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Dick, G.L. (2009). A Review of “Dispatches from the Edge: A Memoir of War, Disasters, and Survival” Cooper, A. (2006). New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 212 pages. $24.95. Psychoanal. Soc. Work, 16(2):176-182.

(2009). Psychoanalytic Social Work, 16(2):176-182

Book Review

A Review of “Dispatches from the Edge: A Memoir of War, Disasters, and Survival” Cooper, A. (2006). New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 212 pages. $24.95

Gary L. Dick

In this fascinating, most readable and engaging book, Anderson Cooper takes the reader with him on his journey as a reporter covering some of the world's most horrific crises. Dispatches from the Edge isn't just a memoir of what transpired, but Cooper invites you into his inner subjective world. He shares with the reader how he is affected by what he experiences while interviewing people who are hanging tenaciously onto life. What makes this book so intriguing is that Cooper is continually reflecting on what resonates within him regarding his own childhood and adolescence as he encounters those who are suffering. Cooper, a CNN reporter and host of Anderson Cooper 360, has written a compelling memoir covering the great human and natural tragedies of our time. Cooper provides an in-depth look into the human experience of trauma and into his own self-reflective process.

Four major psychodynamic social work themes will be extrapolated from Dispatches from the Edge. I will first point out how Cooper's reflective writing style illustrates some of the basic tenets of the relational psychoanalytic perspective. Second, Cooper's self-revealing writing style is an example for social workers to look inward and to monitor their own internal reactions to their clients and their situations, a necessary step in monitoring countertransference. Third, from a self psychological framework, Cooper writes about his relationship with his father and mother, providing remarkable representations of selfobject relationships. Lastly, he writes in a deep and moving way about his relationship with his father, pointing out the important role of fathers in the emotional lives of their children.

Social workers are trained to respond to crises: those within the internal world of the individual, those arising out of interpersonal conflict, and those external realities that threaten the fabric of our society. Cooper takes us behind the scenes of such calamitous events as the Asian tsunami (2004), Hurricane Katrina (2005), and the wars and conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, Niger, Rwanda, and Somalia, and reports on how these events impact him and how they have a way of bringing past emotional conflicts to the surface.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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