Ordinary People, Extraordinary Times

A Memoir of One Citizen Activist

Non-Fiction - Memoir
238 Pages
Reviewed on 11/12/2020
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Author Biography


Lois Nicolai is a former teacher; Girl Scout Leader and Troop Organizer; Day Camp Director; Indiana State Champions ASA Girls Softball Coach; Detasseling Supervisor for Pioneer Seed Corn Fields; International Organizer/Supervisor of OSCE/PAE Democratic Elections in ten developing countries of Eastern Europe; Founder and Director of World Citizen Diplomats in Princeton, NJ which led to seven trips into former Soviet Republics during the fall of Communism through Perestroika and Glasnost; and wife for twenty-plus years.
Today she is a widowed mother of six, living her dream retirement years on the Jersey Seashore enjoying heart-warming visits with her eighteen grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren.
In her first of a three-part “Memoir Trilogy”, ORDINARY PEOPLE, EXTRAORDINARY TIMES; A MEMOIR OF ONE CITIZEN ACTIVIST, which was released on October 1, 2020, she recounts a traumatic turning point in her life that leads her into three years of soul-searching. The result casts her into a new realm of life on her 50th birthday.
Lois’s writing is an honest and engaging memoir for all age readers. Her straight-forward prose makes it possible for the reader to imagine the characters and setting of each chapter and encourages the reader to want to continue on the journey with the author as she begins a new chapter in her life.
You can learn much more by visiting her website at LoisNicolaiAuthor.com

    Book Review

Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite

Ordinary People, Extraordinary Times: A Memoir of One Citizen Activist by Lois Nicolai is a call to action to everyone who cares about our planet and the damage we are doing, especially as it relates to nuclear power and nuclear weapon proliferation. Lois Nicolai was a wife and mother living in rural Indiana when tragedy struck her family. With the unexpected death of her husband when just in her mid-40s and with the last of her children about to head off to college, she was faced with the daunting prospect of what to do with herself. What this woman actually did should inspire all of us “ordinary people” that there is something we can do to make a change. After taking a couple of years to grieve and come to terms with her future, Lois Nicolai made the decision to move to Princeton and throw herself into the world of international peace promotion through activism. What would follow would be an exciting and at times dangerous journey through the peace movement that would take her all over the world but most specifically to the newly emerged former Soviet regions of Kazakhstan and other sites of nuclear radiation poisoning close to testing sites and nuclear facilities. As part of a worldwide peace and nuclear disarmament community, the author would become known as a powerful and resourceful speaker and defender of those without a voice in the face of the horrors of nuclear proliferation.

Ordinary People, Extraordinary Times is a simple and straightforward read that outlines the courage and exceeding humility of Lois Nicolai. I loved the self-effacing way the author approached this story. She always seemed incredibly surprised at the impact one little woman from the farm was able to have on world leaders, movers, and shakers. It was this humility that made the story so compelling for me. This story gives each of us reason to stop and think about what, if any, contribution we personally are making to make a difference in the world and to protect it for our children, our grandchildren, and generations yet born. It is a “call to action” but not in the usual sense. What this story tells us is that you don’t have to be rich, powerful, incredibly smart, or well-connected to make a difference. Lois Nicolai makes us realize that she could be our mother, our grandmother, or even ourselves and that is the overwhelming sense of worth I got from this book. I truly appreciated the photos that were liberally scattered throughout and gave the reader a real sense of where the author was and what part she actually played in the momentous events being enacted in front of her. I also loved the contributions from others she had met along the journey. Perhaps the most telling story was the final one of the fine artist from Kazakhstan, born close to a nuclear test site, without any arms, who would go on to inspire the world with his beautiful paintings, using only his mouth to hold the paintbrush. This is the first of three planned books that will detail her journey through the peace movement. I cannot wait for the next volume of this amazing woman’s journey. I highly recommend this read.

Asher Syed

Ordinary People, Extraordinary Times: A Memoir of One Citizen Activist by Lois Nicolai is the first book in the author's biographical trilogy. Nicolai begins with some backstory on her personal experiences leading the charge and discussing her family home life, including the devastating and unexpected loss of her husband. As Nicolai puts the pieces of her life back together, so she enters a thoughtful transitory period wherein she reflects on the trajectory of her new normal and makes the decision to be an agent of change in some of the world's most controversial and harmful schemes. This instalment details Nicolai's earliest years on the front lines of international peacekeeping, bringing to life her proactive dissent on nuclear disarmament, worldwide test sites, and atmospheric testing, all done alongside voices, visitors, and global hosts who find themselves and their own corners of the world impacted.

Lois Nicolai appears to have lived ten lifetimes in one. Ordinary People, Extraordinary Times provides incredible insight into the actions of a profoundly courageous woman and those who are also willing to risk it all while fighting the good fight, primarily through the World Citizen Diplomat organization. For me the most eye-opening part of Nicolai's memoir is the no-holds-barred look at the impact of radiation on some of the world's most vulnerable, namely children, which is absolutely heart-breaking. The journey from a Mary Kay saleswoman who was inches away from a full-blown career to anti-nuclear activism, supplementing her income by becoming one of only two female drivers and her arms-length proximity to those in power is awe-inspiring. I admit this isn't a book that I would normally choose to read as personal memoirs of writers who aren't already well known tend to lean toward the mundane. Nicolai's story is light years ahead of these autobiographies and I do believe her book will be of interest to more than just the generations of her own family that follow when the rest of us are all gone. I am so grateful to have immersed myself in Nicolai's activism.

K.C. Finn

Ordinary People, Extraordinary Times: A Memoir of One Citizen Activist is a work of non-fiction written in the autobiographical style by author Lois Nicolai. Centered on themes such as activism, acceptance, discovery, and kindness towards our fellow man, this is a fascinating work which not only explores the emotive rollercoaster of the author’s own life story but teaches valuable lessons about the contributions we can make to society whatever our age, gender or background. As the first in a trilogy of works about the author’s life and efforts as a citizen activist, this book highlights some very tragic and poignant news about the effects of radiation disease, and advocates for its eradication.

Author Lois Nicolai delivers a superb work that will captivate readers from all walks of life, most especially those who are interested in stepping outside of their own cultures and comfort zones. For those in educational settings, the book is exceedingly well-edited and organized to give a really informative experience of lesser-known cultures and countries, most especially Kazakhstan, where the bulk of Nicolai’s investigation and advocacy takes place. One of the things that I most admired about the work was that the narration has a raw, honest quality to it, with the author demonstrating important personal events that lead to the journey of activism, but also giving vivid descriptions of the horrors witnessed that certainly stick in the mind, along with their messages. Overall, I would highly recommend Ordinary People, Extraordinary Times: A Memoir of One Citizen Activist as an accomplished work that will be sure to broaden the horizons of anyone who reads it.