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Stones into Schools

'Three Cups of Tea' author focuses on the everyday challenges of running a non-profit in Afghanistan

By Drew Halfnight

Stones into Schools
By Greg Mortenson
(Viking) $33.50

Picking up where book-club blockbuster Three Cups of Tea left off, the story of the six-foot-four mountaineer from America who built 131 schools in the most volatile region in the world continues with Stones into Schools, a readable sequel.

The book follows Greg Mortenson and his band of deputies as they crisscross Kashmir and Afghanistan, building a “Great Chinese Wall of literacy” through Taliban country.

Stones into Schools is part memoir, part campaign for women’s literacy and Mortenson’s own Central Asia Institute. Fans of Three Cups of Tea will miss the affectionate narration of Oregon journalist David Oliver Relin. The sequel, written in the first person by Mortenson with help from two other authors, is rendered with less detail and poetry.

The book dwells on the everyday challenges of funding and administering a non-governmental organization in the context of the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan.

Perhaps most remarkable is the story of a U.S. colonel who, after sustaining months of rocket attacks, pacifies hostile Afghan villagers, not with violence, but by convening a meeting with their elders, listening to their grievances and helping them build a school.

At the heart of this book is the power of an idea. In just over a decade, Mortenson’s idea — that education can bring world peace-inspired thousands to help build a large, successful development organization. Without that help, Mortenson says, “I would still be nothing more than a dirtbag mountaineer subsisting on ramen noodles and living in the back of his car.”

Drew Halfnight lives in Guelph, Ont.

Author's photo
Drew Halfnight is a father, journalist and high school teacher in Toronto.
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