A book that helps make sense of recent headlines and old news alike.

RUSSIANS AMONG US

SLEEPER CELLS, GHOST STORIES, AND THE HUNT FOR PUTIN'S SPIES

An eye-opening look at the “illegals” and other agents who have been spying for Russia, Soviet and otherwise, over the last several decades in the West.

BBC security correspondent Corera tells a big story in a relatively short space. He opens with a cast of Russian spies trained by the KGB in the latter days of the Soviet Union. “Donald Heathfield…had been born in a cemetery, a ghost rising from the dead,” the author writes of spy Andrey Bezrukov, who took over the identity of a Canadian baby who had died shortly after being born. Each “illegal,” who lived an ordinary life in the West, was a tremendous investment in time and money, with far longer and more extensive training, by Corera’s reckoning, than that of the average CIA or MI6 agent. The great fear was that they would “go native,” finding life in the West more attractive than in the motherland. Then came the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the old ways seemed quaint and genteel in the eyes of the new apparatchiks under Vladimir Putin, himself a one-time KGB agent (though not much of one, Corera suggests). That new generation of the FSB, the successor to the KGB, angry that their elders had lost the Cold War, “were determined to restore Russian pride, and they would take the fight to their enemy.” They did, in elaborate games of cat and mouse, with seductive women who nearly snared an Obama Cabinet member in a “honey trap” and with operatives who barely bothered to disguise their identities. One of the latter was Maria Butina. “The information she provided,” writes the author, “was of ‘substantial value,’ and the Russian intelligence services would be able to use it for years to come to identify and target those who might be susceptible to recruitment by trained intelligence officers, according to a former FBI official’s declaration.” The spy ring was eventually broken, mostly thanks to betrayal on the part of Russian insiders rather than homegrown sleuthing.

A book that helps make sense of recent headlines and old news alike.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-288941-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

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

NIGHT

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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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

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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