A rare, fascinating journey into post-revolutionary Iran, through the eyes of a former CIA field agent who risks his life to enter the country he has spent his career studying from afar. What most Americans know about Iran comes from news headlines and ungenerous stereotypes of Islamic fundamentalism. The true Persia is downtrodden, weary from its long war with Iraq, and curious about its enemies in the Western world, particularly America. In his first book, a unique, firsthand account of life behind ``enemy'' lines, Shirley tells how he bravely smuggled himself into Iran in a cramped, dark box in the back of a friend's car, and the midnight trek across military checkpoints makes a harrowing story. But that is as close to James Bond as the book gets. From there, the author travels the country with a trusted guide, cross-examining average Iranians and probing their bitterness toward the late Ayatollah Khomeini and the ruling clerics who led their country through the disastrous Iran-Iraq war. Shirley also offers a smart indictment of his ex-employer for what he calls ``rampant incompetence.'' Its affliction: too few agents who take an intellectual interest in their target countries, learning the native language, and reading indigenous newspapers. As if casting off the remnants of that world, throughout his adventures the author has to fight all his espionage instincts, such as the urge to look for possible turncoats: ``I wasn't, and never would be again a case officer who recruits foreigners into espionage. But I kept looking at the world as a spy, endlessly guessing whether a foreigner, stranger, acquaintance, or friend might for principle, profit, anger or love illicitly ally with an American.'' Ultimately, the book's richest payoff comes in the stark portrait it paints of Iran: a depressed nation, resentful of its current leadership while trying to reconcile that cynicism with Islamic principles and values.

Pub Date: June 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-374-18219-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1997

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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