An honest accounting by a patriot seeking “a deliberate national discourse on what actually makes America great.”

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THE DISSENT CHANNEL

AMERICAN DIPLOMACY IN A DISHONEST AGE

An American diplomat chronicles the joys and perils of her trade, working in Africa, and the many failures of U.S. foreign policy.

Shackelford may have spent less than a decade as a diplomat with the U.S. Foreign Service, but her tales about practicing diplomacy between the shifting priorities and alignments of the State Department and the White House are powerful—and terrifying—nonetheless. After an initial stint in Warsaw, she got her “dream assignment” in Juba, the capital and largest city in the newly independent Republic of South Sudan. “I wanted to be in Africa,” she writes. “I wanted to experience diplomacy on the front lines. I wanted to help a post-conflict country find stability and prosperity. I was naïve. I was looking for a real challenge, something unique. Juba was it.” Despite her inexperience, Shackelford’s compassion for the locals and dexterity in navigating the complexities of interfactional conflicts earned her pervasive respect—and later garnered the State Department’s highest award for consular work. The primary narrative thread is the bloody civil war between newly elected President Salva Kiir and his former vice president, Riek Machar. The author chronicles her desperate attempts to save civilians while drafting sharply worded cables urging the State Department to investigate war crimes. Between these disconcerting dispatches, Shackelford offers a condensed history of U.S. foreign policy that is nonpartisan but also painfully direct as well as pointed criticisms of the system under which she worked: “Could we have prevented war in 2013? Likely not. But we could have prevented our complicity, and mitigated the scale of suffering by championing our values and condemning human rights violations and anti-democratic actions.” The author also discusses her resignation after submitting a “dissent cable,” the last resort for any diplomat to push back against grievous misdeeds.

An honest accounting by a patriot seeking “a deliberate national discourse on what actually makes America great.”

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5417-2448-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

THREE WOMEN

Based on eight years of reporting and thousands of hours of interaction, a journalist chronicles the inner worlds of three women’s erotic desires.

In her dramatic debut about “what longing in America looks like,” Taddeo, who has contributed to Esquire, Elle, and other publications, follows the sex lives of three American women. On the surface, each woman’s story could be a soap opera. There’s Maggie, a teenager engaged in a secret relationship with her high school teacher; Lina, a housewife consumed by a torrid affair with an old flame; and Sloane, a wealthy restaurateur encouraged by her husband to sleep with other people while he watches. Instead of sensationalizing, the author illuminates Maggie’s, Lina’s, and Sloane’s erotic experiences in the context of their human complexities and personal histories, revealing deeper wounds and emotional yearnings. Lina’s infidelity was driven by a decade of her husband’s romantic and sexual refusal despite marriage counseling and Lina's pleading. Sloane’s Fifty Shades of Grey–like lifestyle seems far less exotic when readers learn that she has felt pressured to perform for her husband's pleasure. Taddeo’s coverage is at its most nuanced when she chronicles Maggie’s decision to go to the authorities a few years after her traumatic tryst. Recounting the subsequent trial against Maggie’s abuser, the author honors the triumph of Maggie’s courageous vulnerability as well as the devastating ramifications of her community’s disbelief. Unfortunately, this book on “female desire” conspicuously omits any meaningful discussion of social identities beyond gender and class; only in the epilogue does Taddeo mention race and its impacts on women's experiences with sex and longing. Such oversight brings a palpable white gaze to the narrative. Compounded by the author’s occasionally lackluster prose, the book’s flaws compete with its meaningful contribution to #MeToo–era reporting.

Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4516-4229-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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