THE RAZOR’S EDGE by Robert Gurevich (Thailand)
- What’s it like being the only expatriate manager of a multi-million dollar development project with a staff of over 200?
- What’s it like having to start off dealing with a major embezzlement on a previous project that occurred prior to your arrival?
- What’s it like to work with senior staff who hate each other and could be complicit in the embezzlement?
- What’s it like having to deal with a donor agency and host government that view you with deep mistrust while demanding that that you get project activities up and running quickly?
These are but a small part of the complex challenges depicted in this novel that are involved in fulfilling a development missios abroad.
Robert Gurevich is an Applied Anthropologist specializing in education and development. In addition to service as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Thailand, he undertook long-term assignments in Indonesia, Somalia, Albania, and Ethiopia, along with short-term work in more than thirty countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America.
He served as Executive Associate for Asia with the Foreign Area Fellowship Program, as Executive Director of the Center for PVO/University Collaboration in Development, and as Chairman and Member of the Board of Directors for the USAID-funded Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resource Management Collaborative Research Support Program. He taught Anthropology at State University of New York–College at Brockport and at Western Caroline University.
The Razor’s Edge: Embezzlement, Corruption and Development in Ethiopia — A Novel
by Robert Gurevich (Thailand 1963-65)
Peace Corps Writers Publisher
$6.98 (Kindle); $18.00 (Paperback)
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I’ve noticed over the years that former employees of the American government and international agencies often write very elaborate biographical statements when promoting a book. These types of statements include lists of countries they have visited, the places they have worked and even their job titles. Unless this information is directly related to the book’s topic, it is irrelevant. Worse yet, it makes the author appear as an arrogant braggart. A book promotional biographical statement is not a resume and should not read like one.
I enjoy reading the bios in their detail, and Jeremiah Morris’ lifetime bios. We all share a common bond, and it’s interesting to learn about the things we’ve done and accomplished…and whether we might have run into each other in the process. An author’s–and book reviewer’s–cumulative experience adds depth and credibility and a human touch to the posting. The timing of Robert Gurevich’s novel seems perfect, with the subject country very much in the news.
Bob Gurevich’s novel depicts how a development project director must deal with multiple challenges in the field. From solving crimes, to encouraging rural parents to send their girls to school when their opportunity cost of labor is so high, to creating volunteerism among rural folk where transportation is sporadic, banks are a 2-day walk from the community, as well as building a local staff who can shepherd these processes to success to satisfy the donor (USAID) and other major stakeholders (i.e., the different levels of the Ministry of Education). And keep the reader’s attention to the end. Although a novel, the “real” approaches Bob shares with the reader call upon his experiences in other countries and are very valuable to those who wish to become project directors. I read this book as an evaluator with knowledge of several educational projects in Ethiopia. The development of Girls Advisory Committees enabled schools to be the hub of significant social change in reducing the incidence of childhood marriage, helping families who had to rely upon their daughters for labor, and increasing the number of girls going to school. The volunteerism seen among community members in improving the physical condition of schools increased the agency of members as well as built community spirit and a willingness of many to give what they had in the interests of their children. Bob took a very practical and culturally relevant approach in solving the problems the project presented. Coming to terms with the male/female tension between his deputies brought a most interesting sub-plot to the story also. As an applied anthropologist involved in development for many years myself, I found the book a real page-turner with all sorts of surprises presented on each page. A really good read for anyone who wants to be a Peace Corps Volunteer and to know more about the challenges of development as well as the seasoned practitioner who might be inspired to write their own book!