- AMERICA’S STRENGTH IS HER DIVERSITY
Donald Trump’s executive order to ban travel to the US from countries that are majority Muslim, has compelled me to re-visit “Little Women of Baghlan,” and explore the reasons why I wrote it.
I began the project by writing about a personal story—a young woman who joins the Peace Corps. And so by definition, it is a story about tolerance and acceptance. It is about sacrifice. Ultimately, it is about love.
But her story is also about a time in America when the best and brightest young Americans gave up two years of their lives to live in another country. They taught, established hospitals, and dug wells. And yet, their work paled in comparison to what they learned–that deep down we are all the same. We laugh and cry. We love. All of us want a safe home, an education for our children, and the freedom to practice our religion.
As we enter a new era in our nation’s history—one fueled by bigotry, fear, and ultimately, hate—her story is more important than ever.
My America is generous and welcoming. I refuse to allow myself or my country to be defined by racist, xenophobic policies that undermine our moral credibility.
Nurse’s book recounts efforts by fellow nurse to start school for women in AfghanistanWednesday December 31, 2014
At the tail end of the 1960s, long before words like Taliban and Mujahideen would fall on Western ears, a young American nurse and Peace Corps volunteer traveled to Afghanistan to help establish a nursing school for young women.
Heeding President John F. Kennedy’s call to action, Jo (Carter) Bowling, BSN, RN, joined the Peace Corps, and in 1968, launched a small school in Baghlan, Afghanistan devoted to empowering and educating young Afghan women and helping them learn the basics of nursing.
Fortunately, Bowling, who eventually went on to a healthcare career at Riverside Medical Center in Kankakee, Ill., kept a diary of those experiences. The diary became the basis for Susan Fox’s book “Little Women of Baghlan: The True Story of a Nursing School for Girls in Afghanistan, the Peace Corps, and Life Before the Taliban,” which Peace Corps Writers published in 2013.
Fox, an RN at Presence St. Mary’s Hospital in Kankakee, has known Bowling for most of her career, having previously worked with her at Riverside Medical Center. Deciding her friend’s story needed to be told, Fox talked with Bowling and breathed new life into Bowling’s diary entries. Fox also conducted much investigative research to piece together a remarkable tale.
“The nurses in Afghanistan worked under horrific conditions,” Fox said. She noted Bowling and the two other women Peace Corps volunteers the book focuses on had to contend with “a hospital without reliable running water, a lack of supplies and antibiotics and, not least, a population of women who were often denied medical care because their husbands would not allow them to be examined by a male physician.”
Perhaps the biggest challenges Bowling and the other volunteers faced were religious restrictions and cultural differences. “The hardest thing was getting the fathers’ permissions for their daughters to attend this nursing school,” Fox said of Bowling’s recollections. However, Bowling and the others always felt welcome and got along well with their Muslim hosts, Fox said.
Fox said the legacy of the women’s work in Afghanistan is incalculable. “Training a nurse is more important to a country than building a city” is something one of Bowling’s hosts told her.
Bowling, who is now retired, said she has known Fox since 1970 and trusted her to write the book. “She was really accurate to my diary. She did a tremendous job,” Bowling said.
Fox’s book is among the finalists for the Chicago Writers Association book of the year award in nonfiction for 2014. For more information, visit www.littlewomenofbaghlan.com.
Susan Fox, RN
Brendan Dabkowski is a freelance writer.
- APRIL 22: MANTENO WOMENS CLUB, MANTENO GOLF CLUB, 202 N 4000 E ROAD, MANTENO IL, 815-468-8827; 12:00 NOON
- BOOK OF THE YEAR FINALIST, CHICAGO WRITERS ASSOCIATION
Book by local author Susan Fox chosen as finalist for Book of the Year by the Chicago Writers Association.
“Little Women of Baghlan: The Story of a Nursing School for Girls in Afghanistan, the Peace Corps, and Life Before the Taliban,” written by Susan Fox, is one of three finalists in the non-traditional, nonfiction category for Book of the Year, 2014. The finalists will compete for four awards to be presented at 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 24 at The Book Cellar, 4736-38 Lincoln Ave., in Chicago’s Lincoln Square.
“On behalf of the Chicago Writers Association, we thank all those who submitted books to our 2014 Book of the Year award contest,” said CWA President Tori Collins. “I am always excited and amazed that each year more authors from the Chicagoland area enter the contest, giving us the opportunity to hear their stores as well as share and experience their expertise. Each year we receive more books, and our screeners have to make tough choices as to which books our finalist judges will review.”
Susan Fox holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of St. Francis, Joliet. She is senior assistant editor for Chicago’s online literary magazine, Ten Thousand Tons of Black Ink, has been a keynote speaker at The Indiana Center for Middle East Peace, and was recently interviewed by Bill Moller on WGN radio. Susan works at St. Mary’s Hospital in Kankakee, Illinois, serves on the Human Rights Committee for Good Shepherd Manor in Momence, Illinois, and is a member of the Kankakee Valley Wind Ensemble. She lives in Momence with her husband Ken.
Find “Little Women of Baghlan” online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Just finished a phone interview with Brendan Dabowski, freelance journalist. Watch the online magazine Nurse.com for a short article about “Little Women of Baghlan.” Thanks Brendan!
- GOODREADS REVIEW
Good Things happen when you least expect it. I opened my email this morning to find my first Goodreads review!
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1079684769by Susan Fox (Goodreads Author)
This is an absolutely fascinating insight into life in Afghanistan before the Soviet invasion and the rise of the Taliban. Fox brilliantly retells the story of Jo, a Peace Corps volunteer in Afghanistan. By the end of the book, I felt that I personally knew the volunteers and Afghans of Baghlan. My only minor issue was that it was perhaps a bit too long, but that did not take away from the impact of the book.
- PEACE CORPS ANNOUNCES HISTORIC CHANGNES TO APPLICATION PROCESS
PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEER JO CARTER WITH NURSING STUDENT SEDIKA, CIRCA 1968. READ JO’S STORY IN “LITTLE WOMEN OF BAGHLAN: THE STORY OF A NURSING SCHOOL FOR GIRLS IN AFGHANISTAN, THE PEACE CORPS, AND LIFE BEFORE THE TALIBAN.”
WASHINGTON, D.C., July 15, 2014 – Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet today announced sweeping changes to the agency’s application process that will make applying to the Peace Corps simpler, faster and more personalized than ever before. Under this new recruitment initiative, applicants will now be able to choose their country of service and apply to specific programs, and do so through a new, shorter application. As part of today’s announcement, Peace Corps also released a new video from President Obama calling on Americans to serve. It can be viewed here.
“More than 50 years after its founding, the Peace Corps is revitalizing its recruitment and outreach to field a volunteer force that represents the best and brightest the country has to offer,” Director Hessler-Radelet (RPCV Western Samoa 1981-83) said. “A modernized, flexible application and placement system will help Peace Corps recruit Americans who are not just interested in imagining a better world, but rolling up their sleeves and doing something about it.”
- BOOK CLUB IN EXOTIC HOOPESTON ILLINOIS! JULY 14
Who says you can’t travel to exotic places on a book tour? I am happy to accept an invitation from my good friend Susan Anvick, and meet her book club members at her home in Hoopeston, IL on July 14. I look forward to a great evening! What could be any better than good friends, a glass of wine, and book discussions? Thank you Susan!
- JULY 15: RIVERSIDE MEDICAL CENTER–MAGNET RECOGNITION PROGRAM
Riverside Medical Center in Kankakee, IL, will host a brunch July 15 to recognize Nursing Excellence
Speaker: Author Susan Fox will discuss her new book, “Little Women of Baghlan: The Story of a Nursing School for Girls in Afghanistan, the Peace Corps, and Life Before the Taliban.”
Watch for time and further details!
- PRESENCE ST MARY’S HOSPITAL