Unlike memoirs that explore a particular and personal relationship or a specifically challenging period during an author’s life, Badre’s “journey” reads more like a diary – an extraordinary story of a young boy’s life of privilege in Beirut, Lebanon, his immigration to America, and the remaining years of his personal and professional life up and until his current retirement.
From the start, his uncanny memory and attention to detail allow us to see his neighborhood, his neighbors, family, friends, teachers, and every street and house he passes en route to his prep school. Even more impressive is his ability to recapture and share with us his thoughts about everything he sees and everyone he knows.
Only a few pages into the book, we learn of his family’s plan to leave Lebanon and move to America. He is ecstatic! His mother, two brothers, and two sisters would leave first and be joined by his father in three years, as the father “had commitments with the university and the government he needed to wrap up during the first year; the next two years he accepted a position with the United Nations as the economic advisor to the UN Secretary General in the Congo.”
He acknowledged having felt at times somewhat conflicted about leaving. He knew he would miss his friends and his city, his large extended family that came to have meals with them each summer at their country house, all the neighbors whom he knew and the streets he walked and loved so much. Yet, he focused instead, on the great “adventure” ahead of him. He thought about “our impending voyage and telling my friends all about it.” Of paramount importance, he writes . . . “I could not be swayed from thoughts of all the excitement and fun I would have in America, the land of rock n’roll, Mickey Mouse, and hot dogs . . .I, like the rest of my family, aspired to and believed in the values of Western culture, and that we were going to follow through on what we believed by adopting Western values and living in the West.”
From all the American comic books he’d read, music he’d listened to and films he had seen, the news of leaving for America was better than anything he could have ever wanted. “We children had learned America was made for children, a land of fun, with Disney World and Coney Island . . . Our image of America was shaped to a great extent by the American movies we watched. Films such as Cinderella, Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea, the 7thVoyage of Sinbad, Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier, and the Superman and Tarzan movies influenced the games we made up and played.”
He knew from listening to adults talking that there were many more opportunities for intellectual and professional jobs in America, jobs which were very limited in Lebanon. He’d heard about the seeds for this move when his parents were in New York during his father’s sabbatical at the United Nations during 1957-58, when his father headed the U.N.’s Middle East unit. As for his mother’s six months in America, “she came to firmly believe that the United States was an open society, a place where tolerance for different religions was the norm. She wanted to live in a society where she could openly practice her Roman Catholic faith (to which she had converted) without interference.”
Even as a child, Badre was aware that “in Lebanon the religion you belonged to defined who you were. Although the Protestants of Beirut largely belonged to Lebanon’s professional class, there influence was limited mainly because they were a minority religious group.”
From his early teens, before even leaving Lebanon, he knew that he wanted to achieve something special and that America would be where he would have the opportunity to do so. Rather rare for a young boy, he writes that “political issues and religious conflicts occupied my mind by the time I was thirteen.” He tells his parents that “when I grow up in America I want to work “in the realm of the mind”—something not very common to hear from a young teen. Yet, throughout the remainder of his life he shares how his passion for philosophy and religion guided each of his most important decisions.
Though his first year in America was a typical year for any immigrant in that he struggled to learn the language, make friends, and adjust to all that was new and different from his life in the Middle-East, he was fortunate to have had family here and money enough to afford him many of the opportunities he had dreamed about.
The core of his story centers around the fact that his “journey” is one of the mind and soul. As such, I grew to respect and appreciate this rather shy, intellectual boy’s maturing into manhood, always true to his beliefs and ultimately making the difference in the world that he had hoped to make as a thirteen year old in Lebanon. [Please see his complete biography below.]
What I found most captivating was his ability to recall and share almost every thought and wish he had for himself. We come to understand the experiences that led him to his conversion to Catholicism, which shaped his entire life including his current years in retirement. They are all purely motivated and thoroughly inspiring. Readers will find his many literary references to be extraordinarily interesting and his reasoning to be both personal and provocative.
A fascinating read!
About the Author
Albert Nasib Badre is an American author born in Beirut, Lebanon. He immigrated to the United
States with his family in 1960 at the age of fourteen. His family made Albany, N.Y. their first home in America where he attended a private Catholic high school through his Junior year. After three years in Albany, the family moved to Iowa City, Iowa, when his father accepted a professor position at the University of Iowa. He finished his senior year at Iowa City High School, then went on to the University of Iowa where he got a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies. After college, he spent a year as a social worker in New York City. Deciding social work was not for him, he went on to pursue graduate studies at the University of Michigan where he got his Ph.D. in 1973.He spent the next thirty years at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and today he’s Professor Emeritus of Computing. During his tenure at Georgia Tech, he was an international consultant specializing in designing technology to enhance the human experience. Dr. Badre was an early pioneer in the field of human-centric design, with some thirty years of experience in human-computer interaction, learning technologies, and human-centric e-learning. His background combines expertise in the empirical methodologies of the behavioral sciences and the design approaches of the computing sciences.
Dr. Badre authored numerous technical papers, is co-editor of the book Directions in Human Computer Interaction, and the author of the book, Shaping Web Usability: Interaction Design in Context, which was adopted in several dozen courses worldwide. His memoirs, Looking West, is the story of his coming of age immigration to America and subsequent conversion to the Catholic Church.
Today, Dr. Badre and his wife live in Providence, R.I., near his son and family, where he leads a very active volunteer life, in service to the community.
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