Saturday, March 7, 2015

Welcome to Drinking From the Saucer...Cause My Cup Has Overflowed...

Drinking From the Saucer

Welcome to Drinking from the Saucer

About the Book
Book Reviews
Sample Chapter
Welcome to Drinking from the Saucer
“As I go along my journey I’ve reaped more than I’ve sowed. I’m drinking from the saucer ‘cause my cup has overflowed.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Charlene C. Duline

Peace Corps Volunteer, Peru
United Nations International Secretary, New York City and East Pakistan
Verbatim Reporter, Organization for Economic Development & Cooperation (OECD), Paris, France
Public Affairs Trainee, Haiti
Cultural Affairs Officer, Tanzania

Chief, Africa Branch, Office of International Visitors, Washington, DC
Administered a $4.2 million budget for 47 Sub-Saharan countries and six North African countries. Managed staff of eight and supervised six private sector institutions in designing, developing, and implementing individual programs for 600 visitors yearly.

Cultural Affairs Officer, Panama
Directed all educational and cultural exchanges, including the Fulbright and Humphrey Scholar Exchange Programs, American speakers program, and library facilities; managed staff of seven, working in a country whose government the U.S. did not recognize.

Public Affairs Officer, Swaziland
Director of all USIA programs, including managing cultural center, library, educational and cultural exchanges, media activities, principal speech writer and public affairs advisor to the ambassador; U.S. Embassy spokesperson; managed staff of ten.

Information Officer, Liberia
Designed and directed all media programs supporting U.S. interests in Liberia during period following a violent coup in the country, wrote speeches for ambassador and visiting U.S. dignitaries, press releases, and toasts for official banquets, and coordinated all U.S. and Liberian media activities during the official visit of Liberian Head of State Samuel K. Doe to the U.S. at the invitation of President Ronald Reagan; managed staff of six.

M.S., International Public Policy, Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced
International Studies, Washington, DC
B.A. Journalism/Political Science, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN

Volunteer Activities

Prison Ministry
Animal Handler, Indianapolis Zoo
Mentor, OASIS
Eucharistic Minister at St. Monica Parish, Indiana Women’s Prison, St. Vincent Hospital
Investigator, Child Advocates Mentor, U.S. Information Agency
Content copyright 2010-2015. Drinking from the Saucer. All rights reserved.

About the Book

This book is the first from a black woman who had the privilege to serve humanity in two different worlds. First, black women are few in number in the Foreign Service, and few, if any, have been Peace Corps volunteers. While the settings in each country are different, the people are the same. They want clean water, food, education for their children, and the freedom to vote for those who govern them. These people deserve better than what they have gotten. My experience of 33 years has been invaluable in allowing me the opportunity of working closely with those whose needs are the greatest. It has been a revelation, one that I am thrilled to share with readers. 

About the Book

This book is the first from a black woman who had the privilege to serve humanity in two different 
worlds. First, black women are few in number in the Foreign Service, and few, if any, have been Peace Corps volunteers. While the settings in each country are different, the people are the same. They want clean water, food, education for their children, and the freedom to vote for those who govern them. These people deserve better than what they have gotten. My experience of 33 years has been invaluable in allowing me the opportunity of working closely with those whose needs are the greatest. It has been a revelation, one that I am thrilled to share with readers.

Someone said it better than I can: This book is “…a tour of the human spirit and its potential to rise above any past, to embrace a future of hope and hope's power to endure. It is a roller coaster ride with sheer triumph at its end as this brilliant spirit takes her spark of life to the mountains of Peru, then on to life as a diplomat in Haiti, the United Nations, Africa, Central America, and the corridors of power in Washington, D.C.”

Finalist in Indie Excellence Book Awards, 2009

Book Reviews

Reviewed by Ryan Anthony MacDonald
In September, 1986 Sargent Shriver told a Washington crowd gathered to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Peace Corps that returning Peace Corps volunteers "represent the promise, not the power of America." For no one was this more true than Charlene C. Duline who stood beaming, then, on the crowded Washington Mall, and whose memoir of a life representing the United States in Foreign Service stands out as profoundly genuine and personally moving amidst a crowded field in the genre.

This memoir is the crowning achievement of a life and career best summed up as "United States Ambassador of America's Promise." The central character of Drinking from the Saucer is not Charlene Duline herself, but her irrepressible and inestimable esprit de corps. If there is a paradigm of human spirit and potential that could have best portrayed America abroad during times of turbulent political, social and moral upheaval at home, it was Charlene C, Duline, whose very life is a monument not so much to America's promise, but to its progress.

It was not always thus. Ms. Duline was also the first African American woman from Indiana to join the Peace Corps in its infancy in 1962 - a pivotal moment not only in her own life, but in the life of the nation as the gathering storm of the Civil Rights movement loomed on the horizon. Ms. Duline did not spring from the usual Peace Corps crop of candidates.

Hers was not the life of privileged idealism with which so many young Americans sought to find themselves in service to the less privileged abroad. This writer brought to the Peace Corps, and to a subsequent and unprecedented career as a diplomat in U.S. foreign service, the determination of a young woman who had overcome obstacles that would have defined and defeated a lesser soul: a childhood spent - literally spent - in the despair of poverty, the oppression of urban racism, and the crushing injustice of a manifestly cruel and brutal rape - an event which ended her already fragile childhood at the age of eleven. Charlene Duline's was a life that had to first emerge from the rubble of urban poverty, the national shame of racism and segregation, the personal taint of abuse, to find an America worthy of its own potential.

Drinking from the Saucer takes its readers - and they should be many -on a tour of the human spirit and its potential to rise above any past. To embrace a future of hope and hope's power to endure. It is a roller coaster ride with sheer triumph at its end as this brilliant spirit takes her spark of life to the mountains of Peru, then on to life as a diplomat in Haiti, the United Nations, Africa, Central America, and the corridors of power in Washington, D.C. In the end, we celebrate the life not of a victim, but of a brilliant scholar and ambassador, the life of a woman of depth, of faith - Good Lord, such faith! - and personal triumph whose very life paved the road less traveled.

“Drinking from the Saucer” left me with a haunting question: Is America worthy of Charlene C. Duline? We can only hope. In 2008 this nation placed its hope for change in its first African-American President-elect. If there is a single figure to thank and honor for beating away the brush toward this monumental and historical achievement, that person could be Charlene Duline as much as any other. Bravo, gentle, indomitable soul! The nation hears you, and must hear more. 

Reviewed by Santiago Cruz 
Was it St. Francis of Assisi who said, “Preach the Gospel, and, if necessary, use words”? It could have been Charlene Duline whose memoir stands out poignantly, vividly and memorably among a recent onslaught of books in that genre. Ms. Duline’s is a life – at the same time simple and complex – lived against many backdrops. She embraced Catholicism as a young adolescent against the religious tidal forces of her own family, and at a time when Catholicism entered its crisis of identity. She is an African-American whose coming of age sprang from the lie that was the American racial policy of “Separate but Equal,” to become swept up in the first currents of the American Civil Rights movement. A feminist in her own right, Ms. Duline became a career diplomat in the Foreign Service when both women and African-Americans knew nothing resembling equal opportunities and acceptance in American politics and government.

Charlene Duline’s story emerges out of the crucible of Black urban poverty to pave a road not traveled – then or since – by anyone else in the same way. Launched into the world of American foreign policy first as one of the original Peace Corps volunteers, Ms. Duline’s memoir is that of a woman carrying a mirror to record how the world sees America through the face of a determined woman who loves her country, and lives her faith; a woman whose African-American identity proclaims America as a nation struggling with justice in its roots while trying to put its best foot forward on the global stage in the infancy of modern American foreign policy. She is a woman whose Catholic faith is like a beacon of hope in a world darkened by tumult, poverty, and oppression abroad and social upheaval at home in 1960s America.

The memoir begins through the innocent and exuberant eyes of a nine-year-old girl in urban America, living in a rented room with a wise and loving grandmother, and entirely unaware of her poverty, her vulnerability, and of the loss, suffering, and personal trauma that is to come, and that will forever influence this life on the verge of self-discovery. This is a memoir that both defines and is defined by modern America and its struggle to come to terms with the injustices of racism, sexism, poverty, and inequality. The story moves seamlessly from the streets of Indianapolis and Harlem seen through the eyes of a child, to the mountains of Peru as the Quechua see America in the first Black woman they have ever encountered. Ms. Duline takes the reader to United Nations headquarters, then on to the U.S. embassies of Pakistan, Haiti, Tanzania, Liberia, South Africa, Panama, and full circle to Washington, DC.

This is a story of a childhood violently and traumatically ended by rape, an event with shadows that are carried along the waves of this life with a drama and meaning that echo the literary voice of Maya Angelou. It is a story of a determined American and Catholic who guides the reader through the last four decades of world history as it unfolds in the narrative of a delightful and insightful writer. Drinking From the Saucer is a Catholic story, an American story, and a must read for anyone who cares about the role of modern America on the world stage.

Reviewed by Father Gordon J. MacRae
You may not know it, but if you are reading These Stone Walls, you owe a debt of thanks, in part — or blame, as the case may be — to Charlene C. Duline.

Seven years into a comfortable retirement after an unprecedented career as a diplomat in foreign service for the U.S. State Department, Charlene waded into the midst of the U.S. Catholic sex abuse scandal.

When the loudest “reform” groups were assuming the rhetoric of lynch mobs against priests who were accused, Charlene called for another kind of reform: a courageous and faithful application of the Gospel of mercy and truth to the wound that had been laid bare in our Church.

In 2008, Charlene Duline, a convert to Catholicism, published her memoir, Drinking from the Saucer. Her’s has been a life of many courageous stands. Before the Civil Rights movement became part of our national consciousness in 1962, Charlene became the first African-American woman from Indiana to be accepted in the nascent Peace Corps.

After a two-year posting in Peru, Charlene took on successively senior diplomatic posts representing the United States in Haiti, Liberia, Tanzania, Swaziland, Panama, and the United Nations Headquarters in New York, and finally Washington, DC.

A graduate of the University of Indiana, Charlene holds a Masters degree in International Studies from Johns Hopkins University.

One would think she had done enough. Toward the end of Drinking from the Saucer, Charlene described her concern for imprisoned and discarded priests:
    After one priest had been killed in prison, I wondered how others were faring. I searched the internet to find out where some were incarcerated . . . I demanded to know why our Church officials have never asked for prayers and forgiveness for them. 
As I juxtapose, today, Charlene’s decision to reach out to convicted and incarcerated priests, with the more vindictive voices of the self-described “faithful,” I can’t help but consider the well known Gospel Parable of the Good Samaritan. [Luke: 25-37]

A man is left beaten by robbers [yes, from my perspective, the analogy holds.] A priest and Levite pass by in fear that helping the wounded man will leave them ritually impure under the law. The Samaritan becomes the only person free to obey the higher law, to be a neighbor to the discarded and stranded.

In his profound book, Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI wrote of this same parable:
    The Samaritan . . . shows me that I have to learn to be a neighbor deep within, and that I already have the answer in myself. I have to become someone in love, someone whose heart is open to being shaken up by another’s need. Then I find my neighbor, or better that I am found by him. (Jesus of Nazareth, p. 197) 
Charlene has learned something about the Gospel of Mercy. The lesson did not come cheap, as her memoir describes. Only such a wounded healer could call upon the Church’s shepherds with the force of having lived the Gospel of mercy, to refine the voices they are listening to in all this. “What kind of shepherds,” she wrote “abandon their sheep when they make a misstep.”

Charlene’s birthday is August 13th, the day before Saint Maximilian Kolbe’s feast day — the date of his execution in prison. Her memoir concludes, not about herself, but about us, the discarded:
    May they feel His Presence today, and every day. 

Read additional reviews from RawSistaz, author Beryl Singleton Bissell, author Christopher Beakey, The Indianapolis Recorder and more at:

A fascinating interview conducted by Dr. Jessie Voigts of Wandering Educators can be found at:

Sample Chapter


Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.
- Ambrose Redmoon 

As our caravan of three embassy cars rolled through the dark, empty streets of downtown Monrovia, Liberia, I wondered if this would be the last night of my life. Liberia was under martial law and a curfew had been declared by Head of State Doe. Doe had declared that no one was allowed on the city streets from midnight to 6:00 a.m., and here was our small caravan of cars moving through downtown Monrovia shortly before five o’clock in the morning.

Two weeks earlier the Chargé d’Affairs had announced the arrival of our new ambassador, William Lacy Swing, and said all senior officers would greet him at Liberia’s Robertsfield International Airport. As the Acting Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Information Agency I was to be in the welcoming party. Against my will and better judgment, I now found myself in the second car of the small caravan praying that I would not only meet the ambassador but that I would live.

At a Country Team Meeting (composed of the heads of all U.S. agencies represented at the embassy) the é d’Affairs had announced, “Our new ambassador will be arriving in two weeks and all heads of agencies, and any family members who want to go, will meet him at the airport. We should be at the airport by 5: 30 a.m.”

We were stunned at this announcement since Liberia was under a curfew, and a curfew violation meant death. It was a one hour drive from Monrovia to the airport. The soldiers were ordered to shoot first. No questions would be asked or answered. No one was to be on the streets during curfew.

The Chargé continued, “I will get a special pass from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to permit embassy cars to be on the streets.”
    I quickly spoke up, “Most of the soldiers can’t read.”
People chuckled uncomfortably.

The Charge replied, “The soldiers will know what they mean.”

I seriously doubted it. Somebody else mentioned that once we were safely past the Presidential Mansion, we still had to pass the Military Barracks where the road would be blocked. Our military attaches who were practically running the country at that point, piped up and said that would be no problem because their “friend,” Captain Somebody, would be waiting there to let us pass immediately. Yeh, right, I thought.

After the meeting some officers expressed doubts as to the safety of a caravan of American embassy cars breaking curfew to go to the airport. There was no question but that we would go. An ambassador is the ruling force at every embassy. He represents the president of the United States. When he walks into a room, we all stand as a sign of respect. I used to chuckle when I was in Washington because when the USIA Director walked into a conference room all Foreign Service Officers sprang to our feet while the Civil Service staff looked at us oddly. There was no question that we would be at the airport to welcome our new ambassador. Some thought the ambassador would tell us not to travel to the airport until curfew was lifted, that he would just tool around the airport like an ordinary man until we felt it was safe enough to get on the road, i.e., when the curfew lifted at 6 a.m. Alas, that didn’t happen. The only question that I had, which I kept to myself, but which was probably glaringly obvious to the Chargé was: Will we make it to the airport? I sensed nervousness among those of us who were obliged to go to the airport, but only I had the audacity to say anything to the Chargé.

During the next two weeks I kept reminding him about the risks we were taking in breaking the curfew. He appeared to dismiss my concerns, yet something I said must have gotten through to him because a few days before the ambassador’s arrival he announced that female dependents would not go to the airport, but female officers would. I felt sick. Well, I thought, at least he recognized the danger. As the Acting Public Affairs Officer it was my job to have a photographer at the airport to photograph the arrival of the second most important persons in the country, the U.S. Ambassador. I got the best photographer in town, Sando Moore, son of the Minister of Culture, Bai T. Moore, who spent the night at my residence in order to leave with us at 4:30 a.m. He apparently felt that he would be safe with American diplomats because there was no hesitation on his part.

In the dark that morning he and I drove the two blocks to the embassy, and joined the other officers in official embassy cars. We were in the second car of the three-car caravan. In the lead car were the Chargé and the Embassy Counselor, and their driver. In my car were the Political Officer, the Special Assistant to Ambassador Swing, the photographer, me as Acting Head of USIA, and our driver.

In the third car were the Acting Director of USAID, the Acting Director of the Peace Corps, and other agency heads and their driver. I thought to myself, most of us are Acting Heads of our agencies, so if we are killed, they will still have the Heads of agencies. We’re like the pawns. Such thoughts are not good ones to have before attempting such a dangerous venture of breaking curfew. Why does one think of such things when one is scared? It’s like being on a plane for several hours and suddenly wondering what is keeping it up in the air. That is not the time to think about that. The military attaches were to join the caravan after we passed the Presidential Mansion since they lived on the outskirts of Monrovia. As we drove I thought of all the problems we could encounter. The lead car was a long, black American automobile with American flags flying from the front fenders, flags that could easily be mistaken for Liberian flags. The Liberian flag is modeled on the American flag. I was concerned that the soldiers at the Presidential Mansion would at first think it was a Liberian official’s car, and then realizing that it was not, might think we were pretending to be Doe officials, and they could open fire with their semi-automatic weapons. Plus, most of the soldiers could not read. I could only close my eyes and pray as we drove through the empty streets. When the caravan reached the Presidential Mansion, we stopped. Liberian soldiers quickly surrounded each car, weapons aimed at us. The soldier standing next to our driver’s door rapped sharply on the window for the driver to roll it down. The driver was petrified and didn’t move. Again the soldier rapped on the window with his gun.

(Continued in Drinking From the Saucer.

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