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Notes on a Foreign Country

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

New York Times

“Suzy Hansen, who moved to Istanbul after 9/11, grapples with her country’s violent role in the world.”

Featured in New York Times’ 100 Notable Books of 2017.

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Suzy Hansen grew up in a conservative and insular town in New Jersey. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and the war in Iraq led by the US, she became a successful journalist working for a prominent newspaper in New York. However, as time passed, she became more and more conscious that what was going on in the world was disconnected from how Americans responded to those events at home. She decided that she wanted to know more about the Muslim world than the sensational headlines revealed and with that in mind, she moved to Istanbul.

Hansen romanticized Istanbul as a city perched between the East and the West and was quite naïve about the Islamic world that lay beyond. Her many years of living in the city and traveling to places such as Afghanistan, Greece, Iran, and Egypt taught her a lot about the histories and cultures of these places. In the process, though, she learned some surprising and uncomfortable truths about herself and her country. Leaving her home was the catalyst for her to discover the existence of two Americas – the country and the people and how American power was experienced all around the globe. She realized that instead of being a violent pathology, anti-Americanism was a hundred-year-old relationship whose heart was broken.

Notes on a Foreign Country mixes journalism with history and memoirs to think about what place America holds in the world using the voices of the people she met on her journey – a journey that combines self-reflection, revelation, and self-discovery to perceive the meaning of being an American during a time of turmoil.