Stillwater author Pat Hanson uses her third memoir to recount her time as a U.S. diplomat in Greece during the tumultuous 1970s.
Like fine wine, good stories take time. In Pat Hanson's case, her latest memoir took 20 years.
The Stillwater resident started work on "It Was Greek to Me" as an assignment while taking a creative writing class, but the story about a 20-something woman coming of age while serving as a U.S. diplomat in tumultuous 1970s Greece just rolled off the presses at the end of 2011.
"They never come quickly," said Hanson, whose two other memoirs include "The Five Goodbyes" and "Tommy and Me."
"This is a story I needed to write," she said.
Hanson will appear at a book signing and tea at 2 p.m. Sunday at Urban Olive and Vine Restaurant in Hudson, Wis.
Born and raised in south Minneapolis, Hanson found herself in Athens at a time when U.S.-Greek relations were cool and terroristic acts in that country were on the rise. Her job as an assistant cultural attache with the Foreign Services Institute was to help smooth things over by exposing Greece's intelligentsia to American culture.
From 1975 to 1978, she arranged fine art shows, film screenings, concerts and dance performances featuring the likes of the National Symphony Orchestra, the American Ballet Theater, Mikkhail Barishknikov, Merce Cunningham and Elia Kazan. She also coordinated appearances that featured Sen. Ted Kennedy, economist John Galbraith and historian Arthur Schlesinger.
"It was a great job to be in the middle of what was happening during those years," said Hanson, a former communications instructor at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. "Here is a kid from the Midwest being exposed to fascinating people. It was a real eye-opener."
Hanson set off for Washington, D.C., after graduating from college with the hopes of finding a job combining her two main interests: traveling and writing. She took a job at Voices of America (the broadcast outreach of the U.S. Government), but in three years never landed an overseas assignment. She got her break when she applied at the Foreign Services Institute and landed the job that sent her to Greece.
During her time at the U.S. Embassy, she lived through assassinations and car bombings, traveled to scores of countries and struck up friendships with dignitaries and locals.
"I needed to understand that period of my life," Hanson said in explaining why she decided to write the book. "I needed to understand who I was then and how that chapter fit into the rest of my life."
Since its release, "It Was Greek to Me" has received favorable attention. Hanson was recently interviewed on a Greek radio station based in New York. Copies are selling at Valley Booksellers in Stillwater and Chapter2 Books in Hudson.
Hanson wrote her first memoir, "The Five Goodbyes," in which she captures her thoughts about raising a daughter with special needs. In her second, "Tommy and Me," she shares memories of growing up in the 1950s and '60s and the time she spent with her brother, Tom. She wrote the memoir as a way to cope with the grief of losing her closest sibling to an untimely death.
This is not likely to be the last memoir Hanson will publish. She is currently working on another about her experiences growing up in a Catholic community in the vicinity of 54th and Lyndale Avenues S. in Minneapolis.
Tim Harlow • 651-925-5039, Twitter: @timstrib