BookTalkUNA presents

An American Abroad in a Post-American World

Join us for an evening of discussion with special guest

Author and journalist

Thursday, September 28, 2017

6 p.m. | Reception
6:30 p.m. | Presentation
7:15 p.m. | Book Signing

Institute of International Education
809 United Nations Plaza
Kaufman Center, 12th Floor
New York, NY



UNA Members: FREE
UNA Student Members: FREE
Guests and Non-Members: $15

Suzy Hansen left her country, moved to Istanbul — and discovered America

In the wake of the September 11 attacks and the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Suzy Hansen, who grew up in an insular conservative town in New Jersey, was enjoying early success as a journalist for a high-profile New York newspaper. Increasingly, though, the disconnect between the chaos of world events and the response at home took on pressing urgency for her. Seeking to understand the Muslim world that had been reduced to scaremongering headlines, she moved to Istanbul.

Hansen arrived in Istanbul with romantic ideas about a mythical city perched between East and West, and with a naïve sense of the Islamic world beyond. Over the course of her many years of living in Turkey and traveling in Greece, Egypt, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran, she learned a great deal about these countries and their cultures and histories and politics.

But the greatest, most unsettling surprise would be what she learned about her own country — and herself, an American abroad in the era of American decline. It would take leaving her home to discover what she came to think of as the two Americas: the country and its people, and the experience of American power around the world. She came to understand that anti-Americanism is not a violent pathology. It is, Hansen writes, "a broken heart… a one-hundred-year-old relationship."

Blending memoir, journalism, and history, and deeply attuned to the voices of those she met on her travels, Notes on a Foreign Country is a moving reflection on America's place in the world.

Join us for our evening BookTalkUNA with Suzy Hansen, as she shares a powerful journey of self-discovery and revelation, while offering a profound reckoning on what it means to be American in a moment of grave national and global turmoil.


"Remarkably revealing… Her book is a deeply honest and brave portrait of an individual sensibility reckoning with her country's violent role in the world…. Hansen is doing something both rare and necessary; she is tracing the ways in which we are all born into histories, into national myths and, if we are unfortunate enough, into the fantasies of an empire." Hisham Matar, The New York Times Book Review

"Hansen's must-read book makes the argument that Americans, specifically white Americans, are decades overdue in examining and accepting their country's imperial identity … [Her] argument goes beyond the factual assertion that Americans are ignorant of the country's long, complicated, invasive histories with many other countries around the world. She makes the paradigm-breaking claim that what Americans are taught about their national and personal identities disallows the very acquisition of this knowledge." Booklist

"To be an American is of itself, George Santayana once wrote, a moral condition and education. Notes on a Foreign Country embraces this fate with a unique blend of passionate honesty, coruscating insight, and tenderness. A book of extraordinary power, it achieves something very rare: it opens up new ways of thinking and feeling." Pankaj Mishra, author of Age of Anger

"… A compelling exhortation to introspection: Hansen urges Americans to recognize the perspectives that shape — and sometimes distort — how they understand their country's role in the world … She vividly captures the disorientation we experience when our preconceived notions collide with uncomfortable discoveries … It is rare and refreshing for an observer to exhibit this level of candor about her internal tensions … Timely and urgent." Ali Wyne, The Washington Post

"Hansen turns a coming-of-age travelogue into a geopolitical memoir of sorts, without sacrificing personal urgency in the process … Her long stay in Istanbul gives her an outsider's vantage on myopic American arrogance that is bracing. And her fascinating insider's view of Recep Tayyip Erdogan's rise upends Western simplicities …The experience is contagious." Ann Hulbert, The Atlantic

"Searching and searing … [Hansen] combines a brisk history of America's anguished intervention in the region; artful reporting on how citizens in Turkey and its neighbors view the United States today; and unsparing self-reflection to explain how she, an Ivy League-educated journalist, could be so ignorant of the extent of her country's role in remaking the post-World War II world … Hansen writes with both authority and humility and, occasionally, with sharp beauty." Barbara Spindel, The Christian Science Monitor

"Lucid, reflective, probing, and poetic, Hansen's book is also a searing critique of the ugly depths of American ignorance, made more dangerous because the declining U.S. imperial system coincides with decay at home. The book is a revelatory indictment of American policy both domestic and foreign, made gripping by Hansen's confident … distillation of complicated historical processes and her detailed, evocative descriptions of places, people, and experiences most American audiences can't imagine." Publishers Weekly

"It is rare to come across an American writer who has moved through the world — especially the Islamic world — with the acute self-awareness and thoughtfulness of Suzy Hansen. She has deftly blended memoir, reportage, and history to produce a book of great beauty and intellectual rigor. Everybody interested in America and the Middle East must read it." Basharat Peer, author of A Question of Order

"It's really quite simple: if you have any interest at all in how the non-Western world views America and Americans, you must read Suzy Hansen's beautifully composed memoir Notes on a Foreign Country. And when America's leaders complain — while campaigning and in office — that there is "great hatred" for the U.S. (and that they want to get to the bottom of it), it should be required reading by government officials — all the way to the Oval Office." Hooman Majd, author of The Ayatollah Begs to Differ

Suzy Hansen is contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine and has written for many other publications, including Vogue, Bookforum, Foreign Policy, The New Republic, GQ, The Baffler, and The New York Review of Books.

In 2007, she was awarded a fellowship from the Institute of Current World Affairs to do research in Turkey. She currently lives in Istanbul. Notes on a Foreign Country is her first book.

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