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Open Borders: A Personal Story of Love, Loss, and Anti-War Activism

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It is 1983, and the anti-war movement Target Seattle is preparing for a trip to Tashkent, Seattle's Sister City in Uzbekistan. Betsy Bell's husband, Don, is the chair of the executive committee of Target Seattle, and co-leader of the trip. Travelling with three thousand copies of a peace petition, as well as her seventeen-year-old daughter and thirty others, Betsy sees fir It is 1983, and the anti-war movement Target Seattle is preparing for a trip to Tashkent, Seattle's Sister City in Uzbekistan. Betsy Bell's husband, Don, is the chair of the executive committee of Target Seattle, and co-leader of the trip. Travelling with three thousand copies of a peace petition, as well as her seventeen-year-old daughter and thirty others, Betsy sees first-hand the risks of travelling as an American to the USSR. She also sees the heart-warming stories of people-to-people connections across political boundaries. Upon returning to the US, Betsy pushes to find her own voice in a world where a wife's goals are subservient to her husband's. As tensions between the US and USSR are only increasing, Betsy travels to Washington, DC. She speaks to elected officials and the United Nations in favor of open borders, even as conflicting aspirations and careers become a point of contention in her marriage. With honesty and poise, Betsy chronicles a history of a time when ordinary citizens were transformed into agents of peace. Open Borders includes essays from Dr. Roscius N. Doan, Craig Justice, Anne Stadler, and Richard Carter about the reach and influence of Target Seattle during the tumultuous 1980s.


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It is 1983, and the anti-war movement Target Seattle is preparing for a trip to Tashkent, Seattle's Sister City in Uzbekistan. Betsy Bell's husband, Don, is the chair of the executive committee of Target Seattle, and co-leader of the trip. Travelling with three thousand copies of a peace petition, as well as her seventeen-year-old daughter and thirty others, Betsy sees fir It is 1983, and the anti-war movement Target Seattle is preparing for a trip to Tashkent, Seattle's Sister City in Uzbekistan. Betsy Bell's husband, Don, is the chair of the executive committee of Target Seattle, and co-leader of the trip. Travelling with three thousand copies of a peace petition, as well as her seventeen-year-old daughter and thirty others, Betsy sees first-hand the risks of travelling as an American to the USSR. She also sees the heart-warming stories of people-to-people connections across political boundaries. Upon returning to the US, Betsy pushes to find her own voice in a world where a wife's goals are subservient to her husband's. As tensions between the US and USSR are only increasing, Betsy travels to Washington, DC. She speaks to elected officials and the United Nations in favor of open borders, even as conflicting aspirations and careers become a point of contention in her marriage. With honesty and poise, Betsy chronicles a history of a time when ordinary citizens were transformed into agents of peace. Open Borders includes essays from Dr. Roscius N. Doan, Craig Justice, Anne Stadler, and Richard Carter about the reach and influence of Target Seattle during the tumultuous 1980s.

10 review for Open Borders: A Personal Story of Love, Loss, and Anti-War Activism

  1. 4 out of 5

    Arleen Williams

    With Open Borders, Betsy Bell offers readers an inside look at an interesting and little known story of the sister-city initiative and the role of citizens in person-to-person connections behind the iron curtain. She also provides a glimpse into the ramifications on a personal life and marriage seemingly shadowed by political activism. This reader wanted more!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    In her memoir, Open Borders: a Personal Story of Love, Loss, and Political Activism, Betsy Bell twines two narratives: her anti-nuclear war activism, and her feminist development within a long, loving marriage. Recounting her eye-opening 1983 trip behind the Iron Curtain, part of a delegation of Seattle citizens delivering a public message of peace (and a secret cache of letters addressed to two “refusenik” families) to their sister city, Tashkent in Uzbekistan, Bell captures the dramatic events In her memoir, Open Borders: a Personal Story of Love, Loss, and Political Activism, Betsy Bell twines two narratives: her anti-nuclear war activism, and her feminist development within a long, loving marriage. Recounting her eye-opening 1983 trip behind the Iron Curtain, part of a delegation of Seattle citizens delivering a public message of peace (and a secret cache of letters addressed to two “refusenik” families) to their sister city, Tashkent in Uzbekistan, Bell captures the dramatic events—and everyday details—of a precarious time in history. Bell’s story has unfortunate resonance today, and speaks to the power in the personal: knowing “the other” and wishing for the happiness and wellbeing of our so-called adversaries. “Putting words on paper is my way of taking up arms again,” Bell writes in the book’s introduction. “Action gives me hope.” Bell’s story, enhanced by contributions from four other activists, is a call to action—and evidence of a life lived with the curiosity, compassion, and respect in which she places her faith. A compelling, inspiring book!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    Too often in our lives we let ourselves become convinced that our own “small-selves” can’t really change the direction of things, because the issues are too big and too complex, and that any efforts we expend towards global-betterment are wasted energy, and won’t make a difference. But then, if we are lucky, we read a story of individuals that, through their own determination and effort, do make a difference on a critical global issue. Betsy Bell’s Open Borders is one of those inspiring stories. Too often in our lives we let ourselves become convinced that our own “small-selves” can’t really change the direction of things, because the issues are too big and too complex, and that any efforts we expend towards global-betterment are wasted energy, and won’t make a difference. But then, if we are lucky, we read a story of individuals that, through their own determination and effort, do make a difference on a critical global issue. Betsy Bell’s Open Borders is one of those inspiring stories. Describing the efforts of her family, friends and activist colleagues in Seattle during the Cold-War 1980s, Open Borders captures efforts to engage on a person-to-person level with citizens in Seattle’s sister city of Tashkent, Uzbekistan, located in the heart of the USSR. Bell’s story describes the efforts of her team to craft personal connections between Seattle and Tashkent, built around the joint belief that we really have more in common than we may initially believe, and that “regular-citizens” of the world must work together to prevent catastrophic nuclear war. Bell’s story is both highly descriptive of the times, as well as very personal. It provides important insights as to the common questions, challenges and doubts that come with efforts such as these. Mostly, Bell’s story provides needed inspiration for all of us to continue to show up and take action on the issues that are most important to us; to get involved, and to stay involved.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Barbara Sardarov

    I felt like I made 33 new friends who understood the importance of following a passionate and radical idea that we can effect change in the chaos of the world. While only 35 years ago, it seems like it stretches back longer in time. But I felt transported back not only to memories of my hometown Seattle, but to a time when more women of all classes/races were becoming more visible in the outer changes of society. The hard work of completing college and actually creating a profession for oneself I felt like I made 33 new friends who understood the importance of following a passionate and radical idea that we can effect change in the chaos of the world. While only 35 years ago, it seems like it stretches back longer in time. But I felt transported back not only to memories of my hometown Seattle, but to a time when more women of all classes/races were becoming more visible in the outer changes of society. The hard work of completing college and actually creating a profession for oneself was beyond pipe dream status but still bucking up against old belief systems. This book is such a warm story of 2 individuals -- Betsy and her husband, Aldon, supporting each other and yet challenging the impact of making major changes in roles of their marriage. Yet the bravery in challenging each other makes both of them create a legacy for all of us in the facing the horror of nuclear war. And so these brave people -- the Russians , the Uzbekistans, the Americans, the educators, the artists, the organizers, the media, the officials, the people of many faiths, the young people -- show us what we need to continue. Here’s to the kindness, sensitivity and fierceness of their efforts.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Rodney W Guthrie

  6. 5 out of 5

    Drew

  7. 5 out of 5

    Rhea Graham

  8. 4 out of 5

    Elliott J

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mary

  10. 4 out of 5

    Danny Parr

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