wall collapsed. She would have a chance to explore the consequences
of this momentous event a couple of years later in the Soviet
Roraback arrived for a year-long term teaching history at a progressive
university in the Soviet Republic of Lithuania. In line with her
impeccable knack for timing, she arrived the evening of the coup
that deposed Gorbachev and brought an end to the Soviet Empire.
For the next year, she watched Lithuania (now independent) evolve
from a Soviet country to a Western one. She was quickly hired
by the brand new American Embassy as a liaison in her city, Kaunas,
and kept up with local sentiments by hosting her own radio show,
The Kaunas Commentary broadcast around the world.
returned to the States, Amanda finished her Masters degree in
history and published a number of scholarly articles on her experiences
in Lithuania. She graduated with the highest honors from California
State University Northridge, the same year the University nearly
collapsed in the course of the Northridge earthquake in 1994.
She was accepted
into the Doctorate program at UCLA where she worked towards a
PhD in Soviet History.
As she climbed
higher in the academic arena, though, she saw her world continue
to shrink. No longer inspired by studying minutiae in history,
she decided to drop the program and academia in order to chase
a certain point, I got tired of reexamining historical revolutions.
What I really wanted to know was how they influenced the world
today. She also wanted to share what she her passion of
history and current affairs with ordinary people those
who didnt have the time or inclination to properly learn
about the world around them.
all the rules she had learned from her pundit professors, Roraback
set out to simplify concepts and bridge the gap between history
and contemporary news. Information is only interesting when
it is understood and when, in some way or another, it relates
to our lives.
After a few
illicit trips to Cuba, Roraback penned the first in her Nutshell
Notes and posted it on her new website, www.nutshellnotes.com.
Soon after it went up, a little boy drifted on the shores of Florida
setting off media frenzy. The Elian Gonzales story increased the
number of visitors to her site from less than 10 a day to thousands
of hits a day. She added entries on Yugoslavia and Afghanistan
but maintained an ambition to put them into printed booklets in
the same style as Cliffs Notes.
her vision was realized with her first printed book. At the time
only 25 pages long, her book Afghanistan in a Nutshell
hit a strong cord coming out a month after the 9/11 attack when
the U.S. had decided to battle Osama bin Laden and the Taliban
in the South Asian country. A week later, the book was listed
on the Los Angeles Times best seller list as was the third book
in the series, Iraq in a Nutshell (which came out
in March 2003 when American troops were sent to the country).
of wrangling, in August 2006 Amanda finally received a visa allowing
her to visit Iran as a British tourist (she applied for dual-citizenship
to facilitate the trip). The trip coincided with the war in Lebanon
between Iran-backed Hezbollah and Israel and the terrorist threat
on planes flying between London and the United States. Despite
many set-backs (among them, Amandas flight connection through
Londons Heathrow Airport) the author was able to study a
broad cross-section of Irans population in more than a dozen
cities. She captured the trip in 700 photographs and more than
100 pages of notes which she is still compiling into a blog.
determined to return to Iran with a group of teachers who, she
hopes, will help dispel the many myths Americans have about the