The Foreign Service Journal - November 2014 - page 45

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
|
NOVEMBER 2014
45
with his wife, Cora, also one of the six. He is treasurer of the
Anacortes Sister Cities, a position he has held for 12 years. His
account of the filming of “Argo” was featured in the October 2012
FSJ
(“‘Argo’: How Hollywood Does History”).
Fencing with Fidel and Other Tales
of Life in the Foreign Service
John Ferch, Miniver Press, 2014, $9/
paperback, $2.99/Kindle, 200 pages.
In this memoir of his 30-year diplomatic
career, retired Ambassador John Ferch does
not simply give an account of his profes-
sion and the times in which it was rooted,
but includes insights into the peoples and
cultures of Latin America and the diplomats themselves. Ferch
also includes recollections from his wife, Sue—as he says, the
pair always considered their Foreign Service experience to be a
“twofer” arrangement.
Ferch writes with candor and a sense of humor, starting with
his first assignment in Buenos Aires where, on his very first day,
he is given a case involving an American citizen who committed
suicide and left a request that the consulate put a pox on Argen-
tina. He openly discusses his experiences with culture shock
and concerns in the field, which include attempted bribery by
Dominican politicians and confessions of inconsistency by Mexi-
can diplomats.
As for the fencing with Fidel he mentions in the title, Ferch
describes several conversations he had with the leader and what it
was like to operate as chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana
during the early 1980s.
John Ferch served eight times in Latin America, including as
deputy chief of mission in Mexico and ambassador to Honduras.
Prior to his diplomatic career, he attended Princeton University
and worked as an economist. He is a collector of Latin American
contemporary and folk art and is an accomplished carpenter.
A Dimanche Prochain: A Memoir
of Survival in World War II France
Jacqueline Mendels Birn, self-published,
2013, $49.95, paperback, 213 pages.
The remarkable story of a Jewish family’s
survival in Nazi-occupied France,
A Diman-
che Prochain
illuminates the dark history
of France from the invasion in 1940 to its
liberation at the end of 1944. “As moving as
it is engaging,” says Michael S. Koppisch, Michigan State Univer-
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