Stones into Schools: Promoting peace with books, not bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, picks up where the author’s first book, the best-seller Three Cups of Tea, left off. (See review of Three Cups of Tea in Staff Picks blogs.) The Central Asia Institute (CAI) which author Greg Mortenson founded in the 90’s continues to build schools in Pakistan, and has expanded its efforts into neighboring Afghanistan. Though Mortenson longs to spend more of his time in these two countries, it becomes increasingly clear that his ability to raise funds and awareness by promoting his books requires him to spend the majority of his time in the United States. To execute the mission of building schools in the remote regions of these countries, Mortenson has assembled a team of 12 talented, indefatiguable men, which he affectionately refers to as “the Dirty Dozen.” These men are passionately committed to providing educational opportunities to children, especially girls who have traditionally been denied an education in this area of the world. It is this passion that enables them to overcome insurmountable barriers and to go to great lengths to erect and staff tens of schools. They serve as a perfect example of how people from different ethnic and religious backgrounds can respect each other, develop close bonds, and work to accomplish mutual goals. This book is, in part, a tribute to them. It is also a tribute to the girls and boys who have benefitted from the education provided through the CAI and whose stories are told here.
As was true when I read his first book, I am struck by how this one man, by proceeding with humility and showing respect for those he encounters, has inspired and empowered so many others to improve the lives of the people and to work for peace through education in this impoverished and war-ravaged area of the world. One example of this is the partnership that has developed with the United States military. His first book is required reading for military personnel who are involved in counterinsurgency efforts in that region. Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke at the inauguration of one of the schools built by the CAI. On the back cover of the book, Admiral Mullen writes, “What Greg understands better than most – and what he practices more than anyone else I know – is the simple truth that all of us are better off when all of us have the opportunity to learn, especially our children. By helping them learn and grow, he’s shaping the very future of a region and giving hope to an entire generation.” Stones into Schools is an inspiring story written by an extraordinary man.