Courage of Strangers: Coming of Age with the Human Rights Movement

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After Jeri Laber earned a Master's degree in Russian studies at Columbia University, she became a part-time writer and editor and a full-time wife and mother. Then one day in 1973 she read an article about torture that altered her life and subsequently the lives of countless others around the world.

The Courage of Strangers tells how Laber became a founder and the executive director of Helsinki Watch, which grew to be Human Rights Watch, one ...
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Overview

After Jeri Laber earned a Master's degree in Russian studies at Columbia University, she became a part-time writer and editor and a full-time wife and mother. Then one day in 1973 she read an article about torture that altered her life and subsequently the lives of countless others around the world.

The Courage of Strangers tells how Laber became a founder and the executive director of Helsinki Watch, which grew to be Human Rights Watch, one of the world's most influential organizations. She describes her secret trips to unwelcoming countries, where she met with some of the great political activists of the time. She also recalls what it was like to come of age professionally in an era when women were supposed to follow rather than lead; how she struggled to balance work and family; and how her fight for human rights informed her own intellectual, spiritual and emotional development.

This story of the birth of the human rights movement is also a sweeping history of dissent and triumph in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Elegantly written, full of passion, humor and political wisdom, it is exciting history as well as a moving, entertaining, inspiring story of a woman's life.
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Editorial Reviews

From The Critics
[H]er role in the creation of the human rights movement during the cold war is extraordinary...Laber rarely strikes a false note.
Booklist
Laber's passion shines brightly in this memoir, as does her courage...insightful and inspiring.
Economist
an honest, moving and simple memoir which shows self-knowledge without self-indulgence.
New York Review of Books
a persuasive memoir...The Courage of Strangers celebrates [political dissidents'] courage,as well as Jeri Laber's own...
Library Journal
A homemaker with an academic background in Russian studies and Sovietology, Laber gradually became involved with a developing human rights movement in America during the 1970s and 1980s, going on to become the director of Helsinki Watch, an organization that monitored human rights abuses, especially in the Soviet bloc. Under her guidance, Helsinki Watch broadened its focus to the whole world, eventually merging into one composite organization called Human Rights Watch. Laber's book is first and foremost an autobiographical account of her lifelong devotion to exposing human rights abuses and preventing future abuses, interspersed with references to her personal and family life. This account details her often dangerous trips to Brezhnev's Soviet Union and Eastern European nations and chronicles the events leading to the development of Helsinki Watch and Human Rights Watch. It also contains vivid personal vignettes of Soviet dissidents and torture victims in Turkey and El Salvador. This book offers inspirational testimony to the value of a human rights organization that investigates and publicizes human rights violations with fairness and without regard to political ideology or U.S. foreign policy. For most academic and large public libraries. Jack Forman, San Diego Mesa Coll. Lib. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
Laber, one of the founders of Helsinki Watch (later to be known as Human Rights Watch) tells the story of her involvement in the influential nongovernmental organization. Beginning with her schooling and early years, she tells of her relationship to communist politics and her later involvement with anti-Soviet dissidents. Most of her work with Helsinki Watch involved documenting the repression of intellectuals in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, and the vast majority of her moral outrage is reserved for the Soviet government. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781586480141
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs
  • Publication date: 5/14/2002
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 6.48 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 1.32 (d)

Meet the Author

Jeri Laber's articles have appeared in The New York Review of Books, The New York Times and many other newspapers and magazines. She is the co-author of "A Nation is Dying": Afghanistan Under the Soviets. In recognition of her human rights work, she was awarded the Order of Merit by President Vaclav Havel on behalf of the Czech Republic. She is also the recipient of a Research and Writing Grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Laber lives in New York City and in Walton, New York.
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Table of Contents

Preface ix
Prologue 1
Part I Rooted 5
Part II On My Own (1977-1981) 91
Part III A Movement Takes Shape (1981-1985) 165
Part IV New Thinking, New Tactics (1985-1988) 245
Part V Beyond Our Wildest Dreams (1989-1991 307
Epilogue 373
Some People in this Book 381
Acknowledgments 391
Index 393
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