East City Bookshop welcomes anthropologist Maggie Paxson with her latest book, The Plateau.
“Inspiring, riveting, and brilliantly researched and written, this is a book for our time by an author who has found her calling and risen with literary grace to a powerful challenge.” - Booklist
“A multilayered, intimate look at what creates a ’peace enclave’ amid terrible violence. … Paxson is meticulous in her attention to fieldwork detail: the way people live, their language, the choices people make in times of violence when communities tend to close doors … An elegant, intensive study that grapples with an enormous idea: how to be good.” - Kirkus
Finding herself in a crisis of direction after years of fieldwork in strife-torn places, anthropologist Maggie Paxson set out on a quest to study peace. Her explorations led her to the Plateau, a remote pocket of south-central France where people have been providing refuge to strangers for generations. During World War II, hundreds, maybe thousands, most of them Jewish children, found safe harbor there. As Paxson discovers, the tradition continues today, with this community welcoming asylum-seekers from around the world. In The Plateau, Paxson chronicles her riveting and deeply inspiring journey into the central moral conundrum of our time.
The discovery of a distant relative, Daniel Trocmé, and his involvement in the Plateau during World War II provided the beacon for which Paxson had been searching. Restless and idealistic, Trocmé had found a life of meaning—or it found him—sheltering a group of children, until the Holocaust came for him, too. Running in parallel with Trocmé’s story is Paxson’s own, as she challenges the assumptions on which her academic expertise is based and, immersing herself in the contemporary life of the Plateau and its refugees, arrives at a new understanding of her purpose. In an age when global conflict has set millions adrift, Paxson's journey into the past and present turns up new answers, new questions, and a renewed faith in the possibilities for us all.
With themes of migration, refugees, and moral courage in the face of repression, Paxson provides a powerful, incisive, and timely take on what allows people to take decisive action in our darkest moments.
Maggie Paxson is a writer, anthropologist, and performer. She is the author of Solovyovo: The Story of Memory in a Russian Village, and her essays have appeared in the Washington Post Magazine, Wilson Quarterly, and Aeon. Fluent in Russian and French, she has worked in rural communities in northern Russia, the Caucasus, and upland France.