BIOGRAPHY

The Good American: The Epic Life of Bob Gersony, the U.S. Government’s Greatest Humanitarian

Random. Oct. 2020. 544p. ISBN 9780525512301. $30. BIOG
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Award-winning journalist Kaplan (The Return of Marco Polo’s World) shows the positive effects humanitarian work can have in this insightful biography. During his four-decade career, Robert Gersony (b. 1945) worked as a freelance contractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). As a fieldworker, the author journeyed into crisis areas in Central and Latin America, Africa, and Asia. It was on these assignments that he perfected his trademark methodology of talking and listening to people, which allowed him to foster a sense of empathy and develop a clearer picture of individual needs. Working tirelessly, Gersony’s meticulously written reports influenced American foreign policy and allowed well-placed aid to have a more immediate and longer-lasting impact. Kaplan views the world of humanitarian and foreign policy work of the 1970s and 1980s as a less overtly ideological period where people like Gersony and career diplomats worked hand-in-hand. Based on hundreds of hours of interviews with Gersony, his colleagues, as well as personal recollections, Kaplan deservedly shines the light on a humanitarian who spent much of his career working anonymously.
VERDICT A must read for anyone interested in humanitarian work, foreign policy, and biography.

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