FRAGMENTS FROM A MOBILE LIFE
Margaret Sullivan, Red Mountain Press, 2018, $25.95/paperback, 342 pages.
Foreign Service spouse Margaret Sullivan, a columnist for the Huffington Post whose work has appeared several times in The Foreign Service Journal, has assembled a rich collection of more than six dozen essays about life in 10 countries, in 29 homes, with four kids and more than 60 years of marriage to a career diplomat.
Sullivan’s travels took her around the equator, including Burma, India, Malaya, Nigeria, Indonesia, the Philippines, Sierra Leone and Singapore. Her experiences span changes in the postcolonial world and women’s lives over several decades.
She learned early on that on top of raising kids and hosting representational events, she needed “portable pursuits” in the days before Foreign Service wives were allowed to be employed. In Sierra Leone, she and a female photographer traveled all over the country to write a book, meeting with people who made everyday things such as baskets, hand weavings and fish nets. While the book was never published, the collection of items they gathered made its way to the Smithsonian.
When a tsunami devastated Sumatra in 2004, the United States Indonesia Society asked Sullivan to help rebuild the educational system that had been destroyed by the disaster. The result was the University of Syiah Kuala Laboratory School, a high school that admitted its first class in 2007.
Born in China to American parents, Sullivan is also the author of Can Survive, La: Cottage Industries in High-Rise Singapore (1993) and a children’s book, The Philippines: Pacific Crossroads (1993).