As a Peace Corps volunteer, debut memoirist Salisbury (The Current Economic Crisis and the Great Depression, 2010, etc.) was sent to Liberia to teach at a public school. Primarily a reproduction of a journal made at the time, his book centers on the daily lives of ordinary villagers and the challenges, problems and rewards of teaching in a developing country. Too few teachers, too little money for equipment and too much political interference by government officials were ongoing challenges. Religious groups such as Jehovah’s Witnesses were persecuted, and the author saw members being savagely beaten. Liberian president William Tubman was in reality a dictator revered and feared in equal measure. Under his regime, no student activity went unscrutinized. For example, at the close of the school term, the pupils had to sing the national anthem. On one occasion, the principal interrupted and asked the students if they considered the national anthem to be a joke. He suggested that they remember what happened to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the anthem restarted “with a great deal more vigor” while the author’s stomach “turned over.” Women were treated as property and child bearers, and the gender ratio in classes was about eight boys to one girl. Pregnancies were a common problem. The issues here are heart-wrenching and important, but they’re buried in a morass of detail (is it important to know what time the author arose in the morning?). Editing could have reduced the book’s length by at least half to much better effect.
More an exercise in reproducing notes of 50 years ago than an analysis of a country before it became engulfed in civil war.