Born a Foreigner: A Memoir of the American Presence in Asia
By Charles T. Cross
Rowman and Littlefield, 1999, 320 pp.
Born in Beijing to missionaries, Cross is personally acquainted with Asian history at a time when most Americans are confined to headlines and history books. He was an eyewitness as a teenager to the brutal Japanese occupation of China, fought at Iwo Jima as a Marine, and then served throughout East Asia during a thirty-two-year career in the Foreign Service that included posts as ambassador to Singapore and consul general in Hong Kong. Although his narrative sometimes reads with all the panache of an embassy cable, Cross approaches his subjects with refreshing candor. Ironically, the most fascinating part of the author's career began with his retirement in 1979, which paved the way for his appointment as the first director of the American Institute of Taiwan -- the nongovernmental organization that replaced the American embassy in Taipei. Here Cross gives deserved attention to the challenge of practicing "unofficial" diplomacy with a Taiwanese government that sought to reveal his outfit as "just an embassy by another name." This volume may not read like Graham Greene, but Cross should qualify as our man in Asia.