (from

Review by Ro Leaphart:

One night late in November, I wandered down to a local bookstore, Spellbinding Tales in Alameda, to hear Marc Herman talk about his book, Searching for El Dorado. Outside a sharp cold wind blew leaves from the trees. Inside the furnace sent a blast of heat up the stairs to an overheated loft area creating an environment similiar to a sultry day in Guyana.

With the temperature in line with the topic, Marc openly talked about how he had fled the northeast after a blizzard to find a warm place. He found that place in Guyana, along with a story to tell, a story as old as history, the story of man's quest for gold.

From new friendships and hard travels to meetings with reluctant and forthcoming corporate and government officials, Marc's tale is fascinating and enlightening. I highly recommend this book to anyone with a passion for the road less travelled and to those interested in journalistic reporting that is deeper than mainstream.



Grass Roof, Tin Roof

Author: Dao Strom

Book Format: Paperback
No. of Pages: 231 pages
ISBN: 0006531113
Publication Date: 2003 by Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston/NY
Publisher Info on Book and Author, including an interview with the Author

Review by: Ro Leaphart

I read fiction and non-fiction books to satisfy my arm chair traveller's desires. First I am in one geographical region and then I move to another. Recently I found myself travelling to Vietnam. First one book, then a movie and then another book and another.

The first book on this arm chair flight was Grass Roof, Tin Roof by Dao Strom who was born in Vietnam and raised as a Californian. The novel is autobiographical in tone, if not in events.

Beginning in Vietnam, we follow a strong minded, independent female Vietnamese journalist during the late war years. She loves to write. She raises two children; and as the war threatens to over take Saigon, she faces the challenge of leaving Vietnam when it is no longer a safe place for them.

Once in the U.S., the novel changes in tone. The story is now told from the perspective of the children. One voice is dominate: the girl who left Vietnam as an infant. She does not know the mother who was the strong, independent woman in Vietnam. Collectively, the children only see a woman struggling to make a way for them; a woman no longer in control of her environment, no longer on solid ground. They watch her struggle with a new language, struggle with letting go of day to day habits that are no longer suitable, and compromise her inclinations to be perceived as American.

Soon after their arrival in the US, the mother marries a Danish man who is also struggling to find his identity in America. He does not quite fit any mold: Danish, European or American. Cultures collide and merge. West meets East in America. They move to the country (foothills of California). They live an isolated life. What is significantly different about this first generation American tale, is the removal of all that is Vietnamese.

It is only at the end after their mother has died, that they have significant contact with their Vietnamese relatives. Those in L.A. who have kept to the Vietnamese imigrant community have kept language and custom alive. Those relatives visited in Vietnam are the like roots of a flowering vine: hidden, unknown, different, needed, supportive. And the American children, they are the flowers: rare, new, bright and frail.

I highly recommend this book to those who wish to see another perspective of growing up American. Some may find the second half muddled by the change of voices (from one child to the next). In the end, one strong voice appears... with opinions and passions very much like her mother's.


Editorial Reviews

One difficulty of novels with multiple stories and points of view is that readers can become attached to an especially charismatic character and not want to relinquish him or her. So it is with Grass Roof, Tin Roof, Dao Strom's thoughtful and adept debut. The book begins in Vietnam on the verge of the Communist takeover and describes the dangerous career in political journalism of Than, a young woman whose real aim had been to write a romantic serial inspired by Gone with the Wind. Than's lover and mentor, a mysterious figure named Giang, has been signing his own articles with her name, and eventually, although the words are rarely hers, Than acquires the manner and confidence of an investigative reporter. When the newspapers are shut down, and Than gives birth to Giang's illegitimate daughter, she has little choice but to leave for America. Another writer would stop the tale at this crucial transition, but Strom's novel is not a simple love story set against brutality and oppression. Like a vine, her narrative twists and pushes forward, flowering at unexpected points. The American portions of Grass Roof, Tin Roof are as well sustained, if not as vividly hued, as the opening. If we regret the shift in focus away from the engaging Than, we are soon enough drawn into the lives of Than's children and their Danish-born stepfather.

Dao Strom, like the child of Than and Giang, was born in Saigon to a literary mother and brought to America as an infant during the 1975 exodus. With a sagacity that belies her youth, she evokes the divided mind of the refugee and the child of two cultures. --Regina Marler

From Publishers Weekly

Strom's debut novel traces a Vietnamese family's bumpy path to immigration and assimilation in California. Trinh Ahn Tran is a freethinking Saigon journalist in the 1970s-one of few such women-known for witty columns that critique all sides of Vietnamese politics. Interrogated and increasingly harassed by the government, Tran flees Saigon with her two children in a 1975 airlift. In California, she marries a condescending, authoritarian Danish immigrant, Hus Madsen, who frightens and alienates... read more

Book Description

In this stunning novel about a Vietnamese family resettling in the isolation of California gold country, Dao Strom investigates the myth of westward progress and the consequences of cultural displacement.

Told from multiple perspectives and interwoven with the intimate reflections of a middle child, Grass Roof, Tin Roof begins with the story of Tran, a Vietnamese writer facing government persecution, who flees her homeland during the exodus of 1975 and brings her two children to the West. Here she marries a Danish American man who has survived a different war. He promises understanding and guidance, but the psychic consequences of his past soon hinder his relationships with the family. The children, for whom the war is now a distant shadow, struggle to understand the world around them on their own terms. VIn delicate, innovative prose, Strom's characters experience the collision of cultures and the spiritual aftermath of war on the most visceral level. Grass Roof, Tin Roof is a beautiful work of profundity and empathy, powerful emotion and rare insight.


The Coming Storm: Extreme Weather and Our Terrifying Future

Author: Bob Reiss

Hardcover: 323 pages ; Dimensions (in inches): 1.06 x 9.72 x 6.44
Publisher: Hyperion; (September 5, 2001)
ISBN: 0786866659

Reviewer: Ro Leaphart (7/2/2004)

I know, I know. This is not the book that was the basis for the scary diaster film, "The Day After Tomorrow". This is a better book. Bob Reiss, a reporter, reports what he sees and knows. He combines weather events, disease, science reports, and political maneuvers. He makes links that may or may not be correct. The book is an easy read for those who want more than pseudoscience, but are not ready to dive into the analysis of CO2 in ice cores as revealed by Paul Mayewski in his book "The Ice Chronicles" (also a great book, with lots of photos and diagrams).

From Publishers Weekly

Don't be fooled by the similarity between the title of this new book by journalist Reiss and The Coming Global Superstorm by Art Bell and Whitley Strieber. The books have little in common beyond the broad conclusion that the increased atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases, resulting from human activity, threatens to unleash extremes of weather and climate never seen on earth in the history of our species. Many have found that Bell and Strieber embraced both science and pseudo-science equally. In contrast, Reiss writes in the urgent yet reasoned voice of a person sounding an alarm while there is still time to act. Tracing both scientific and policy debates year by year from 1988 through 2000, he recounts the drama of deadly winter storms, wildfires, droughts, floods, hurricanes, killer heat waves, melting glaciers and thinning polar icecaps, while relating the parallel stories of scientists, politicians, lobbyists and industrialists and their clashing views in the face of mounting evidence and conflicting national interests. As Reiss describes it, the worst human disasters of this new century may result not only from storms in the geophysical climate but also from crises in the geopolitical one. It's time for the world to make plans if only we can agree what to plan for.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Reviewer: Karen Sadler, Science education, University of Pittsburgh from Freedom, Pa. USA

Bob Reiss was and still is a reporter. The way he writes has a lot to do with that. Over the past few years there have been an incredible surge of non-fiction books written by reporters on natural phenomena and the impact of man (or the interference of man). Many of these books have been written by reporters, and they have been excellent. This is another book to add to the list.

Like Reiss indicates there are many who have noticed strange weather patterns, and I am one of the many people who have noticed the changes in weather. Living in Western PA, we are on the very edge of the Tornado Alley, and we usually don't get a lot of tornadoes over the years, but we've had extremely strange weather. Droughts for three years, no snow when you can look at historical pictures of Pittsburgh having loads of snow (albeit dirty from the steel mills). The past few years have seen increases in what are called 'microbursts', which cannot be followed by any known means of radar.

I am not a die-hard environmentalist. I am probably the most aware person who is geared that way in my family, because I love nature, forests, and the wonderful wildlife that goes with this. There are many things that this book is making me think about changing including making my house more energy efficient.

This book is actually a very fast read for those who have an interest and training in biological and weather phenomena. It should also be required reading for those in politics. It's extremely scary the world we are leaving our kids and our grandkids, and we need to start as Americans to require our politicians to pay attention to global warming and the strange weather that goes with it. As it is, I vote for Bush Jr. this last time, but I am sorely inclined to vote against him because of the total lack of concern for the environment that he shows (as well as some other things).

This book is also interesting in giving the readers an introduction into the way politics shapes national and international policy not only concerning global warming, but things like AIDS, relief for some countries and not others, etc. I get very, very tired of the input of politicians into areas that they know nothing about, and that they don't even try to learn about. They just spout whatever they are told by those who funnel the money to them.

I thought this was an incredibly intelligent book, with an interesting format. The stories of extreme weather conditions are mesmerizing.


El Amor En Los Timepos Del Colera / Love in the Time of Cholera

Author: Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Paperback: 348 pages ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.75 x 8.25 x 5.25

Publisher: Penguin USA (Paper); Reprint edition (November 1994)

ISBN: 0140119906

Can the sweet passion of the first love last a life time? And what is love? What is time? This work poses questions and does not force answers. Written in a languid prose that steams with the heat of human emotion, desire and loss.


The Story of Zahra

Author: Hanan al-Shaykh

Paperback: 224 pages ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.64 x 7.99 x 5.23

Publisher: Anchor; (December 15, 1996)

ISBN: 0385472064

An Interview with Hanan al-Shaykh, More on Hanan al-Shaykh

From Publishers Weekly

Banned in several Arab nations, this rich tale mesmerizes with its frank sexuality and scenes of war-torn Beirut. Zahra is a misfit mistreated by her mother, who brings her along to secret meetings with a lover, and by her father, a harsh disciplinarian who reacts angrily to her habit of picking at her pimpled face. She leaves her parents to stay with an uncle who has fled to Africa to escape being arrested for political activity. When his affection for her grows sexual, Zahra agrees to an unsuccessful marriage with his friend Majed. Eventually, she returns to Beirut, where "the war was like a weevil that had found its way into the heart of a huge bag of white flour and settled there," and begins meeting secretly to have sex with a man who may or may not be a rooftop sniper. A rotating first-person narrative gives everyone a voice; Zahra's is the most striking, but each character has memorable moments, as when Majed describes his adolescent arousal while reading Jane Eyre and seeing an illustration of the heroine kissing Mr. Rochester. Al-Shaykh ( Women of Sand and Myrrh ), a Lebanese writer now living in London, has a focused and original style. ----- Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

This harsh 1986 novel traces several years in the life of Zahra, who attempts to escape her brutal existence in Lebanon by visiting an uncle in South Africa. When that venture proves equally empty, she returns to war-torn Beirut in hopes of finally finding inner peace. --- Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review by Ro

I read this book many years ago, but suddenly remembered the power of this book when thinking about what it must be like to a civilian in Iraq, Kosovo, Palestine, Nigeria, etc... I highly recommend this book to those who have not been personally traumatized by war as a civilian. Zahra lives trauma. No that is not quite true. The story is a response, a fictional work with images that haunt the mind.

Reviewer: Leila Hussein from Cedar Rapids, Iowa USA

In response to the Lebanese reviewer who knows "everything" about being Lebanese.....this book is purely fiction! However, the author, herself being Lebanese used different aspects of Lebanese culture and society as a setting to her beautiful and saddening story. The story is set upon the horror of civil war and the breakdown of society that inevitably occurs as the war drags on. The story is not supposed to be a true story or one that you could find happened to a typical Lebanese survivor of the war. It is, however, a story about how war can destroy the very fibers of a person's life who is not a member of any warring faction. It is truly a heartbreaking story of a woman-child who struggles to hold onto her own sanity. From, Another Lebanese


The Comedians

Author: Graham Greene

ISBN: 0140184945
Format: Paperback, 288pp
Pub. Date: September 1991
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Series: Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics Series
Barnes & Noble Sales Rank: 94,557


From the Publisher

Greene's novels are unusual combinations of psychological studies, adventure thrillers, and / or essays on moral and theological dilemmas. 8 cassettes.

From The Critics

No novelist in his time infiltrated the corrosive, soul-depleting terrain of Third World dictatorships with a more discerning eye or acidic wit than Greene. In THE COMEDIANS, he is at his sardonic best, laying scalpel to the repressive, casually violent regime of "Papa Doc" Duvalier in Haiti, as seen through the eyes of Brown, a hotelier with nearly nothing left to believe in.

One of Graham Greene's most chilling and prophetic novels, The Comedians is set in a Haiti ruled by Papa Doc and the Tontons Macoute, his sinister secret police. Just as The Quiet American offered a preview of the coming horrors of American involvement in Vietnam, this novel presages the chaos in Haiti. Classic Graham Greene.

Ro Leaphart - 2/28/04

I could not laugh at the non-Haitian characters, The Comedians. I am jaded. For me, the troubles in Haiti are all too real. The absurdity of Jones, the absurity of Browne's groping affair, the vegetarian ministers, all shadow puppets, on a background too horrific and overpowering to view directly, is Greene's vision of the role of non-Haitian in Haiti during Papa Doc's rule. And today (2/28/04), just replace the Tontons with a new group of thugs about to over-throw Aristide, and you have a new generation of comedians watching CNN and saying something must be done. The role of comedian comes easily to Americans. We are hopeful for a better tomorrow, hopeful that the death squads will somehow leave the Haitian people to live their lives, and continue our lives in denial about our government's supporting role in the reprisal killings now taking place. I hope there is at least one comedian like Jones among the military officials taking charge of Haiti today. Jones no matter how incapable of helping, at least, made the Haitian's smile. If you do not know the history of Haiti, if you do not know about the cruelty of time, if you do not understand that the US now backs thugs to topple Aristide, take a moment and do a little research, speak to someone from Haiti. Or if you prefer to take a sceptic's view, at the very least read Graham Greene's The Comedians and ask why does the US persist in removing a democratically elected president, releasing conficted murderers into the streets and allowing rampant carnage in the Haitian countryside? Why has the US set up a refugee camp at Guantanumo Bay for 50,000 Haitians? Why is the US ready to send Marines to Haiti? Do we go to help the Haitian people and support their democratic efforts or is our mission to occupy and return the thugs to power?


Bush Hides White House's Complicity in Haiti

President Bush and his Administration this week "denied [they] encouraged rebel Haitian forces and helped push President Jean-Bertrand Aristide from power." However, while Bush said we need a "renewed commitment to democracy and freedom in this hemisphere," a careful look at the White House's behavior shows that the Administration actively took the side of an armed band of "death-squad veterans and convicted murderers" against a government that had been democratically elected three times.

While Secretary of State Colin Powell initially rebuked the rebels and rejected "a proposition that says the elected president [of Haiti] must be forced out of office by thugs," the Administration soon said a solution in Haiti "could indeed involve changes in Aristide's position." Then the White House issued a "harsh statement that placed much of the blame on the Haitian president for the deadly crisis" and refused to help defend the presidential palace, effectively forcing Aristide out.

Militarily, the Administration's complicity in the coup was even more obvious. As armed gangs surrounded the Haitian capital, Powell made clear that "there is frankly no enthusiasm" for "sending in military or police forces to put down the violence" - a signal to the rebels to continue their insurgency. This alone might not have been proof of complicity considering it was a reiteration of the president's clear position that intervention in Haiti was not a "worthwhile" mission because it was "a nation-building mission" that "cost us billions." But then, at almost the moment Aristide was deposed, the President reversed his hands-off Haiti policy and ordered 2,000 U.S. Marines to secure the island.

Now, with exiled Haitian dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc'' Duvalier planning a return to the island, the Administration is facing questions about why it supported the overthrow of a government that even Vice President Cheney admitted yesterday was "democratically elected." Though Aristide certainly had a problematic record, the Administration's policies could result in the restoration of an exiled dictator "accused of human rights violations, mass killings and stealing at least $120 million from Haiti's national treasury."

Roger Sharrock, posting from

Laughter is possible even in the dark night of Haiti...a vision that is at once comic and intensely serious...a major novel.

Terror , malaise and indifference in a land gone mad, June 30, 2001

Reviewer: Roger Williams (see more about me through from Boston, MA USA If only Graham Greene were still alive and turning out great works like "The Comedians"! Today's shrill jumbled postmodern prose is no match for the steady understated yet vastly effective pen of Graham Greene. "The Comedians" is Greene at his near best.

The protagonist, Brown, is a man without a country who has returned from a previous exile to a hotel inherted from his distant mother in Petionville, Haiti during the reign of the monomaniacal dictator Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier. Aboard the moribund freighter to Port-Au-Prince are the Smiths (a couple of painfully earnest American vegetarian liberals who are blind to any possible problems that could exist in Haiti as a way to expiate their upper-class white guilt), and Jones, a shady British expat who tells unlikely anecdotes about his experiences in various wars and overseas diplomatic posts. As they land, their lives slowly become intertwined.

Brown's Haiti is a land in under the spell of a comedic terror. Papa Doc's militia, the Tontons Macoutes, with their sunglasses worn at night, and their rusty guns with no bullets, plunge the land into a nightmare of extortion, kidnapping, murder and chaos. Indeed, when Brown first returns to the hotel, he is confronted with the body of politician who chose to commit suicide in Brown's pool instead of being captured by the Tontons Macoutes.

Brown attempts to remain a neutral observer in the chaos going on around him, but is soon caught up in affairs when they encroach even further on his hotel. His pointless and emotionally destructive affair with the wife of a South American diplomat in Port-Au-Prince only confounds his malaise, and realizes that he, Papa Doc, the Smiths, Jones, the Tontons Macoutes, everyone - are playing the role of the comedians in the tragedy of life.

Whenever I tire of the embarassingly overpraised mush that passes for modern fiction, I always return to Graham Greene's deliberately understated (never smirking) irony and imagery. Instead of the tautologies and abused metaphors that pass for profundity in today's overly florid "serious" novels, Greene's economical, yet satisfying, imagery and wry prose are sorely missed. This isn't Greene's best work, but it's not far from it either.

A Good Place and strange laughter, December 29, 1999

Reviewer: Doug Vaughn (see more about me) from Washington, Dc USA To call a novel about the most horribly repressive and violent period in Haitian history The Comedians is typical Graham Greene irony. The main characters, Jones (a Brit expatriate on the run from a never disclosed shady past), Smith (a vegetarian crusader who was once a splinter candidate for U.S. president), and Brown (a man of no real country who has inherited a run down hotel in Haiti from his absent mother) are all rootless failures playing at life who are brought together in Haiti during a time of terror and political chaos when the country was descending into a kind of primitive madness. Against their will and in ways they don't anticipate, they are each sucked into the vortex. How they respond highlights the questions that Greene is forever posing about faith, redemption, commitment and responsibility.

The dreams of each character, flimsy as they are, are doomed to fail in a land where utilities and civil order have broken down, where beggers predominate and order is maintained by the Tontons Macoute, the zombie figures in dark glasses who dispense Papa Doc's brutal 'justice' and leave the evidence of it lying beside the road. Smith, who with his wife, wants to start a vegetarian center in the Haitian capitol, flees the country when he realizes that he must resort to bribes for the simplest permissions and even then the promises are a sham. Jones, who tries to con the Haitian government into buying arms that he doesn't possess, is uncovered as a fraud and flees to a South American embassy for protection (the British don't want him - or want him too much). Brown, who wants only to be left alone to run his hotel and pursue a pointless affair, nevertheless finds himself acting time and again to help one or another of the other characters (including a number of Haitians), all the while trying to remain emotionally neutral and uninvolved. He fails, and his failure brings on the book's one clear success, a good end for Jones who escapes the embassy, with Brown's assistance, to join and train a small band of Haitian guerrillas in the hills. At the end, having found 'a good place', he dies a comic but heroic death. He did not, it seems, actually know anything about warfare, having served in the army only in the entertainment division. His lies finally catching up. But as one of the Haitian survivors says - he was good for the men - he made them laugh.


The Ugly American

Authors: Eugene Burdick and William J. Lederer

Paperback: 285 pages
Publisher: W.W. Norton (Jan 1, 1999)
ISBN: 0393318672

Reviewed by Ro:

Recently while digging through my bookcase I found a tattered, yellowed copy of The Ugly American. I sighed with resignation. What had been written in 1958 foretelling the coming Vietnam tragedy could not be more prescient and applicable to our present foreign policy ventures. (rml 12/2003)

Reviewer Posting at Amazon: Jim Bernhardt,from Arlington, VA United States

The Ugly American was published in 1958, just after the Soviets put Sputnik in orbit and sent America into a deep funk. The book is as interesting for its idealized picture of communist accomplishments in foreign relations as it is for the dreary picture of Americans abroad. The authors attribute high quality training and patient well thought out policies to the Soviets. The American don't speak the language. The Americans don't understand the culture. The Americans are incapable of winning hearts or helping people. That was the mood in 1958. The Soviets had won the race to space and caused us as a nation to doubt our system of education, our ability to understand the world, and our instruments of diplomacy. The people working for the State Department in this book spend most of their time taking care of themselves (first class all the way), and the rest taking care of visitors from Washington (BS all the way).

Now, in the post 9/11 world, the Ugly American is worth a fresh look. Are we going to do as poor a job in the Arab world as we did in Southeast Asia nearly 50 years ago. Do we speak Arabic? Are we spending the time and effort learning about the culture, needs and dreams of the people in that part of the world. Is there a hope we can get it right this time? The Ugly American is an important book for us now.


The Gate

Author: Francois Bizot
Translated from French to English by: Euan Cameon

Hardcover: 304 pages ; Dimensions (in inches): 1.11 x 9.66 x 6.00
Publisher: Knopf; (March 4, 2003)
ISBN: 037541293X

Review by Ro:

John Le Carre say Francois Bizot sees ghosts, and it was not until Bizot wrote this book that he could begin to tell others about the depth of suffering he had endured. He is in the unfortunate position of being a survivor, who helped many survive, yet could not save everyone. This is a highly personal work, a journal mixed with confession, revealing the circumstances of those who became the Khmer Rouge, those who suffered, and those who survived. How and when the pain of surviving ends remains unanswered.

(rml 9/2003)

Editorial Reviews

French ethnologist Francois Bizot's The Gate offers a unique insight into the rise of the Khmer Rouge. In 1971 Bizot was studying ancient Buddhist traditions and living with his Khmer partner and daughter in a small village in the environs of the Angkor temple complex. The Khmer Rouge was fighting a guerilla war in rural Cambodia; during a routine visit to a nearby temple, Bizot and his two Khmer colleagues were captured by them and imprisoned deep in the jungle on suspicion of working for the CIA. On trial for his life, over the next three months Bizot developed a strong relationship with his captor, Comrade Douch, who would later become the Khmer Rouge's chief interrogator and commandant of the horrifying Tuol Sleng prison where thousands of captives were tortured prior to execution. The portrait Bizot gives of the young school teacher-turned revolutionary and their interaction is simultaneously fascinating and terrifying.

Finally freed after Douch had pleaded his case with the leadership, Bizot became the only Western captive of the Khmer Rouge ever to be released alive, but his story does not end there. On his return to Phnom Penh, due to his fluency in Khmer, he was appointed interpreter between the occupying forces and the remaining western nationals holed up in the French embassy. As the interlocutor at the eponymous gate, he relates with dreadful resignation the moment when the Khmer nationals in the compound were ordered out by the Khmer Rouge forces for "resettlement."

Bizot's is a touching and gripping account of one of the darkest moments in modern history and it is told with a unique voice. As a Cambodian resident, a lover of Cambodia and a fluent Khmer speaker, Bizot shows an understanding of the prevailing mood in the country that other Western commentators have failed to capture effectively, while as a Western academic he is able to see the forces at work and how Cambodia fits into the bigger picture of South East Asian conflict. What emerges is a tale of a land plunged into insanity and Bizot tells it like a eulogy for a dead friend and a confrontation of old demons. The Gate is a stunning book and a must for anyone interested in this grim period of Asian history. --Duncan Thomson

From Publishers Weekly

"It's better to have a sparsely populated Cambodia than a country full of incompetents!" The speaker of this chilling statement is Douch, the Khmer Rouge true believer who ran the camp that held French ethnologist Bizot for the closing months of 1971, several years before the Marxist revolutionaries unleashed massive bloodshed on the small Southeast Asian country. In 1975, the Khmer Rouge's chaotic occupation of Phnom Penh confined the small French community in the city to the premises of the... read more


Of Spirits and Madness An American Psychiatrist in Africa

Author(s): Paul Linde

ISBN: 0071407995

DOI: 10.1036/0071407995

Format: Softcover, 240 pages.

Pub date: September 1, 2002

Copyright: 2003 $14.95 US

Ro's Review:

Dr. Linde finds his new position in Zimbabwe surprising different from anything he could have imagined. He came to help and realizes that he first must learn about the culture if he is to be a doctor. I believe Dr. Linde holds two valuable personal traits that each of us could learn: patience and curiosity. This is a fine book, written by an intelligent, resourceful, caring doctor. (rml 09/2003)

Publisher's Review: As Two Cultures Meet, One Doctor Finds New Insight Into the Human Mind

Emergency-room psychiatrist Dr. Paul Linde came to Zimbabwe to take the helm at the Harare Central Hospital, where dozens of patients present new challenges every day. From a case of factitious disorder--in which a young man treats his own leg like a pin-cushion--to a woman suffering from kufungisisa, the strange ailment of thinking too much, Linde tells of his patients demons and their difficulties in a vivid portrait of a world where witchcraft still reigns and psychosis is stigmatized as a contagious illness. Linde presents a wry and inspiring tale of medicine at the crossroads of two cultures.

Publishers Weekly: This fascinating and entertaining book should be required reading for anyone (especially in the medical profession) interested in the politics and personal stories of the cultural divide.

San Jose Mercury News: This is a compelling story and Linde is an excellent guide into a world that seems at first unbelievable but eventually becomes strangely recognizable in its human suffering.

Author Biography

Paul R. Linde, M.D., a board-certified psychiatrist, currently works in the ER of San Francisco General Hospital. He is an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California-San Francisco School of Medicine. His work has appeared in DoubleTake, JAMA, and the San Jose Mercury News, as well as numerous other newspapers and academic journals.


Rosemary and Bitter Oranges: Growing Up in a Tuscan Kitchen

Author: Patrizia Chen

Hardcover: 240 pages ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.85 x 9.44 x 6.20
Publisher: Scribner; (March 2003)
ISBN: 0743222237

Review by Ro:

I smiled and chuckled, as Patrizia Chen mingled her childhood escapades with the tastes, smells, sounds and people of Livorno and Sicily in the 1950's. Each memory recalled included food that could never be forgotten. Food so loved, she couldn't help but share.

I've tried a few recipes to share with my family. The Finocchi e Porri al Forno (Baked Fennel and Leeks) recipe will be added as a standard dish at our table. But her Sicilian recipe for Caponata: Caponatina alla Mia Maniera (My Eggplant and Celery Caponata), I can not say. Personally, Ro's Own Caponata is divine so why try something new! (although I just might whipped together her delightful recipe for my next party). This is the true, ultimate pleasure of her writing, being able to taste and smell the food without sampling (and for those of us who love to eat and who gain weight just looking at Italian food... this is a real plus!).

Along with the food, Rosemary and Bitter Oranges warms the heart with sentimental tales of youthful delights and adventures: home, childhood playmates, loving grandparents, and the food and secrets shared. Although Patrizia and I lived worlds apart in the 50's, our childhood memories are remarkably similar.

(rml 8/2003)

Review From Publishers Weekly

Chen portrays a rose-colored dream of a childhood in Livorno, Italy. The live-in cook, Emilia, is the inspiration for most of Chen's love of cooking, and Chen lovingly portrays Emilia's stubbornness and oracular beliefs about cooking ("If I asked how long it took to simmer the meat sauce, Emilia would answer with a grumble and her usual lapidary phrase: `Quanto basta. As long as it takes.' ") She recalls a childhood of outings to the market and to Emilia's home in nearby Vada, lavish Christmas dinners, orange and magnolia trees and herbs in a lush garden, feeding chickens and fetching milk from the local vendor, evenings of reading with her Nonna, and mid-day school treats of la torta di ceci (chickpea pancakes) and recipes for Emilia's fabulous, ubiquitous confections like Lemon Tea Cake and Quince Paste. Chen offers humorous, though sometimes overly sentimental, descriptions of her strict Catholic upbringing and the family's superstitions (Fridays and Tuesdays are bad days for trips; don't leave a hat or purse on a bed) as well as a portrayal of the Americanization of 1950s Italy. Chen, a correspondent for Italian newspapers, also includes several simple recipes, such as Caponatina alla Mia Maniera (My Eggplant and Celery) and Merluzzo al Vapore (Steamed Cod) and Hen's Milk. (Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. )


Along the Wall and Watchtowers: A Journey Down Germany's Divide

Author: Oliver August

Book Format: Paperback
No. of Pages: 256 pages
Height & Width: 19.7cm x 12.8cm
ISBN: 0006531113
Publication Date: 8 November 2000
Publisher Info:

Review by: Harper Collins

Marking the tenth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, this is a revealing portrait of the reunified Germany told in the form of an entertaining travelogue – an 800-mile journey along the former Iron Curtain from the Baltic Sea to the Czech border.

When the Iron Curtain dissolved ten years ago, the faultline that divided West and East Germany also collapsed. But could the so-called 'death strip' be erased as easily as a pencil-mark on the map?

In his encounters with former border guards, ex-Stasi members turned insurance salesmen, decollectivized farmers, innkeepers, nudists, car mechanics, foresters and artists, the author reveals with a delightful lightness of touch the hopes, fears and regrets of both 'Wessis' and 'Ossis', and listens to the anxieties of those who feel 'colonised' by the West.

He observes new nature reserves in the old borderlands; visits the unique village republic where for 22 years the inhabitants lived enclosed between two fences; watches the rebuilding of the Bismarck family castle; attends an international gathering of Trabant-owners; explores museums devoted to documenting former life along the border; travels across the dark and sinister Harz mountains which once harboured an underground Nazi concentration camp; and ends his journey in Hof, where minefields have been transformed into golf courses.

Review by: Ro Leaphart

Many years ago, a student gave me a piece of the Berlin Wall. I keep it in a box, on a shelf with other precious sentimental mementos. Like Oliver August, the remains of the wall are a talisman to me. It speaks to me of freedom won. Like Oliver August, I have had the desire to travel the border area and see what remains of the 800-mile divide.

In Along the Walls and Watchtowers, Oliver August chronicles the life of a divided German through the lives of Germans living near the wall and the watchtowers. He drives from West to East to West making his way south from the Baltic to the Czech Republic. He fills notebook after notebook with his impressions and conversations. He stays in hostels, hotels and rooms. He drinks beer with the natives. He asks questions; and because of his friendly, sincere nature, 'Wessis' and 'Ossis' alike devulge their feelings about the past and their personal struggles.

Did the process of removing the wall free the people of East Germany? Technically, yes. Are their lives different? Yes. Is life better? For some, yes; for others, no. So much depends on perspective as with most of life.

The one truth emerges: removal of the wall was a catalyst for change that has impacted everyone. The removal of the wall for some 'Ossis' was freedom won: freedom to travel, freedom to be, and freedom from the police. For others it was the loss of a job, loss of property or loss of a way of life. The certainty of the wall was replaced by ambivalence of feelings, including a threat to the environment and the construction of prefab homes. Conflicted by the past, ambivalent about the future, Germans seek a unified identity. They want and do not want to merge their 20th century cultures: the imposing and capitalistic 'Wessis' with the poor, traditional 'Ossis' cousin.

I highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in geo-politics and nation building, or to the arm-chair traveller who wants to experience not only glimpses of the German countryside but a look into the hearts of Germans.


Books recommended by Oliver August:

Jacob Arjouni, Magic Hoffman, Zurich, 1997
Tom Bower, Blind Eye to Murder, London 1981
John le Carre, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, London 1963
Gordon Craig, The Germans, London, 1984
Thomas Friedrich, Who die Maur war, Berlin, 1996
Ralph Giodano, Hier was ja Schluss, Hamburg, 1996
Tony Grant, From Our Own Correspondents, London, 1995
Graham Greene, The Lawless Roads, London 1939
Andreas Hartmann and Sabine Kunsting, Grenzgeschichten, Frankfurt, 1990
Golo Mann, Deutsche Geschickte, Frankfurt, 1958
Jan Morris, Fify Years of Europe, London, 1997
Jurgen Ritter and Peter Joachim Lapp, Die Grenze, Berlin, 1997
Matthias Rocke, Die Trabi-Story, Konigswinter, 1998
Stanley Weintraub, Albert, London, 1997


Killing Peace: Columbia's Conflict and the Failure of U.S. Intervention

Author: Garry M. Leech

Book Format: Paperback
No. of Pages: 106 pages
Publication Date: April 2002
Publisher: Information Network of the Americas (INOTA)
More Info: Amazon

Book Description

Over the past half-century, Colombia has been plagued by violence—its people caught in the middle of a civil conflict raging between the army, leftist guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries, narco-traffickers, and U.S. anti-drug warriors. Killing Peace: Colombia’s Conflict and the Failure of U.S. Intervention provides a timely and much-needed overview of the war that is ravaging Colombia including its root causes in the country’s gross social and economic inequalities.

Though rarely in the headlines, Colombia is not only by far the largest recipient of U.S. military aid in the Western Hemisphere, it is also the worst human rights catastrophe. The rampaging process of economic globalization is further brutalizing the war-weary Colombian people.

Drawing from on-the-ground reporting as well as historical sources, Killing Peace addresses all aspects of the Colombian conflict, particularly the dangerous and expanding involvement of the United States as part of its drug war—and now the "war on terrorism."

About the Author

Garry M. Leech has worked and traveled extensively in Latin America during the past 22 years. He currently resides in New York City where he edits the online journal Colombia Report. His writings have appeared in numerous publications including NACLA Report on the Americas, In These Times, Salon, and Mother Jones online.

Reading Recommended by Author

Charles Bergquist, Ricardo Penaranda and Gonzalo Sanchez, Violence in Columbia: The Contemporary Crisis in Histroical Perspective, Wilmington, DE, 1992
Herbert Braun, Our Guerrillas, Our Sidewalks: A Journey into the Violence of Colombia, Niwot, U of CO Press, 1994
David Bushnell, The Making of Modern Colombia: A Nation in Spite of Itself, Berkeley, U of CA Press, 1993
Ana Carrigan, The Palace of Justice: A Columbian Tragedy, NY, NY, 1993
Patrick L. Clawson and Rensselaer W. Lee III, The Andean Cocaine Industry, NY, NY, 1998
Robert W. Drexler, Columbia and the United States: Narcotics Traffic and a Failed Foreign Policy, Jefferson, NC, 1997
Javier SJ Giraldo, Colombia: The Genocidal Democracy, Monroe, ME, 1996
Human Rights Watch, Generation Under fire: Children and Violence in Colombia NY, 1994
Human Rights Watch, Colombia's Killer Networks: The Military-Paramilitary Partnership and the United States, NY, 1996
Human Rights Watch, War Without Quarter: Colombia and International Humanitarian Law, NY, 1998
Human Rights Watch, The Sixth Division: Military-Paramilitary and US Poliy in Colombia, NY, 2001
Harvey F. Kline, State Building and Conflict Resolution in Colombia 1986-1994, Univ of Alabama Press, 1999
Stephen J. Randall, Colombia and the United States: Hegemony and Interdependence, Athens, U of Georgia Press, 1992
Bert Ruiz, The Colombian Civil War, Jefferson, NC, 2001
Frank Safford and Marco Palacios, Colombia: Fragmented Land, Divided Society, Oxford, Oxford Univ Press, 2001
Gonzalo Sanchez and Donny Meertens, Bandits, Peasants and Politics: The Case of the "La Violencia" in Colombia, Austin, U of TX Press, 2001
Peter Dale Scott and Jonathan Marshall, Cocaine Politics: Drugs, Armies, and the CIA in Central America, Berkeley, U of CA Press, 1998

Review by: Ro Leaphart

Garry Leech concisely explains the role of the conflicting parties generating violence in Colombia and their historical context: Columbian government, military, paramilitary, revolutionaries, drug traffikers, US government and military, European governments, and multi-national corporations. If I have one complaint about the book, it would be its brevity. Leech is an excellent writer and has thoroughly documented the book. I would like to hear more from him, because his style of writing is a pleasure to read and the content of the book more than thought provoking.

As a result of his brevity, Leech has inspired me to read more about Colombia and to be aware of our foreign policy in Colombia. Just last week (early May 2003), the Bush administration with Congress agreed to send another $1.3 Billion in military aid to Colombia as part of the war on terrorism. Our troops are in Columbia to train the Colombian military. Their military leaders are being trained in the US. Our State Dept. has contracted DynCorp, Military Professional Resources, Inc. (MPRI) and other "mercenary" companies to conduct war on drugs in Colombia. The current contract calls for former US military personnel working for DynCorp to pilot fumigation planes and helicopter gunships, with the stipulation that Colombians operate the guns.

One of the first books I intend to read is Peter Dale Scott's Cocaine Politics. I studied classics and english literature with Prof. Scott in the early '80's at Cal. He is a brillant, logical, articulate, and learned man; and I look forward to reading his observations and thoughts on Central and South American policy. (rml-05/2003)

Reviews at: Amazon

Good Tool to Organize Thoughts - Reviewer: Andrea Uribe from Portland, OR United States

This is a good book for someone who wants to get a glance of Colombian Conflict. Leech tells a brief but accurate story about Colombia - US relationships. First he gives a good introduction to the conflict and then he goes into the interests behind Plan Colombia and the War on drugs.

Interesting summary, sometimes scary. For instance, it was amazing to see the "Pablo Escobar era" summarized in few paragraphs. Those of us who lived in Medellin during that time experienced it quite different. Killing Peace is a good introduction to Colombia or a good tool to organize the thoughts of those that know more or that simply lived it.

A Grassroots View of the Violence in Colombia, June 7, 2002 - Reviewer: Bert Ruiz (see more about me) from New York

"Killing Peace" is an outstanding book. Garry Leech provides a front row seat to the surreal violence in Colombia. Moreover, he explains why a just and enduring peace is so difficult to attain. The author is a superb journalist who documents how the flames of peace have been doused and the drums of war have been amplified. Recommended.

Short, clear intro to an important and confusing conflict, June 6, 2002 - Reviewer: Jan DeBeer from Chicago, IL

Leech has done the confused observer of Colombia's tragedy a great service with this short, pocket-sized introduction to the reality behind the sporadic news reports on Latin America's most violent, dysfunctional country. The book provides a clear and concise history of modern Colombia with particular emphasis on the causes of the armed conflict that has raged there for decades. Leech examines Colombia's civil war and how it differs from yet is intertwined with the drug war, while avoiding the common pitfall of completely muddling the two topics.

The book also traces the gradual U.S. entry into the fray of the Colombia's conflict, from early forays into combatting marijuana production to the current strategy that closely resembles Reagan-era strategies in El Salvador, albeit with the additional complication of Colombia being a leading cocaine and heroin supplier. Leech's answer to the uncomfortable question, "Is the drug war working?" is an emphatic "No." He explains how the U.S. drug war is failing on all of its own terms, while at the same time detailing the disastrous human toll of increased U.S. aid to the undisciplined and extremely compromised Colombian military. The role of the various guerrilla and paramilitary groups is explained, and there are also interesting new insights into the relations between the Colombian army and the rightist paramilitaries.

This book should be of particular use to those who seek to quickly learn more about the country and conflict that are fast becoming one of the primary U.S. foreign policy concerns. Its brevity and breadth should prove especially appropriate for high school and college classes focusing on current events, foreign policy, Latin American affairs, and history. A good, short read on a truly important topic.

KILLING PEACE is a quick, concise must-read, June 4, 2002 - Reviewer: A reader from NYC/USA

To my mind, the expanding civil war in Colombia is the biggest story in the Western Hemisphere -- but no one seems to be paying much attention to it. Good thing, then, that we have Garry Leech, a talented reporter and writer whose book explains it all, from the start of the trouble over fifty years ago to the U.S.'s involvement today with more and more money, guns, and soldiers. If George Bush gets his way, Colombia is going to be the next bloody battle in the "war on terrorism." Americans need to get wise to what's going on before we sink any deeper into Colombia and a world of hurt and regret. Step one: Read this book!

Noam Chomsky, author and MIT professor
"Leech's fine a lucid and informed introduction to one of the most painful tragedies of the current era."

Adam Isacson, Center for International Policy
"Killing Peace is an important guide....a simple, easy-to-follow, but very compelling piece of work."

Thomas C. Wright, author of Latin America in the Era of the Cuban Revolution
"This crisply written book is required reading for anyone interested in understanding the escalating crisis in Colombia."

NACLA Report on the Americas, July/August 2002
"Killing Peace... is an excellent short overview of the past and the present of the Colombian Civil War."

Left Turn Magazine, Oct/Nov 2002
"...more books like this are necessary to expose what the US war aims truly are."


The Search for a Nonviolent Future

By Michael N. Nagler (Winner 2002 American Book Award)

Berkeley Hills, 2002
(Non-fiction; political)

Review by:

Is There No Other Way? is the mature work of one of the world's most widely respected peace scholars and activists. After three decades of articles, conferences and on-the-line involvement, Dr. Nagler turns his attention to a broader audience, demonstrating in a moving and accessible narrative the profound and startling laws that the nonviolence movement has discovered in the last century.

Beginning with the achievements of Mahatma Gandhi, and following the legacy of nonviolence through the struggles against Nazism in Europe, racism in America, oppression in China and Latin America, and ethnic conflicts in Africa and Bosnia, Nagler unveils a hidden history. Nonviolence, he proposes, has proven its power against arms and social injustice wherever it has been correctly understood and applied.

Nagler dissects recent events such as Kosovo and Tienanmen Square to show how nonviolence operates and why it has sometimes failed. He also draws upon lesser-known actions such as the "Prague Spring," and the women's demonstration at Berlin's Rosenstrasse, to reveal the principles by which nonviolence has turned the tides against mass conflict. He then explores these same principles in the context of the growing violence of American society.

Nagler's approach is not only historical, but also spiritual. He argues, drawing upon the experience of Gandhi and other activists, that the shift to nonviolence begins within the individual, through the reshaping and re-visioning of how one understands the world. He then shows how from changes in the individual, changes in the larger community follow.

Is There No Other Way? is a provocative and emotionally powerful document that challenges readers' assumptions about the workings of power in their homes and communities, as well as the larger political arena.


- Introduction
- Hard Questions, Hard Answers
- Hope in Dark Times
- The Nonviolent Moment as Peak Experience
- "Work" Versus Work
- A Way Out of Hell
- The Sweet Sound of Order
- A Clear Picture of Peace
- Fighting Fire with Water
- Toward a Metaphysics of Compassion
- Epilogue

- Notes and References
- Resources and Opportunities
- Index


MICHAEL N. NAGLER is a widely published scholar in the fields of peace studies and spirituality. Professor Emeritus of Classical Languages at the University of California, Berkeley, he is currently chairperson of the U.C. Peace and Conflict Studies program. He is the editor of Metta: A Journal of Nonviolence, the author of America Without Violence (1982) and contributed extensive introductions to recent editions of Eknath Easwaran's The Upanishads, and Gandhi, The Man. He is also the author of the introductions to Mahatma Gandhi's Book of Prayers, The Way to God, Vows and Remembrances, The Bhagavad Gita According to Gandhi and Prayer published by Berkeley Hills Books. He lives in Petaluma, California.



Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy

Author: Kevin Bales

UC Press 1999 - MORE INFO
(non-fiction; political)

“A well respected, scholarly and deeply disturbing expose of modern day slavery with well-thought-out strategies for what to do to combat this scourge.” Desmond Tutu

Review by: Ro Leaphart

A thought and action provoking book, written by one of the foremost experts on contemporary slavery, substantiates the varied and increasing nature of slavery in today’s global economy. Mr. Bales exposes how the new economy has driven many into slavery, how violence, corruption and local police control slaves, and how slaves are no longer considered valuable property and as such are treated as expendable. He also presents case studies to describe the emancipation programs needed to ensure freed slaves become self sufficient, including emergency safety net provisions, long term financial assistance to support education for children (i.e. clothes, food, books), and therapy or social services in cases of physical and mental abuse. While exposing the hidden world of modern slavery, he also proposes questions to be asked and actions readers can take to discourage the profits sought by those who use slave and debt labor.

The underlying question Kevin Bales poses is the same as that question Frederick Douglass posed in his 4th of July speech of 1852, “If there are still slaves, how can we be proud of our freedom? If we can’t choose to stop slavery, how can we say that we are free?”



Democratizing The Global Economy: The Battle Against the World Bank and the IMF

Compiled and Edited By Kevin Danaher, Global Exchange

Common Courage Press, 2001
(Non-fiction; political) - MORE INFO

Review by: Ro Leaphart

Kevin Danaher’s book captures the essence of the new globalization. He opens with an introduction to those who are organizing to create a new world economy, which is then followed by testimony on why the old world order does not work. He presents viewpoints and presents ideas for taking power away from the World Bank and the Corporations that benefit from the present lending for development scheme.

His primary objective (i.e. the Global Exchange objective), is to expose the economic and social damage created through the IMF lending process, which is mandated to underdeveloped countries by the World Bank and run dominantly by the US. By using a sequence of articles and letters, Danaher uncovers the corruption inherent in the requirements of the loans, such as Structural Adjustment.

Structural Adjustment mandates privatization of government health, power and resource management. Along with privatization, Structural Adjustment demands decreases in spending on government programs that directly benefit the people (i.e. education, health). Under these lending conditions, countries are forced to surrender resources and social programs to private corporations. Those readily and opportunistically available are transnational corporations. Typically the debt is taken on to finance a huge infrastructure project (such as a dam, roads, power lines, pipelines), which is built by and then run by a transnational corporation.

The IMF funds do not go to the people, to their government, or to the local industries, but ultimately to the US and European owned corporations taking on the project work or buying the government services that are privatized. However, the people of the underdeveloped country repay the debt for the infrastructure that has been completed (a superhighway to nowhere, a world trade tower, or a pipeline from an oil field to the new port).

If the country does not have sufficient revenues from exports, the country will have insufficient cash to make repayments. The local currency erodes at spiraling rates as higher and higher levels of debt are accumulated and the developing country’s currency becomes worthless to the lending parties, who want to be repaid in hard currencies (US$). Sources of immediate cash are usually then garnered from the forests and mines of the country. Again, loans are secured to finance transnational corporations to strip the resources. Export revenues received for resources exploited.

Danaher follows this collection with another which provides insight into groups fighting for a new globalization that will force global economic justice and a protection of the environment.

Contributing authors include Starhawk, Fidel Castro, and Noam Chomsky.

The book was well written and informative, although one-side in point of view. This one failing can be forgiven, since the prevailing media and political point of view support corporate globalization as a primary goal of the New World Order.



International Logistics: Global Supply Chain Management

Author: Douglas Long

Book Format: Hardbound,
No. of Pages: 456 pages
Height & Width: 19.7cm x 12.8cm
ISBN 1-4020-7453-0
Publication Date: July 2003
EUR 126.00 / USD 140.00 / GBP 90.00
To Purchase from Publisher: Kluwer Academic Publishing

Review Provided by Kluwer:

Students of logistics, transportation, and supply chain management, as well as international managers will find International Logistics: Global Supply Chain Management an essential reference for understanding how cargo is moved around the world. A comprehensive guide that includes the theory and practice of global supply chain management, International Logistics: Global Supply Chain Management uses current, real-world issues to make the material as relevant as possible, notwithstanding the fast-paced nature of this industry. Yet, the author also includes the theory and history of global supply chain management to provide a deeper understanding of the intricacies involved.

Logistics and transportation are the key elements of business and international trade. Based upon his experience in over 120 countries, including private industry, the military, and the United Nations, the author challenges conventional wisdom by discussing the myth of supply chain management and offering penetrating questions on the role of information systems.

International Logistics: Global Supply Chain Management is distinct in the following ways:

  • A balanced approach between theoretical research and real-world practice
  • Cutting-edge, original graphics help explain concepts better than any current book
  • Instructor's Manual provided by the author upon request

Combined with pedagogical features and real-world case studies, International Logistics: Global Supply Chain Management is a must-have textbook for students of logistics, transportation, and supply chain management students, as well as a reference for international managers.


Global Development Finance 2003 - Striving for Stability in Development Finance

World Bank, 2003
(Non-fiction; political) - MORE INFO

Review by: World Bank

Since the late 1990s, a fundamental shift has occurred in the pattern of private sector financial flows to developing countries. Debt flows have fallen sharply, while equity flows—mainly in the form of foreign direct investment—have remained comparatively robust. This shift from debt to equity should diminish the volatility of developing countries’ external finance and improve their access to technology, markets, and management expertise. But much more needs to be done to put development finance on a stable basis.The decline in debt flows, coupled with weak export revenues, has placed enormous pressure on the middle-income, highly indebted countries. Many low-income countries face the triple burden of low commodity prices, unsustainable debt, and declining levels of aid. Growth remains well short of what is necessary to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

Global Development Finance 2003, I: Analysis and Statistical Appendix is the World Bank’s annual review of recent trends in and prospects for financial flows to developing countries. It also contains the Bank's projections of the global outlook in light of current global geopolitical uncertainties.

Global Development Finance 2003, II: Summary and Country Tables includes a comprehensive set of tables with statistical data for 138 countries that report debt under the World Bank Debtor Reporting System, as well as summary data for regions and income groups. It contains data on total external debt stocks and flows, aggregates, and key debt ratios, and provides a detailed, country-by-country picture of debt. Global Development Finance 2003 debt data are also available on CD-ROM, with more than 200 historical time series from 1970 to 2001, and country group estimates for 2002.

With analysis spanning the range of flows from sophisticated market transactions to emergency aid, Global Development Finance 2003 is unique in its breadth of coverage of the issues related to international development finance. In putting all development-related flows in a consistent framework, the publication will allow government officials, economists, investors, financial consultants, academics, bankers, and the entire development community to better understand, manage, and promote the key challenge of financing development.

(4/2003 - rml)


Incoterms 2010

Published by: International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), NY, NY, 2010

Information from: International Chamber of Commerce Website

Implementation date: 1 January 2011.

Incoterms® rules define the responsibilities of buyers and sellers for the delivery of goods under sales contracts. Incoterms 2010 takes into account the latest developments in commercial practice, and updates and consolidates some of the former rules. A new classification system divides the 11 Incoterms® rules into two distinct groups:

Rules for any mode of transport: EXW FCA CPT CIP DAT DAP DDP

Rules for waterway transport: FAS FOB CFR CIF

In addition to the 11 rules, Incoterms 2010 includes:

  • Extensive guidance notes and illustrative graphics to help users efficiently choose the right rule for each transaction;
  • New classification to help choosing the most suitable rule in relation to the mode of transport;
  • Advice for the use of electronic procedures;
  • Information on security-related clearances for shipments;
  • Advice for the use of Incoterms® 2010 in domestic trade.


The North American Free Trade Agreement… A Guide for the Maquiladora Industry

Published, Written and Reviewed by: Rudy A. Piña

This new book offers practical solutions on the rules and regulations regarding the NAFTA from an industry expert. The book was written expressly for maquilas and importers of maquila goods and guides the reader through the NAFTA Rules of Origin stipulated in Chapters 3, 4, 5 of the Agreement and implemented in Parts 102 and 181, United States Customs Regulations.

In addition to taking the reader through the steps that should be taken to qualify a good under the NAFTA, the book provides: a detailed explanation of NAFTA Preference Criterion A, B, C, D, E; help on determining de minimis and regional value-content; guidelines on surviving a NAFTA origin verification visit; guidelines on properly completing the NAFTA Certificate of Origin; guidelines on correcting NAFTA-related mistakes; examples of U.S. Customs administrative rulings and a NAFTA Glossary.

The book also contains information regarding: the ten common mistakes made by maquilas; customs penalties; denial of NAFTA benefits; appeal procedures; advance ruling procedures; NAFTA recordkeeping requirements; the steps that a maquila must take to determine the country of origin of goods produced in Mexico; determining the customs value of goods produced in Mexico; and U.S. Customs compliance advice.

The book which is a must for companies that want to train their employees in NAFTA procedures and regulations contains 28 chapters and 155 pages. Soft cover/$56 each plus $4 shipping and handling charge.


Customs Law Handbook


Title 18 U.S.C.
Title 19 U.S.C.
Title 21 U.S.C. (Chapter 13)
Plus other Titles, Related Statutes and Rules

© Gould Law Publications


An up-to-date presentation of Title 19 U.S. Code - Customs Duties; Selected Parts of Title 18 U.S. Code - Crimes and Criminal Procedure; Title 21 U.S. Code (Chapter 13) - Drug Abuse Prevention and Control, and Related Statutes & Rules from U.S. Code Titles 5, 8, 12, 15, 22, 26, 28, 31, 33, 39,42, 46, 46 App., 49 App., 50, and 50 App. and the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.



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