While I finish up Knockemstiff, here’s another review for you.
Three Cups of Deceit
By Jon Krakauer
I was very interested in this book when I heard that a journalist investigated Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea and founder of the Central Asia Institute – a non-profit that builds schools for children in Afghanistan and Pakistan. I loved Three Cups of Tea and got an autographed copy of his follow-up, Stones into Schools, when he spoke at a local college.
Three Cups of Tea tells the story of how he got lost during a hike in Pakistan and came across a small village that helped him recover. He came to love the villagers and promised to return and build a school, since the children went to class outside and used sticks to write their lessons in the dirt. Through many obstacles, Mortenson writes he returns and builds the school and goes on to build many more around the country. The book is supposedly used by high ranking military officials to teach them how to use diplomacy rather than weapons when dealing with the Middle East.
In Three Cups of Deceit, Krakaur explains how he was once a fan of Mortenson’s but found out that he was fooled out of money, along with many others. Through interviews with people close to Mortenson, the CAI and even some of the people Mortenson quotes in is own book, Krakaur argues that most of the money is illegally used to support Mortenson and help him promote his books and that he hasn’t built as many schools as he says he has. He also argues that the story of how Mortenson became invested in the mission is a complete lie.
I wasn’t entirely impressed. I’m sad about the lies Mortenson told, but not surprised that he is a terrible director. I got that feeling from his first book. I am surprised that so many people knew about his illegal use of funds but never said anything about it AND gave him annual raises.
And Krakauer obviously had an axe to grind, bitter that he was fooled. Most parts would have worked better for me without his editorializing. But I guess that’s just the journalist in me.