Marion native tells ‘How Asia Got Rich’ with new book

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 5, 2004

MARION &045; Edith Terry has lived more than a quarter of a century in Asia, in countries with exotic names and histories, such as Hong Kong; Jakarta, Indonesia; Tokyo, Japan, and several cities in China. &uot;I really fell in love with Asia when I was there,&uot; the former East Asian Economics reporter said Saturday, speaking at a book signing for her recently published &uot;How Asia Got Rich &045; Japan, China and Asia.&uot;

Born in Montgomery, she left the Alabama capital when she was 2, lived in Oregon for five years, then moved to Indonesia in 1959 when her father, Charles Terry, who was with U. S. State Department Agency for International Development, was assigned there.

The country at that time, Terry says, &uot;was very poor but very proud. Ten years earlier Indonesia had declared its independence from the Dutch. We arrived there at a very good time &045; they embraced foreigners.&uot; In some ways, she says, the country was like rural Alabama. &uot;The poverty struck me deeply, a shock after America’s comparative riches,&uot; she said.

Her father’s State Department assignments were for three years at each place, so the family moved often, the frequent moves increasing her knowledge of

Asia. In a chapter of the book taken from the Terry family photograph albums, she speaks of &uot;the rice fields just outside our home, the jungles &045; I worried about tigers chasing me

and ran from the herds of geese that filled the streets and did chase us.&uot;

Terry confessed to the group gathered informally at &uot;Southern Belle&uot; antiques shop that &uot;I feel more at home in Asia than anywhere else, even though my father was from Greensboro. He grew up in the Great Depression, went to law school at night, served as an intelligence officer in the Army. He helped draft Alabama’s first merit system (civil service). He was an expert in public administration, with no expertise in Asia other than his experience and knowledge in many areas.&uot;

Her mother, Sarah Terry Anderson, (Mrs. Paul Anderson), Terry identifies as a Southern Belle, a sorority girl at Converse College, whose knowledge of life in Asia came from an aunt who was a missionary to China for 11 years.

Terry graduated from elementary and high schools overseas, entered Yale for her undergraduate degree, earned a graduate degree at Stanford and another, recently, at Johns Hopkins in the School of International Relations. In college she studied Chinese and Asian history

(she is fluent in the languages of those countries), and philosophy, then went to work &uot;trying to bend my career toward Asia.&uot; She reported on China for Business Week and was the East Asian Economics Reporter for

the Toronto Globe and Mail .

Based in Tokyo from 1980 to the ’90s, Terry found &uot;a tremendous economic boom ongoing. I returned to the cities of my childhood and found them great bustling places, but incredibly expensive and I began to research how that happened: thus, the name of my book, which is a compilation of interviews with heads of state of those countries, and some personal anecdotes of life in Asia included.&uot;

In response to a question from one of her audience she said &uot;These countries are following the Japanese model, which has successfully rejected past traditions. Samurias put down their swords and became business men; however a psychological burden also resulted. Japan went into China with troops, following the Western model but without a heart. They put the economy first, with strong leaders and a weak democracy, all centered on industrial growth.

She paused, perhaps rethinking her last statement, then said, &uot;My book is academic but it is accessible. Seen from the perspective of West Alabama there is a similarity. However, Asian countries believe strongly in education; I find that strength lacking in the Black Belt of Alabama, as well as in the state. There are so many small private schools, so few strong large high schools. One of the strengths of our father’s service in Asia was the support and respect for education and technical training.

In the last 10 years, Alabama has been competing very hard and is gaining auto plants from Asia. But people must be educated for those jobs.&uot; Terry returns to Hong Kong this week, &uot;back to the place that seems like home to me,&uot; she acknowledges, smiling at her mother and brother, &uot;but I’ll be back.&uot;

In the meantime her book may be ordered from amazon.com.