An insightful and evenhanded portrait.

A DROP OF TREASON

PHILIP AGEE AND HIS EXPOSURE OF THE CIA

One of America’s “most hated” spies receives a lively, thoughtful biography.

Stevenson, senior fellow for U.S. defense at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, has searched the archives and interviewed everyone willing to talk about Philip Agee (1935-2008). The son of a wealthy Catholic businessman, he seemed a chip off the old block, attending Catholic school and Notre Dame, where he graduated cum laude in philosophy. In 1956, during his senior year, he declined an offer from a CIA recruiter but joined after three months of law school. Agee served in Ecuador, Uruguay, and Mexico, carrying out America’s policy of fighting the influence of Castro and communism by supporting authoritarian movements and their violent methods. No evidence exists that he objected at the time, and his 1968 resignation letter cites only personal reasons. He remained in Mexico for several years, seemingly at loose ends. In 1971, he traveled to Cuba, ostensibly for research, and then to Paris, where his statements denouncing the CIA caught the agency’s attention. His 1975 bestseller, Inside the Company, was a generally accurate portrayal of CIA operations and bad behavior accompanied by the names of more than 400 CIA agents. Although it remains an article of faith among CIA supporters that agents died as a result, Stevenson expresses doubts—but there is no doubt that it ruined careers and hampered missions. The author devotes two-thirds of the book to the remainder of Agee’s life as a professional CIA critic, constantly fending off enraged officials who proclaimed that his defection was a facade of “venality, lust, drunkenness, or emotional breakdown.” The 1970s were not kind to the CIA, but Congressional anger at its dirty tricks caused more damage than insider revelations. By the 1980s, America’s conservative turn had relieved the pressure, and 9/11 reenergized the agency. “Once 9/11 effectively reempowered the agency, and it went nefarious again with renditions, black sites, and torture,” he writes, “[Agee’s] mission again became relevant to upholding true American principles.”

An insightful and evenhanded portrait.

Pub Date: May 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-226-35668-6

Page Count: 328

Publisher: Univ. of Chicago

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A lively and thoughtful memoir that, one hopes, will inspire readers to pursue activism in every realm of society.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

PERSIST

The Massachusetts senator and financial reformer recounts several of her good fights over the years.

Famous for being chided for “persisting” on the Senate floor, Warren is nearly a byword for the application of an unbending, if usually polite, feminism to the corridors of power. Though she has a schoolmarm-ish air—and indeed taught school for much of her life—she gladly owns up to liking a beer or two and enjoying a good brawl, and she’s a scrapper with a long memory. In 2008, when she shopped a proposal to found a federal agency that “could act as a watchdog to make sure that consumers weren’t getting cheated by financial institutions,” she encountered a congressman who “laughed in my face.” She doesn’t reveal his name, but you can bet he crosses the hall when she’s coming the other way. Warren does name other names, especially Donald Trump, who, with Republicans on the Hill, accomplished only one thing, namely “a $2 trillion tax cut that mostly benefited rich people.” Now that the Democrats are in power, the author reckons that the time is ripe to shake off the Trump debacle and build “a nation that works, not just for the rich and powerful but for everyone.” She identifies numerous areas that need immediate attention, from financial reform to bringing more women into the workplace and mandating equal pay for equal work. Warren premises some of these changes on increased taxes on the rich, happily citing a billionaire well known for insider trading, who complained of her, “This is the fucking American dream she is shitting on.” The author reverts to form: “Oh dear. Did I hit a nerve?” Warren’s common-sensical proposals on housing, infrastructure development, and civil rights merit attention, and her book makes for a sometimes-funny, sometimes–sharp-tongued pleasure.

A lively and thoughtful memoir that, one hopes, will inspire readers to pursue activism in every realm of society.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-79924-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A concise personal and scholarly history that avoids academic jargon as it illuminates emotional truths.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

ON JUNETEENTH

The Harvard historian and Texas native demonstrates what the holiday means to her and to the rest of the nation.

Initially celebrated primarily by Black Texans, Juneteenth refers to June 19, 1865, when a Union general arrived in Galveston to proclaim the end of slavery with the defeat of the Confederacy. If only history were that simple. In her latest, Gordon-Reed, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and numerous other honors, describes how Whites raged and committed violence against celebratory Blacks as racism in Texas and across the country continued to spread through segregation, Jim Crow laws, and separate-but-equal rationalizations. As Gordon-Reed amply shows in this smooth combination of memoir, essay, and history, such racism is by no means a thing of the past, even as Juneteenth has come to be celebrated by all of Texas and throughout the U.S. The Galveston announcement, notes the author, came well after the Emancipation Proclamation but before the ratification of the 13th Amendment. Though Gordon-Reed writes fondly of her native state, especially the strong familial ties and sense of community, she acknowledges her challenges as a woman of color in a state where “the image of Texas has a gender and a race: “Texas is a White man.” The author astutely explores “what that means for everyone who lives in Texas and is not a White man.” With all of its diversity and geographic expanse, Texas also has a singular history—as part of Mexico, as its own republic from 1836 to 1846, and as a place that “has connections to people of African descent that go back centuries.” All of this provides context for the uniqueness of this historical moment, which Gordon-Reed explores with her characteristic rigor and insight.

A concise personal and scholarly history that avoids academic jargon as it illuminates emotional truths.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63149-883-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more