Zimmerman offers a warm, engaging memoir of her two years in Libya during the 1950s as a housewife in a foreign land.
The author’s story begins in late 1955 as she prepares to move herself and her three children to Wheelus Air Base in Tripoli to join her husband, a U.S. Air Force pilot. Over the course of her husband’s rotation, Zimmerman gave birth to a fourth child and adjusted to a number of other changes. While she dealt with a lack of easy access to telephones and transportation, she also witnessedpoverty on a scale unknown to most Americans, and faced the social and cultural obstacles that came with traditionalist attitudes toward women. To make her adjustment more difficult, several regional political developments while she was there led to protests and unrest in the streets. Meanwhile, the Cold War loomed in the background, particularly when the 1957 launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik became international news. Zimmerman writes this memoir with good humor and cheer, even while acknowledging her personal troubles large and small—from an abusive upstairs neighbor to locusts—and the darker aspects of Tripoli life, such as the destitution of children living on the streets. The memoir is leavened throughout with the author’s modern-day opinions on family and friends that appear in the narrative. Overall, Zimmerman brings her day-to-day routines to vivid life with her firm grasp of detail. Although readers can find many other memoirs about people living overseas, the author here provides the fairly novel perspective of a 1950s housewife in a country not well understood by most Americans.
A warm, well-rendered historical appreciation of Libya’s rich culture.