July 20, 2010
I read Greg Mortenson's first book, Three Cups of Tea, because I heard Greg was a mountain climber like myself. While I quickly discovered that the story had little to do with mountain climbing, I was intrigued nonetheless and enjoyed the book. So I was very excited to read his new book, Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
During the past sixteen years, Mortenson, and his nonprofit Central Asia Institute, have worked to promote peace through education by building more than 130 schools, most of them for girls, in the most remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Stones into Schools picks up where Three Cups of Tea ends. It too begins with a promise, the promise by Mortenson to build a school for the Kirghiz in the most remote corner of Afghanistan. The story describes fresh challenges encountered as the CAI branches out into a new country with new customs and players and challenges. The story is also that of Mortenson's sidekick and chief "fixer" in Afghanistan, Sarfraz Khan. The tale bounces with Mortenson and Sarfraz as they start new schools in Afghanistan, return to Pakistan to assist in the wake of the devastating earthquake that hit that country in 2005, and then back to Afghanistan where the two navigate through Taliban country to deliver on the promise made years before. While the book lacks some of the freshness and wonder found in Three Cups of Tea, it is remarkable in its own right and demonstrates the power of the human spirit, both Mortenson and Sarfraz's and that of the children who yearn to learn.
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