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About the book and author

 

We're Global Citizens
Convesations with Tomorrow's Leaders

by Steffi Schütze 

Paraview Special Editions, 2003 
ISBN: 1-931044-41-4
Culture, 188 pages
Trade Paperback, $14.95
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Excerpt
 

Introduction

 

An interview conducted in Room 5F, International House, New York on Wednesday February 20, 2002, 20:02 p.m. by Sharon Powell, USA, with author Steffi Schütze, Germany:

Steffi, I see you here in your little room going crazy over this book. You could be at Ballroom dancing or the panel discussion on the African Diaspora. Why do you do this to yourself?  

Don't throw salt on my wounds!  

I think it has something to do with my passion for stories. Since I've met all those amazing people in International House that would tell me the weirdest and the most unbelievable things, I thought, how could I preserve it and share it? That's how it started. So, I would lure them into my room. Some people I would talk to 20 times before they finally appeared. I put them on the hot seat, and I took my microphone and sounded them out. 

There are almost 700 people from 100 countries living here at IHouse. How did you decide whom you wanted to interview for the book? 

It wasn't easy, oh no, but I've already done hundreds of interviews. That's part of my job as a journalist. I have a good feeling for people. I take a deep look into their eyes and at their hands, and it tells me a lot. So, I just looked around the house and certain people stood out to me. 

I wanted people who could express themselves very well verbally in English. I wanted them to be from all the inhabited continents. And I wanted to have fun. 

The interviews last on average four hours per person. Usually, this translates into a 120-page transcript, but the stories in the book have only 20 pages. How did you do that? 

First, I read the transcript, and then I read it again, and then I read…and so on. That's why I have red eyes. It's not my natural color! I think about each person a lot. I search to find the major themes that come through their stories. It's like a painter that creates a portrait and looks for expressions on a face. 

Then, I give the story a name. I come up with the first and last sentence. Sometimes this takes forever. And the rest is cutting and fiddling until I have a flowing, coherent and, most of all, authentic story. 

How did you get these people to tell you about their most private thoughts and moments? 

I served them tea and cookies, asked and listened. That was it! 

Being so close to them, did you ever feel yourself falling in love with any of these people? 

No! Not during the interviews. My whole body was just occupied by thoughts and questions, but when I was working all those long hours, both day and night, on the stories, I fell in love with every single person. Fortunately most of them are taken, so there's no need for action. 

Why did you include pictures of their hands? 

I did it [on the cover of this edition] because their faces were too beautiful. It's true! I thought there might be a danger. Whether you want to or not, when you open a book and see faces, you might judge the persons before reading their stories. Right? 

Plus, some people wanted anonymity, and of course I respect that. I even changed some of their names. 

And most of all, I do think that hands are a very expressive part of the body. 

Don't stare at my hands! I haven't done my nails. 

Steffi, you are from East Germany… 


…Yeah and therefore I'm an alien! Before the wall came down, ordinary East Germans were not allowed to travel to capitalist countries, and that narrowed my mind. 

When I came to New York, I thought, "Am I really here?" It was like a dream come true, but real life here is not exactly dreamlike. I've seen good and bad things. 

Now I know about different political systems. And in IHouse I see the human face of globalization. It's like traveling through centuries. I was born under a lucky star. 

There is much talk relating to success in this book. What do you think of it? 

Well, I'll be the next Nobel Prize winner. Just kidding! I want my book to be read all over the world. I want readers to be amused and astonished. I want them to laugh and cry. That's all I want. 

It will be. 

Thank you, sweetheart. That's it! And now it's time for a drink! 

Cheers! 

© 2003 Steffi Schütze

 

 

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