Al Hirshen has led an unusual life. He is the son of a Jewish immigrant family who learned street smarts in the Bronx, helping out at his father’s candy store, working as a waiter in the Catskills to pay for his schooling, and ultimately becoming a lawyer. He was a participant in many of the pivotal changes of our times – as a Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division Lawyer in the 60’s, then as a pioneering anti-poverty lawyer and the creator of the first public/private partnerships in the Carter Administration. After the breakup of the former Soviet Union, he was among the first USAID (United States Agency for International Development) consultants to work in Russia, Ukraine, Slovakia and Albania.
Always ready for a new challenge and adventure, Al travelled the world, was a successful international development consultant, and even tried his luck at movie production in Hollywood. For nine years he worked as a consultant to the leadership of Indonesia, living as a Jew in the world’s largest Muslim country during that nation’s turbulent transition to democracy.
Al’s memoir is far more than a travelogue: it shares a razor sharp awareness of the changing world we inhabit. He has a rare sense of humor and a profound love of life, the world, and people. His writing conveys a deep appreciation of the beauty around us, of friendship and the transcendent spirit of humanity, with sadness for the ways we mistreat each other. As a recovering alcoholic, father, grandfather and a husband in a happy third marriage, Al sees himself as an “ordinary man”, a human being blessed to live life fully in an imperfect, yet stunning world.