Along with the film adaptation, this book will hopefully draw attention to an underreported tragedy.




An American policewoman uncovers evil in the aftermath of the Bosnian war and is punished for her efforts.

Bolkovac, a veteran of the Lincoln, Neb., police force, was looking for a new challenge, a higher salary and a chance to escape from a bitter divorce. So she signed up with private security company DynCorp to join the peace-keeping mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina after a decade of ethnic violence and civil war. DynCorp was contracted by the U.S. government to put together an American contingent of hired guns to complement the U.N.-directed forces of active police officers lent by other countries with a mandate to bring back order to a lawless land. However, Bolkovac soon discovered that DynCorp officials, when not involved in lawlessness themselves, were intent on covering up their employees’ patronage of a human-trafficking operation that had taken root in Bosnia. Eastern European girls as young as 12 were lured to the former Yugoslavia for work. Once there, their passports were confiscated, they were plied with heroin and indentured as sex workers with no country. As Bolkovac attempted to educate the local police forces about the criminality of sex slavery and violence against women, she found that her American colleagues—especially her superiors—were often as uneducable as the locals. Indeed, her attempt to shame the Americans via an e-mail explaining the difference between an underage sex slave and a willing prostitute earned her the thanks usually afforded a whistleblower—she was fired on a minor technicality. Though much of the action involves bureaucratic infighting, Bolkovac and co-author Lynn (Leg the Spread: A Woman’s Adventures Inside the Trillion-Dollar Boys’ Club of Commodities Trading, 2004, etc.) successfully evoke the paranoid atmosphere of a suspense film; in fact, the film version, starring Rachel Weisz, is set for release in 2010. By spotlighting Bolkovac’s travails, the narrative loses some focus on the plight of trafficked girls and the crimes still being perpetrated by private contractors operating on behalf of the U.S. government in war zones around the world. However, the authors shine a light on a neglected area of widespread human suffering.

Along with the film adaptation, this book will hopefully draw attention to an underreported tragedy.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-230-10802-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 4, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2010

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


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

Did you like this book?

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.


Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.

In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a “white supremacist country.” The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as “one of the most defining forces” in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism “in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.” “Is it really about race?” she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. “Is police brutality really about race?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and “What is the model minority myth?” Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, “when somebody asks you to ‘check your privilege’ they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing.” She unpacks the complicated term “intersectionality”: the idea that social justice must consider “a myriad of identities—our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more—that inform our experiences in life.” She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, “they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you” and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make “diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority.”

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58005-677-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

Did you like this book?