From adolescent pen pal in the suburbs of Australia to prize-winning foreign correspondent, Geraldine Brooks presents an intimate and captivating memoir. Born on Bland Street in a working-class neighborhood of Sydney, Australia, Geraldine Brooks longs to discover the vivid place where history happens and culture comes from. As a means of escaping the world around her, she enlists pen pals from around the globe who offer her a window on the hazards of adolescence in the Middle East, Europe, and America. With the aid of her letters, Brooks turns her bedroom into the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, the barricades of Parisian student protests, the swampy fields of an embattled kibbutz.
Brooks goes from the protected environment of a Catholic girls school to the University of Sydney, eventually renting her own flat near the bustling Sydney harbor. She hires on as an intern at The Sydney Morning Herald and then wins a scholarship to the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University in New York City, where she begins her career as a foreign correspondent.
As a writer for The Wall Street Journal, Brooks reports on wars and famines in the Middle East, Bosnia, and Africa, but she never forgets her earlier foreign correspondence. Back in Australia to attend her dying father, she stumbles on her old letters in her parents’ basement, and embarks on a journey that tales her around the world on the most meaningful assignment of her career. Her search leads her through Israeli moshavim, Arab souks, medieval French hill towns, Martha’s Vineyard fishing shacks, and Manhattan nightclubs. One by one, she finds men and women whose lives have been shaped by war and hatred, by fame and notoriety, and by the ravages of a mysterious and tragic mental illness.
It is only from the distance of foreign lands and against the background of alien lives that Brooks finally sees her homeland and her own life clearly. Candid, thoughtful, and compelling, Foreign Correspondence speaks to the unquiet heart of every girl who has ever yearned to become a woman of the world.
“Geraldine Brooks’ talent is unique: she combines the hardest-hitting reporting with a true writer’s sensitivity and an empathy rare for anyone. In Foreign Correspondence she trains her lucid gaze on the turmoil of female adolescence and by doing so brings us a dazzling range of insights that extend beyond introspection to raise questions about national identity in an increasingly global culture.”–Naomi Wolf, author of Promiscuities