Book Review: Indonesia, Etc.

Indonesia, Etc.: Exploring the Improbably Nation by Elizabeth Pisani

If you (like me) don’t know anything about Indonesia, this is a good introduction to not just the history but the region and culture. Pisani has spent many years in Indonesia and is articulate and entertaining as she chronicles her 13-month intentional re-exploring of the island nation in the early 2000’s in preparation for this book. Her experience in the country began in the 1980’s as a writer for Reuters and continued with a stint as an epidemiologist working with sex workers in Indonesia.

It’s also clear from reading this book she has an incredibly adventurous spirit, a willingness to embrace a philosophy of “just say yes” and actually follow through on it. This affords her amazing opportunities to be with everyday people and experience what their lives are like, albeit at a cost of personal privation and with an endurance that is truly remarkable.

Pisani isn’t shy about sharing her opinions, and only with further exploration will I know how much to trust her political observations and historical interpretations. Admittedly, writing about these topics even in passing is a dangerous activity as the truth is elusive as well as oftentimes deliberately hidden or rewritten to suit the preferences of those in power.

One of the great resources of this book is her bibliography of other books, films, and websites on Indonesia. She doesn’t claim it’s comprehensive but it’s helpful for those (like me) who intend to study further. Further, there’s a website with more up-to-date observations as well as the ability to access the e-book as well as some photos (which are not part of the print book).

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