Book review by Othniel Forte
The concept of left and right brains is noted in the neurological world. Psychiatrists, psychologists and neurologists use it for many purposes to many ends. However, what M. Nathaniel Barnes does in his new book, Left Brain Right Brain: Thoughts and Musings of a Servant, is more than just a play on words. It is the work of a craftsman that knows his craft.
The book, published by FORTE Publishing, a fully owned Liberian publisher, was released early September and is a 230-page paperback full color and weighs 1.05lbs. At 6 by 9 inches, it is an easy to carry standard size book. Upon release, it hit the Amazon top hundred best seller’s list at numbers 57 (International Relations) and 77 (Globalization) in two competitive genres.
Barnes, a former finance minister under President Charles Taylor, was first appointed by President Ellen Sirleaf as Liberia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations then later, as ambassador to the United States. The author uses his decades of experience in public and private service to write this book. Some come from his speeches, official papers, essays, private thoughts and drawings; yes you read right, drawings- a little known side the author braved to expose.
The book is divided into eight sections; Globalization, Global Conflict, Diplomacy and Development, the Diaspora, Promoting Liberia, Motivations, Tributes and Op-Eds. These sections together further deal with topics like foreign policy, development diplomacy, governance, small arms, politics, etc.
LEFT BRAIN … RIGHT BRAIN, THOUGHTS AND MUSINGS OF A SERVANT has received high critical acclaims from experts in different disciplines, five of whom are actually included in the book. Dr. Vera B. Tolbert, a diasporan expert, rates the book a “great read” and suggests readers will “find it insightful and worthy” of “their time.” Speaking of the diaspora, she notes, “[I]t is amazing how the author captures the complexities of politics and diplomacy… His account and recollection of the diaspora is brilliant. He “depicts the diaspora in its true sense and color”, giving “account of the true representation of its composition.”
Another reviewer strikes an important point when she says, “Ambassador Barnes’ book is not only relevant to Liberia but to all the nations on the continent of Africa. He writes on Globalization, Poverty, Conflict and Humanity- all ongoing issues in various nations in Africa.” Dr. Inonge Mbikusita-Lewanika, an educator and career senior diplomat, who served as former Zambian Ambassador to the United States, had this to say, “I highly commend Ambassador Barnes for daring touch on issues such as globalization as a ‘double-edged sword,’ the need for innovation in Africa, the renaissance of Africa, the dangers of foreign aid and hand-outs, investing wisely in the resources of Africa, maximizing opportunities thereby minimizing our challenges.”
B. Elias Shoniyin, former Deputy Foreign Minister of Liberia has this to say, “Barnes has fashioned in this book a fascinating compilation of his alluring speeches for harnessing international cooperation and rallying his compatriots, in post-conflict Liberia recovery, weaved in a blend of dazzling paintings and though-provoking perspectives.”
For his part, Dr. Joseph T. Isaac, former President, AME University writes, “Any fan of international relations or Foreign Service leadership, who has been searching for an effective formula for diplomacy and development, should search no more. The fallacy of unilateralism has been exposed by Nat Barnes.”
Saundra DeGeneste, an artist and former Executive Director of The Carter G. Woodson Foundation, a non-profit arts organization specializing in the performing arts and art education, in her acclaim quotes The Prophet, a Kahlil Gibran’s classic. “‘There are those among you who seek the talkative through fear of being alone.’” She furthers that this, “is characterized by his ability to perceive the world in a new way by finding hidden patterns, making connections between seemingly unrelated events and by generating solutions.” She notes that those qualities made him a “forward thinker” who reveals to people “what’s on his mind through his writings and art.”
But, what is most surprising, and even risky, is this author’s challenge to the reader. He has asked them to look at his drawings and read his thoughts and see if they can find a common thread. This is a fresh and interesting approach to engaging the reader. It would be surprising to find a public servant who asks us to participate in such an exercise if that servant were not M. Nathaniel Barnes. For those who know Ambassador Barnes, this is not at all surprising. It is completely within his nature to think both analytically and creatively.