Thursday, December 27, 2007

Assumptions and Misunderstandings

As I mentioned yesterday, I was absolutely intrigued by the title of Anne Bates Linden’s book Assumptions and Misunderstandings: Memoir of an Unwitting Spy. Unfortunately, Linden and I have different definitions of the word “spy.” Basically, she suggests to Ukrainians in the early 1990s, all Americans were spies. This may be an accurate observation, but it doesn’t make for an enthralling read.

Instead of an exciting memoir, Assumptions reads like a middle-aged woman’s journal—which is basically what it is. In fact, even the book’s publication is far from professional. The text is littered with errors and entire sections appear to be missing.

Linden shares a few experiences she had as one of the first members of the United States Peace Corps in newly independent Ukraine. Having lived in Ukraine, I could relate to many of her experiences: long lines, erratic water and electricity, “KGB” interference. However, we approached them in very different manners, which made me lose sympathy for her. She seems to be shocked and appalled by the “inconveniences” of living in Ukraine (and Europe, in general). Talk about cultural imperialism.

Ultimately, though, because of my interest in Ukraine, I wanted to read Linden’s memoir. I was disappointed that it ends after she has been in Ukraine for a year and has lost her interpreter (she gives no explanation as to why) and her job with the local government.

Yet, she states earlier that she spent three years in the country. So what did she do for the next two years? Where did she work? Did she ever learn the language? The book is less than stellar, but I wanted to know what happened and wish Linden had been willing to tell me.

4 comments:

David Cottrell said...

If the reviewer would kindly go to ukaineorphans.net there are many pieces of information about Anne Bates Linden. It might be worthwhile to learn about this hands on, boots on the ground friend of Ukraine.

David Cottrell said...

Should have been ukraineorphans.net

Blogger said...

Thanks for the link. Like I said, one of my frustrations was that I felt like Linden only gave a glimpse of the real story and I wanted more.

David Cottrell said...

Thanks for the reply - yes, more than one have wanted to read more, me included. I've had the great fortune to meet Anne Linden and I can assure that her life is very busy as you might have seen from what is on ukraineorphans.net.

She wrote her book strictly from letters she sent to family during her Peace Corps service. She was very surprised to find that many letters didn't make it home - (yes they considered her to be a spy and yes she was frightened) so there are gaps in the story.

There is another book that should be written and she has made vague reference to this. Maybe some kind personal encouragement would help!

Her website is ukraineworks.org.

Thanks, David Cottrell