"In the vibrant chronicle, Ordinary People, Extraordinary Times: A Memoir of One Citizen Activist, author and activist Lois Ann Nicolai demonstrates how an apparently “ordinary” person can have a profound impact on the world at any age.
Nicolai was raised on a farm in rural America, imbuing her with a sense that all of us have a mission to perform. She married and had six children, feeling that raising them well was her personal purpose, but at age forty-six, she suddenly and unexpectedly became a widow. Dealing with grief and the need to forge a new life for herself, she gradually decided to blaze a path of trying to build “a safer and better world” for future generations.
At age fifty, she made contact with Princeton Professor Richard Falk, who would introduce her to the realm of international peacemaking, and she was almost immediately plunged into activity for this important cause. Soon she was asked to arrange a speaking tour for Dr. Elaina Ershova, a research scientist intensively involved with the USA-Canadian Institute for Peace in Moscow, an assignment Nicolai handled well, thanks, she says, to her years of work with scout troops and school organizations for her children.
From her unpretentious beginning, Nicolai’s participation in the world peace movement took her across the globe and all the way around the US. As a frequent driver for visiting Soviet and other foreign dignitaries and ordinary citizens like herself from foreign countries, she gathered numerous contacts – Americans of like mind willing to host these overseas visitors in their homes and join in their meetings. Beginning in 1989, she assembled with other conscientious activist Americans to protest the continuation of nuclear testing in Nevada on land that had been taken without payment or permission from an indigenous Shoshone tribe. There she experienced arrest and hand-cuffing after crawling under the facility’s barbed wire fence.
As can be seen by this list of experiences and accomplishments, Nicolai’s life certainly lives up to word “extraordinary.” One might be led to believe that Nobel Peace Prize-type achievements are accomplished only by devoted life-long activists. Obviously, Nicolai’s activism took incredible drive and devotion, but perhaps what is most incredible is that she started so late in life, and really does make it seem like her kind of activism is achievable by anyone, which is both inspiring and instructive. The book works not only as a chronicle of a storied life, but an effective call to action.
Nicolai writes with verve and good humor while projecting, modestly, an image of her adventures – and adventurous spirit – that anyone, especially any female – might envy. She includes corroborating papers by some of the notable figures with whom she has worked, along with photographs bringing the memories to colorful life. This is the first of a series of three planned memoirs by this powerful, intelligent writer who has had the opportunity to dedicate and rededicate her life – as devoted mother and spouse, then as world traveler and international peacemaker – which is an expression of the extraordinary, but also the possible.
The book (and doubtless those that will follow) has a cinematic aspect that could, and probably should, evoke a film version. All told, Nicolai’s memoir is anything but ordinary – her life’s work is an inspiration, and this account of her life is both eloquent and engagingly down to earth."
++++ 1/2 Star Review 4 1/2-Star
Reviewed by the Editor of SPR