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Reading: Dante Paradiso

David Locke Hall
Dante Paradiso 

The Embassy: A Story of War and Diplomacy

Monday, October 10 at 7:00pm
In a distant war, in a city under siege, U.S. Ambassador John W. Blaney faced a terrible choice: abandon the mission or risk the lives of his team to give diplomacy a last chance... 

In 2003, Liberia was one of the most dangerous and isolated countries in the world. President Charles Taylor, a feared warlord, presided over a fractured state and countless unruly militiamen and child soldiers as two rebel armies marched to depose him. When an international court indicted Taylor for war crimes, the rebels attacked the capital and months of vicious fighting ensued. 

With Washington split on how to respond and pressure mounting to shutter the chancery once and for all, the Ambassador kept the flag flying. The U.S. embassy served as a rallying point for international efforts to save Liberia. West African peacekeepers backed by U.S. forces prepared to deploy, but a final, merciless attack by the rebels left the capital split and Taylor's forces dug in for a last, blood-soaked stand. With no margin for error, the Ambassador and his team made three forays across the front lines in a desperate bid to broker a local ceasefire that would lift the siege, stop the killing, and give space for peace to take root. 

The Embassy is a graphic, cinematic retelling of the harrowing climax of the Liberian civil war and the U.S. and West African role in ending it. Through interviews with the Ambassador and key members of the country team, as well as with peacekeepers, U.S. troops, relief workers, foreign correspondents, senior Liberian officials and rebel leaders, Dante Paradiso reconstructs the violence and chaos of those times to create an enduring portrait of a U.S. embassy under fire and the kind of daring frontline diplomacy that can change the fate of a nation. harrowing climax of the Liberian civil war. 

“In a country at war, embassies are sort of a ship in a storm―stable and self-contained but yawing wildly in the turmoil around them. More than that, though, they are the forward point of America, a place where our country engages the rest of the world. America starts at its embassies, and the inner working of them are fascinating, largely unknown and incalculably important. The Embassy is a truly harrowing and important account of an American embassy in what [was] arguably the most chaotic and violent country in the world… It is, I think, a book that every reading American should have.”—Sebastian Junger, Bestselling author of "The Perfect Storm"

“Dante Paradiso has performed a singular public service in bringing this tale of modern American diplomacy to life. This story of Liberia amid human tragedy and regime change is the real thing… The narrative is gripping. The reader gets an unvarnished portrait of a traumatized society and the extraordinary efforts of a handful of American public servants in Monrovia and Washington to bring desperately needed change. Here are heroes just doing their job.”—Chester A. Crocker, James R. Schlesinger Professor of Strategic Studies Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service Georgetown University
Photo Credit: Guy Calaf
Dante Paradiso is a writer, lawyer, and career Foreign Service Officer who has served extensively in Africa and Asia. He is the author of The Pure Life, a novel, and has contributed opinion pieces to the online editions of Foreign Affairs, National Geographic Voices, and, through the Tribune News Service, the Miami Herald, the Tampa Tribune, the Akron Beacon Journal, and Newsday, among others. Prior to joining the U.S. Department of State, Mr. Paradiso practiced financial services and bankruptcy law with Goodwin Procter LLP in Boston. Mr. Paradiso received his J.D. from the University of California at Los Angeles and his B.A. in Political Science from Yale, after preparing at The Horace Mann School. He is a recipient of the State Department's Heroism Award (group) and Superior Honor Award, and the U.S. Army's Superior Civilian Service Award. He comes from New York City and when not on assignment makes his home in Portland, Oregon with his wife, son, and dog.
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