If You Came This Way


February 1, 2024

My interview at the Bank in the winter of 1970-71 began with the YP Coordinator saying, “Canadian, huh. That won’t hurt you.” I was hired, so I guess he was right.

The geographic diversity among Bank staff meant that most of us found ourselves out of synch with our surroundings when we came to the Washington area. Of course we made friends, we shared in soccer coaching and PTA functions, we swapped garden tools with our neighbors, and we cheered for local sports teams.

But most of us hadn’t served in Vietnam, so we were caught off guard when a neighbor dove for cover as the July Fourth fireworks went off. Our education hadn’t been disrupted by busing and desegregation. Civil disobedience, sexual liberation, television evangelists – whether it was new to us, or just more in-your-face, it was different.

I had planned to spend two or three years at the Bank and then take my family and go home. But after 53 years I’m still here. Development got into my blood; Virginia became my home.

The demands of work and family over the years were such that I spent very little time reconciling the view of the world I had inherited with the one that emerged from my own experience and that of others along the way. That made for some awkward conversations during home leave, but it also made for some long nights with a glass in my hand.

As I neared retirement, the wonderful and poignant memories I had acquired were tinged with lingering questions about the route that I and others had taken to reach this point in our lives. So I created a couple of characters, got to know them, and then sent them back to take a different look at the world I had raced through the first time around.

As they graduate from high school in 1965 in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains, David Williams and Jerry Fletcher are more concerned with the baggage they’ve inherited from their families than they are with development, human rights or the Gulf of Tonkin. But, to paraphrase another writer, “Life is what happened while they were making other plans.”

The result has been four stand-alone historical fictions in the series Two Roads Home: The Morning Side, Fletcher’s War, Out of Eden, and The Purpose Breaks.

I have found that my own needs are met as I explore the events I write about and discover that they are never as simple as they first appear. But it’s always good to return to the cave with something to share, too, so I hope readers will find these books to be an entertaining – and perhaps even thoughtful – read.


Snippets for your consideration:

Nairobi, Kuala Lumpur, Beirut… To David these were names on a map, mental keyholes to mysterious worlds, but their names rolled off Marvin’s tongue as if he was talking about friends, people he might have met at the grocery store or had a drink with on the way home. – The Morning Side
Makeshift shacks lined the road away from the landing strip, each surrounded with incongruous piles of familiar products. Biscuits, canned goods, candy bars, toiletries, liquor, home appliances, casual wear… anything that wit and muscle could pilfer from the official economy. – Fletcher’s War
He especially liked the Bank’s approach to training, which seemed to consist of simply tossing the new staff member into the deep end. – Out of Eden
However you cut it, we’re messing with peoples’ lives here. This is serious stuff and we’re outsiders. – Out of Eden
Jenny’s was a walk-up Asian restaurant in a brownstone just around the corner from the Bank. No one went there for the ambience, which a Post food critic had described as ‘urban decline meets Canton frugal”. – Out of Eden
Here’s a topic for one of your seminars : When is the Big Picture a legitimate consideration and when is it a diversion from what’s really important? – The Purpose Breaks
It was a simple thing, really; not glamorous or sophisticated at all. He had just helped to create an opportunity for good people to achieve more of their potential. – The Purpose Breaks

The books of the Two Roads Home series by James G. Brown are available at Amazon.com.


Member’s blog posts reflect the views of the author(s), drawing on prior research or personal experience. Freedom of expression is an essential part of the 1818 Society’s culture. The 1818 Society® is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.

KEYWORDS   , , , ,


You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Blog Posts

Vinod Prakash, Service Before Self: A Journey of Conviction, Courage, and Commitment
February 23, 2024 | Uma Lele

It is a pleasure to write this blog about a book written by a colleague, Vinod Prakash, who retired from the World

>> Click Here
The Bank’s Ambitious Gender Strategy
February 1, 2024 | Frank Vogl*

The World Bank is on the cusp of finalizing a 2024-2030 gender development strategy. It draws on the experiences of the last

>> Click Here
Chile’s experience transitioning from an energy supply crisis to major investments in renewables
January 18, 2024 | Miguel Schloss*

There are times when crises can provide a sober warning about unaddressed problems than all discourses and learned studies. The crisis detonated

>> Click Here
Tackling Climate Change: The Bank’s Poisoned Chalice?
January 12, 2024 | S. Ramachandran

After much wrangling at periodic gatherings in Rio, Copenhagen and Paris, governments have agreed to reduce emissions that cause global warming. Many

>> Click Here
Stories from My 14 Years at the World Bank (1979-1993)*
January 11, 2024 | Nancy Birdsall

I was inspired by the November 29 CGD event on women’s leadership at the international financial institutions (IFIs), featuring a presentation of

>> Click Here
View All Blog Posts