Mike Young, Dallas Morning News, Published February 14 2010
Author continues story about schools
“Stones Into Schools: Promoting Peace With Books, Not Bombs,
in Afghanistan and Pakistan”
- By Greg Mortenson
- Published by Viking
- $26.95; 448 pages
“Three Cups of Tea,” Greg Mortenson’s popular first book, told the story of the American mountaineer’s 10-year effort to build a school for the remote Himalayan village that took him in after his failed attempt to climb K2, the world’s second-highest peak.
“Stones Into Schools” picks up the story and carries it forward as Mortenson deals with the success of his first book.
Mortenson’s growing fame allowed him to expand his quest to use education untouched by religious bias to bring stability and tolerance to the Muslim world, with a special focus on opening schools for girls. By the time of “Stones Into Schools’ ” publication, his Central Asia Institute had opened 131 schools, educating 58,000 students.
But the needs seemed endless, and Mortenson, a man of incredible enthusiasm, realized that the best way to raise money for more schools was to tour almost constantly to support the paperback publication of “Three Cups of Tea,” which spent 10 months atop the best-seller list by the time “Stones Into Schools” was written.
“This exposure and publicity, week after week and month after month, seemed to offer an unparalleled chance to spread the word about the importance of girls’ education in Pakistan and Afghanistan while raising money for new schools,” Mortenson wrote. “So on behalf of the thousands of young girls who were still waiting to attend classes, I set out to turn the CAI into a promotion-and-fundraising machine.”
Leaving much of the work on the ground to his top aides, Mortenson toured relentlessly, signing books until 2 a.m., always aware of “the value to the Central Asia Institute of having people walk away with a positive feeling of acknowledgment.”
In 2005, he made presentations in eight cities. In 2007, with “Three Cups of Tea” a phenomenon, he made 107 appearances in 81 cities. That September, he was scheduled to make speeches in 22 cities. And on Sept. 20, 2007, at West Chester University in Pennsylvania, he crashed, unsure of where he was or what he was doing.
Unlike “Three Cups of Tea,” in which Mortenson’s story played out in the third person, “Stones Into Schools” is told in his powerful, eloquent voice. He emerges as a man of great strength, opinionated, sometimes impetuous, with little time for those unwilling to help with his quest.
And he truly loves those he serves in their isolated villages at the end of rocky, rutted roads or beyond mountain passes so narrow that horses are the only modes of travel.
The villagers’ willingness to sacrifice what little they have to build better lives for their children touches him.
A native Montanan, he borrows from that state’s slogan, describing the remote corners he visits as “the last, best places.” To him, they “often represent the best of who we are and the finest standard of what we are meant to become.”
“This is the power that last places hold over me, and why I have found it impossible to resist their pull.”