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

Suzy Hansen

4 Reviews

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Memoirs

'A deeply honest and brave portrait of of an individual sensibility reckoning with her country's violent role in the world.' Hisham Matar, New York Times Book Review

In the wake of the 11th September attacks and the US-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 and the response at home took on pressing urgency for her. Seeking to understand the Muslim world that had been reduced to scaremongering headlines, she moved to Istanbul.

Hansen arrived in Istanbul with romantic ideas about a mythical city perched between East and West, and with a naive sense of the Islamic world beyond. Over the course of her many years of living in Turkey and traveling in Greece, Egypt, Afghanistan, and Iran, she learned a great deal about these countries and their cultures and histories and politics. But the greatest, most unsettling surprise would be what she learned about her own country?and herself, an American abroad in the era of American decline. It would take leaving her home to discover what she came to think of as the two Americas: the country and its people, and the experience of American power around the world. She came to understand that anti-Americanism is not a violent pathology. It is, Hansen writes, 'a broken heart . . . A one-hundred-year-old relationship.'

Blending memoir, journalism, and history, and deeply attuned to the voices of those she met on her travels, NOTES ON A FOREIGN COUNTRY is a moving reflection on America's place in the world. It is a powerful journey of self-discovery and revelation?a profound reckoning with what it means to be American in a moment of grave national and global turmoil.

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

  • Deeply honest and brave . . . A sincere and intelligent act of self-questioning . . . Hansen is doing something both rare and necessary - Hisham Matar, The New York Times Book Review (cover)

  • Ardent, often lovely . . . If Noam Chomsky could write like this, Hansen's work would already be done. - Karl Vick, TIME

  • Hansen turns a coming-of-age travelogue into a geopolitical memoir of sorts, without sacrificing personal urgency in the process . . . Her long stay in Istanbul (she's still there) gives her an outsider's vantage on myopic American arrogance that is bracing. And her fascinating insider's view of Recep Tayyip Erdogan's rise upends Western simplicities . . . The experience is contagious. - Ann Hulbert, The Atlantic

  • Compelling . . . [Hansen] vividly captures the disorientation we experience when our preconceived notions collide with uncomfortable discoveries . . . Rare and refreshing . . . Hansen's principal injunction to Americans to understand how others view them and their country's policies is timely and urgent. - Ali Wyne, The Washington Post

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Suzy Hansen

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.

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