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Three Cups of Tea, The Confluence Book Club Selection

This is my first experience at hosting The Confluence Book Club.  And I feel a little awkward suggesting a book I haven’t read yet. I keep thinking what if I hate it?  What if they hate it?  But, isn’t that part of the give and take in a vibrant book club?  So here it goes:

Taking our inspiration from Riverdaughter’s post Saturday morning (Saturday: A little thing for the girls), the next selection for The Confluence Book Club (the week of February 23-28) is Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortensen:

From my own observations, and remembering a childhood proverb from Africa, there is a saying that “if you educate a boy—you educated an individual, because he often leaves the community to find work, and may never return or send back money, but if you educate a girl—you educate a community, because when the girl becomes a mother, she will remain in the community and instill that value in her community. – Greg Mortensen


Mortenson advocates girls’ education as the top priority to promote economic development, peace and prosperity, and says, “you can drop bombs, hand out condoms, build roads, or put in electricity, but until the girls are educated a society won’t change”.

Mortenson wasn’t looking for a mission.  He thought he was just going to climb a mountain:

On July 24th, 1992, Mortenson’s younger sister, Christa, died from a massive seizure after a lifelong struggle with epilepsy on the eve of a trip to visit Dysersville, Iowa, where the baseball movie, ‘Field of Dreams’, was filmed in a cornfield.

In 1993, to honor his sister’s memory, Mortenson climbed Pakistan’s K2, the world’s second highest mountain in the Karakoram range.

After K2, while recovering in a local village called Korphe, Mortenson met a group of children sitting in the dirt writing with sticks in the sand, and made a promise to help them build a school.

From that rash promise, grew a remarkable humanitarian campaign, in which Mortenson has dedicated his life to promote education, especially for girls, in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

. . .

The book traces how Mortenson kept this promise (and many more) in the high country of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Mortenson was up against considerable odds. Not only is the region remote and dangerous, it is also a notorious breeding ground for Al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists. In the course of his work, Mortenson was kidnapped and threatened with death; he endured local rivalries, deep misunderstandings, jealousy, and corruption, not to mention treacherous roads and epic weather. What kept him going was his passionate belief that balanced, non-extremist education, for boys and girls alike, is the most effective way to combat the violent intolerance that breeds terrorism. To date, Mortenson’s Central Asia Institute has constructed fifty-five schools, and the work goes on.

The Three Cups of Tea website has an abundance of information that includes a readers guide and an extended author interview.

Reviews of the book mention concerns with the awkwardness of the writing.  But, Greg Mortenson’s story is so compelling that when the Kansas City, Kansas Public Library scheduled Mortenson to speak tickets ran out months before the event.  And fans flew in from all over the country.  The library hosts author events all the time but we  had never seen such an enthusiastic response from the public.

So there is some indication that this is a book people like to talk about. . . . (I’m nervous, OK? — I still haven’t read it myself!)

To give everyone time to buy or borrow Three Cups of Tea and read the book, I’m setting a general date of February 23-28 for our discussion.  And I hope we’ll have a rousing-good discussion!

80 Responses

  1. KB — I love that!

  2. The book looks great, KB.
    I ordered it.

  3. Thanks for hosting the book club, KB. I plan to read it.

  4. I will say that my feminist heart was painfully struck when it was not mentioned that this is a fundamental human rights issue for females. Half the human race should be able to read for enjoyment and growth…not just to improve a community, just for their own pleasure. Why does this concept have to be sold as a solution for terrorism.? Jeez.

  5. Jeez, yourself somerset. Is that how you talk to people in real life?

  6. Hi Katiebird,

    Unlike Somerset, I think I’ll wait to read the book before I sit in judgement.

  7. somerset, although I agree with you that reading for a variety of purposes is basic, I think educating girls because it benefits the community is merely a selling point . Unfortunately we need selling points. I think that was the selling point for the micro loans in India. I see it as a foot in the door.

  8. Darnit! I almost bought this one at the airport last week, and talked myself out of it…..

    Oh well, there’s always Amazon….

    Sounds like an excellent choice!

  9. Thanks, BostonBoomer. I’ve been stewing about whether I should be digging into the materials a little more to rewrite my post. Which I admit I didn’t do because I like to read books before I dip into the “extras”

    (shaking my head)

    I guess we’re still fighting that old, It’s not what you do, it’s why your doing it & what you say about it battle.

    Comments like somerset’s make my brain freeze. So I really appreciate yours.

  10. I’ll give it a go. I don’t see reading as an either/or. I see no reason you can not see something as vital and still derive enjoyment from it.

  11. Maybe Somerset should write her own post about her viewpoint and post it on her own blog.

  12. SOD, do you want that link again? I’d love to see it used, if you want it.

  13. The jist I get is this is very similar to Hillary’s sentiment that when growth is allowed and people reach their full potential, we all benefit.

  14. For me the picture says as much about my reasons for wanting to read the book as any of the text. He and the kids look so happy to be reading together. I like the relationship some of the kids show with their books. It reminds me of myself when I first learned to read.

  15. I tried the link kb — I may not be able to use it; it’s a very small file. I”m going to try however.

  16. I remember reading about how liberal groups and anti-war groups in the 60’s and 70’s were often rendered ineffective by self-appointed guardians of ideological purity.

    I used to think that was bullshit.

  17. I’ve read that too, MyIQ. And I remember that in high school my sister, “R” and her friends were very rigid in the purity of their opinions.

    I didn’t fit in at all…..

  18. My opinions being frequently impure.

  19. Great idea, kb. There was something on TV about this guy
    and the book recently – I forget where.
    I was very impressed and inspired – with him
    and the idea. I thought of Hillary. Good choice.
    BTW, I thought Somerset’s “jeez” might have been
    directed at Mortenson, not you, kb. But it wasn’t clear,
    and was a little harsh for most of our sensitive and
    “feminist hearts”.

  20. (nodding) Yes, it was harsh, speaktruth. And that’s why I brought up the Real Life issue. Because I don’t want anyone afraid to speak up at our Book Club — any more than I want people to be afraid to speak up anywhere on this blog.

    We’re usually so kind in our comments here. I guess somerset hasn’t spent enough time here to know that.

  21. I love the picture. Kids are wonderful the world over, and each and every one of them deserves to be able to learn and grow.

  22. Some people think it’s not enought to share a common goal, you must have the same intent in seeking that goal.

    How many arguments have we seen the last 9 months over the definition of a PUMA, feminism, liberal, sexism, etc.?

    Look at all the people criticizing Kirsten Gillibrand because she isn’t the perfect liberal Democrat.

    They didn’t mind blue dogs when Webb and Tester joined the Senate.

  23. myiq,

    It’s really ironic, too, because Kirstin Gillibrand was one of the candidates that the Cheeto supported and raised money for when she first ran.

  24. BB — I totally forgot that.

  25. It’s like people who think you shouldn’t bribe your kids to do their homework and get good grades.

    In a perfect world that’s true.

    But if that’s what it takes to get them educated, it’s worth it.

  26. If all the blue dog incumbents were defeated by more liberal candidates in the primaries, lots of those seats would be lost to the GOP.

  27. Cheese? Did someone say cheese. I’m just sitting down with a sandwich.

    Tragedy is that this one man’s triumph does not cure the realities in Afghanistan today. It is an inspirational step nonetheless. Will enjoy reading it. Sure my wife will as well.

    Isn’t Jeez, short for Jesus. My mom says Jeez all the time..

  28. myiq

    maybe, maybe not.

    I think that part of the problem is the term liberal and conservative mean little to nothing when you do not use benchmarks to define them.

    Nancy Pelosi scores a 95% on progressive punch. She, by their definition is liberal. I don’t see overturning the 4th amendment, ceding responsibility of oversight, strong arming a primary as overwhelmingly liberal. That’s just me though. She appears more corporate then liberal to me though.

  29. I say it too, Three Wickets. But, I don’t direct it (with a sneer) at people who are opening a discussion. To me in that context, it was a conversation stopper.

    In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever directed it to a person.

  30. This cycle opened my eyes. I am now wary of labels. They mean nothing without some sort of quantifying measuring standard.

  31. off to bathe myself and hit the hay.


    It sounds like a good book.

  32. Hey somerset,

    I haven’t read the book yet, but a few months ago I saw the author, Greg Mortenson interviewed on C-SPAN. It was a very powerful interview, which can be seen here. I can’t remember Mortenson’s original subtitle, but I do remember that he also disliked the anti-terrorist angle of the eventual subtitle, which was added at the publisher’s insistence.

    Mortenson is a very compelling speaker, all the more so because of his obvious natural shyness, which he manages to overcome through his seriousness of purpose. I really don’t think you should let the subtitle keep you from reading the book–try watching some of the interview if you have any doubts.

    In any case, I definitely am down for this book club selection! Thanks, Katiebird! I thought about this book when RD wrote her post a few days ago. I should have mentioned it at the time and I’m glad you came up with the idea on your own.

  33. When I think of everything that I learned and enjoyed through reading I want the whole world to have that right.
    The world is opened through reading. I can not imagine what life would be like without books and papers and internet.



  34. This is weird. The USED copies of the book sell for the new price. And the waiting list at the library is over 150. (Off to eBay)

  35. A couple of people have recommended this book to me, and I bought it today after seeing the pic at the top of the page the past few days. I’m sure it will be worthwhile.

  36. Fif, I’m starting to get excited. I’ve never seen a best seller hold its original value on both eBay and Amazon. Usually a book that’s been out as long as this one (and sold so many copies) would have lots of copies available for a penny.

    This is a first. And seems to show that people want to hang onto it once they read it. Maybe passing it along to friends?

  37. KB,

    The book has been on the bestseller list for ages. It’s very popular.

  38. I know, BB — but look at what other used Best Sellers go for, most are read once and tossed aside. They don’t re-sell for the cover price.

  39. It was painful to go into my local bookstore though: it’s a veritable shrine to BO. The front window has every imaginable title praising him, and there are displays everywhere you look. Very intrusive and irritating. Why do they just assume we’re ALL ecstatic about the Brave New World?

  40. I came, I edged, I painted. My basement must hold the all time record for gallons of paint per square foot. Here’s the tally:
    15 gallons of DryLock
    5 gallons of primer
    2 gallons flat, color Moondrop
    1 gallon flat, color snow fall
    1 gallon flat, color real serenity(/)
    1 gallon ceiling paint

    I haven’t even touched the trim yet. I can’t do it anymore {{working up to a real wail}} I just can’t do it! I am covered with paint from head to toe. I have paint in my hair, on my eyebrows. I am breathing paint, swimming in paint. My arms ache,
    {Sobbing hysterically}
    No more pigments, no more pigments.

  41. I go to the library for books. It gives me the chance to ogle the librarians.

  42. {{{riverdaughter}}} You are an inspiration! And we expect to see photos. Of you AND the basement!

  43. MyIQ, If you tried to get 3 Cups of Tea from my library (which I did) you would find yourself at the end of a 6 month wait. That’s why I’ve been looking for used…..

    Oh, well — off to Barnes and Noble in the morning. I still have something left from a retirement gift card.

  44. Katiebird, so far from your post, it seems like a book I’d pick up and devour.

    Greg Mortensen understood that:



  45. RD
    Take a shower, Have some chocolate, join us .

    I got an e-mail today with some advice.
    Save the Earth it is the only planet with chocolate.



  46. So I would have to spend 6 months ogling librarians???

    That’s a win-win

  47. Well, I don’t see it as Win-Win. But, I just escaped after 31 years of being there everyday….

  48. Seriously, I got negative afterimage. I was seeing streaks of yellow on the walls as I was putting on the last coat of snowfall. Oh, did I mention the 3 coats of magnetic paint on one wall followed by the coat of chalkboard paint? I probably have to do another coat of chalkboard and that stuff travels. Once a piece of painting equipment touches it, it can never be used for any other color, no matter how much you rinse it.

  49. RD sounds like you have very pourous cement in your foundation….to suck up that amount of paint!

    darn I should have recomended a low VOC viariety!

    Latex paint comes off easiest….think of the Blue Man Group taking off the latex..all you need is a hot shower and good soap! should peel off and out of your hair…

  50. fuzzy: Yes, latex does come off easily. HOWEVER, I get contact dermatitis from it anyway. It will show up in about 24 hours. I will be scratching fiendishly in my sleep.
    Latex allergies really suck. In so many ways.

  51. this sounds good there was an organization that bought goats and farm animals for women in developing nations and provided micro loans for them as well as education….

    wish I could remember the name….or who sponsered it?

  52. yes polyurethane gloves, dental dams and condoms have been developed for the latex sensitive wouldnt want anyone going into a severe allergic reaction would we…

    Be careful RD…benadril now no excused take one or two as a prophilaxis agains a reaction to latex….

  53. Note to self: Start reading threads from BEGINNING when you arrive and the discussion is latex.


  54. Oh, RD, you sound so exhausted! I feel for you. Give yourself a rest for awhile. Keep visualizing how wonderful it will be when it’s finished.


  55. KB,

    The book is only $8.51 at Amazon. That’s pretty cheap. It’s 43% off the list price.

  56. SOD:


  57. RD: How is the lighting in your basement?

    Maybe some paint layers haven’t dried fully?

  58. sorry state….but when you dealt with te AIDs crisis as long as I have YOu learn alot about latex…

    and prophilaxis treatments for OI’s (opportunistic infections)

    I had some dimwit (he is probably an Obot now) tell me he couldnt wear a condom they were to tight…

    Know what I did – I unrolled it over my head to cover my nose and breatheing in throught my mouth exhaling thorugh my nose I inflated the condom to the size o a watermellon…

    It shut the guy up and saved someones life I hope

  59. when I did street education…not organizing on condom use I would roll them over parking meters to show how much they stretched….

    Magnum sized condoms are a big waste of money and were only invented to “stroke a mans ego”

  60. of course if Obama’s father had worn a condom this whole mess we are in could have been avoided

  61. hey SM!

  62. HEY FUZZY!!!!!!!!!!

    How’s my favorite teddy bear doing?????

    (can’t wait to see fuzzy soon!)

  63. FUZZY:

    THERE is NO excuse for a man NOT to use a condom.

    TOO TIGHT???

    OH PLEASE….. like his you-know-what’s THAT BIG?

    At that point, I would have made him raise his right hand and told him his hand would be the one he’d be spending the night with.


  64. I love the book Three Cups of Tea! I read it just a few months ago, but the life lessons will remain with me forever. Mortensen was able to do so much with so little…he has much to teach us all.

  65. the life lessons will remain with me forever

    And MT, I hope you’ll join us for the discussion. (Trying to hold my expectations in check)

  66. SM so true…but a friend actually snapped a pic of me inflating that condom over my head…it ended up on the local news…Mom was so proud…tag line was “for slow learners-do not try this at home”!

    If you are going to try to do what I did use an unlubricated condom….trust me RD talk about not being able to get something out of your hair for days!

  67. Me too SM we will have to take some pics!

  68. well night all have a long week ahead!

  69. Kbird: You are amazing. Thank you so much for putting this book club offering together. It’s a step in the right direction and an inspiration to so many.

  70. Thank you Riverdaughter. I really am looking forward to it. It helps that there is so much material available on this one.

  71. katiebird: I ordered from Amazon yesterday from the used book area. The total came to 11.00 including shipping. Can’t wait to read and discuss!

  72. I’ll be here for the discussion!

  73. I too am looking forward to reading the book. I ordered from Amazon.

    Education is the key —

    What I don’t like is the current state of Education in the US — which is teach for the test. The whole focus thanks to dimwit GWB and others is that damned test score.

  74. Maybe I’m slow, or maybe I just try to give people the benefit of the doubt, but I really didn’t take Somerset’s “jeez” (at 8:08) to be snark. I thought it was more an expression of frustration.

    Frustration that something that should be a normal activity for everyone (reading) has to be justified for women *anywhere* in the world – as in, “Jeez, it would be great if girls were valued enough by society that they are taught to read simply because it’s a life skill, not because it’s another weapon against Al-Quaeda.”

  75. I don’t know how I got that little smiley guy in my last post… it just appeared. But it’s cute!

  76. I didn’t see it as snark or as directed at katiebird, either.

  77. I just finished this book a month or so ago. It is a long and difficult read but what a compelling story. This guy is a hero and a brave one at that. I’m passing this book around right now. It is THAT important. I can’t wait for this discussion – I urge everyone to read it.

  78. I absolutely agree that education for girls is key in these areas.
    However, with the increasing attacks on girls and schools by
    the Taliban, providing security to and from school is important,
    as is security at the school itself.
    When going to school may be signing your death warrant-
    US efforts in the region have to also address security.

    I also would like to recommend the book “Infidel” by
    Ayaan Hirsi Ali, which talks some about yearning for education
    but gives a lot of background to Islam and women’s place in it.

  79. Please be aware that Ayaan Hirsi Ali has ties to the American Enterprise Institute. There has been some concern that her discussion of women’s human rights occur against the background of what are questioned as hard right leanings concerning dialogue about Islam.

    Three Cups of Tea made the United Methodist Women’s reading list.

  80. I said the R(acist) word and I am in moderation. Can someone get me out?

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