Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Building Community Answering Kennedy's Call Book Review


Building Community, Answering Kennedy’s Call by Harlan Russell Green A Peace Corps Writers Book, 2022.

This memoir will take members of ERFSA back to the “good old days” when you might have been protesting the war in Vietnam or marching for Civil Rights before, during or after finishing graduate school. Building Community, Answering Kennedy’s Call certainly did that for me. The author, Harlan Green, joined the first wave of Peace Corps Volunteers in 1962 on the verge of graduating from UC Berkeley, with much uncertainty as to what his next step should be.

This was his lucky moment because the experience of trying to mobilize villagers in a remote Turkish village stayed a course for his life. In this brief, but well written and engaging memoir, Harlan takes to Ishmet Pasha with neither electricity or running water in 1962. Fortunately, Harlan had learned basic carpentry skills with his father while growing up and through a sincere effort to learn the Muslim villagers’ language so he could understand what they wanted, in addition to what he thought they needed, the tough experience yield results as well as path and philosophy he carried forward after completing the two year mission.

The story becomes increasingly interesting and its significance is peeled back Harlan Green returns to the States to become involved in other social movements of the 1960s and 70s. He studied film making in San Francisco and then was hired by the Environmental Protection Agency where he honed his camera chops on such issues as airplane safety and urban air quality in Los Angeles. Recounts of later work as a film maker for with Ceasar Chavez and the United Farm Workers during in 1974 are especially compelling .

This is a quick yet serious read. It could never be called a “blast from the past” because of the depth of the author’s commitment to bringing positive change into our world. It would be inspirational for undergraduates. I wished momentarily for a syllabus that I could include Building Community , Answering Kennedy’s Call as required reading.

Harlan Green © 2023

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