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Back to Memoirs and Occasional Papers

Peregrina:Unexpected Adventures of an American Consul

“Wonderfully readable and sharp as a stiletto, Peregrina tells the memorable story of a State Department wife who, after the untimely death of her husband, reinvents herself as an American consul general. . . . Too honest to believe in the usual self-glamorizing myths, she gives us foreign service life as it’s actually lived.”

JOHN POWERS, Vogue movie critic

Peregrina is the story of Ginny Carson Young, a young Foreign Service widow and mother who finds an unexpected second life as an American consular officer in India, Mexico, Hong Kong, and Romania. She deals with the hippies of the 1970s in New Delhi, is courted in Hong Kong by Don Young, a former immigration officer, and marries him in Yucatán. In her final posting in Bucharest, Ginny had a front-row seat at the dramatic fall of Romanian dictator Ceauşescu. She championed Romanians who’d lost jobs, housing, and education for their children after they’d applied for relocation in the United States, and she persuaded authorities they deserved refugee consideration. When Americans flocked to Romania, eager to adopt the suffering children they’d seen on television, she invoked humanitarian parole to settle problem cases. Her story is one of second chances, for herself and for many of her consular cases.

Virginia Shelton Carson Young and her Foreign Service husband, Jim Carson, served together from 1955 in Frankfurt, Abidjan, Cotonou, Berlin, and Washington, and at the Canadian Defence College in Kingston, Ontario. While deputy chief of mission in Haiti in 1972, Jim died at age 45, leaving Ginny and three children. In 1973 Ginny received a Foreign Service commission and served four years each at four posts. She holds a B.A. degree from the University of Washington.