Monday, February 20, 2012

Three Cups of Deceit

I'm sure you've all heard of the best selling non-fiction work by Greg Mortenson, Three Cups of Tea. I myself reviewed the story of how Mortenson built schools for remote Pakistan towns here. It's a fascinating story. According to Jon Krakauer, author of the popular Into Thin Air, a highly fabricated story is exactly what it was.

Three Cups of Deceit: How Greg Mortenson, Humanitarian Hero, Lost His Way was written by Krakauer after he started researching the Central Asia Institute, responsible for funding these schools and Mortenson's puppetry organization. Krakauer had donated a large amount of money to the work the CAI was doing because he believed in the end goal. He was also asked to introduce Mortenson at a fundraising event some years prior. When Krakauer starting asking questions of former CAI Board Members and employees, things were not adding up.

Turns out, many of the schools were standing empty and being referred to as ghost schools. They were built but the funds and training for teachers were not provided. Additionally, Mortenson would not account for any money spent during his travels. He also got CAI on the hook for paying for his press tours surrounding the books, even though they received no profits from the royalties.
A very brief (75 pages) but fascinating read. Millions around the world have been enamored with the story they read in Three Cups of Tea. To find out that much of it was completely untrue was disheartening. To learn that according to many, Mortenson has used CAI funds as his own personal bank was even more devastating. And I never even donated money! Imagine all those poor people who thought their pennies were helping educate students who never would have seen a school in their lifetime if it hadn't been for the CAI. If you read Three Cups of Tea, this is definitely worth picking up. If you didn't, then this won't make much sense.

Rating: * * * 1/2

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