Pulitzer Prize, General Nonfiction, 2003
National Book Critics Circle, Nonfiction, 2003
In her award-winning interrogation of the last century of American history, Samantha Power - a former Balkan war correspondent and founding executive director of Harvard’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy - asks the haunting question: Why do American leaders who vow “never again” repeatedly fail to stop genocide? Drawing upon exclusive interviews with Washington’s top policy makers, access to newly declassified documents, and her own reporting from the modern killing fields, Power provides the answer in A Problem from Hell, a groundbreaking work that tells the stories of the courageous Americans who risked their careers and lives in an effort to get the United States to act.
©2007 Samantha Power (P)2012 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
When I plan listening to audiobooks, I try to alternate the ones that I want to read (for fun and pleasure) and the ones that I need to read (for knowledge). This book definitely belongs to the latter group. Who wants to read about genocides? For 22 hours! But I am glad that I read it because the book gave me a good review of all the major genocides/atrocities in the 20th century. This makes me more responsible for my actions in the future problems, but I would rather know about these facts than remain ignorant. So, yes, I am glad that I read it.
The book mainly focuses on U.S. foreign policies (or lack of) about these genocides and how the politicians at the time acted. Naturally, politicians are reluctant to choose unpopular policies with unknown risks, especially when there are serious domestics problems. There are of course examples of failed foreign interventions. But, to me, the problem is that the people may not always be aware of what is going on in a remote places in the world (though this may be less of a problem now because of the Internet). Of course, people would demand better domestic economy and national security policies over foreign interventions. But at what cost? We as citizens need to be better educated about what goes on in other countries and demand any necessary intervention actions from politicians.
This was a difficult book to read emotionally. But this must have been a really difficult book to write. The book does amazing job of depicting facts and events as they were (well researched) with minimum emotional interpretations. I have tremendous respect for Samantha Power for this.
This book is good history in a way so few are. The stories are compelling not just for what they entail but the degree of frequency they show genocide to occur in merely the past century. And having been published before the tragedy of Darfur it shows we still haven't learned. Its great also for showing several heroes most people are likely not even aware of. Most prominnently William Proxmire, Senate successor of Joseph McCarthy. Amazing work. And I am rarely so powerfully surprised by history works anymore. A difficult topic. But worthy of everyone's attention and expertly handled by both author and narrator.
This story is difficult to listen to because of the horror of humanity (inhumanity). It has given me faith though. Faith in the capacity for cruelty of the human and also faith in the ability of man to stick his head in the sand so as to avoid any responsibility for stopping it.
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