An engrossing look at a wide-ranging career in the foreign service as well as a sweeping story of a globe-trotting life.

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DIPLOMATIC TALES

STORIES FROM A FOREIGN SERVICE CAREER AND ONE FAMILY'S ADVENTURES ABROAD

A memoir details the author’s world travels and diverse responsibilities as a United States Information Agency officer.

Luchs’ (Children of the Manse, 2009) book explores “the behind-the-scenes activity and the lives of diplomats and their families,” using his own “experiences as examples.” After passing the rigorous examination needed to get a position in the foreign service, Luchs began his career in 1966 and was soon posted to a position in Madagascar as a junior officer in training. Upon arrival, however, he found the embassy understaffed, and he was immediately given responsibility “for the direction of the economic and commercial, consular, and USAID offices of the embassy.” This was a lot for a young staffer, but Luchs threw himself into his work and was mostly successful in dealing with his many duties and, memorably, a very spoiled American traveler who tested Luchs’ patience. In 1968, the officer and his family moved to Mali for his next posting, where he toiled in a country with a decidedly anti-American atmosphere due to its socialist government and then worked through the country’s military coup. His next stop, in 1970, was Singapore, where he got to witness the nation as it began to modernize and turn into the financial hub that it is today. In 1976, Luchs received an unexpected opportunity at the Paris office, one that was personally rewarding but professionally frustrating—the place was a hotbed of rivalries and lacked focus. By 1984, he was in Malaysia, focusing on the educational exchange between that nation and the United States, and he then finished his career in Australia, culminating in the organization of a visit by President George H.W. Bush in 1992. Throughout the absorbing book, Luchs shares captivating geographical and historical tidbits about every country he worked in (A “key to Singapore’s success was the government’s zero tolerance of corruption”). He extensively and lovingly discusses his family, his living arrangements and vacations, and the various political and personal problems that he had to deal with at every stop, from a Navy helicopter landing in “the most public place in Singapore” during the Vietnam War to his son receiving a juvenile diabetes diagnosis. Luchs’ tone remains informative and heartfelt throughout, and the reader gains trenchant insights into an intriguing profession.

An engrossing look at a wide-ranging career in the foreign service as well as a sweeping story of a globe-trotting life.

Pub Date: Dec. 14, 2016

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 328

Publisher: Lulu

Review Posted Online: Dec. 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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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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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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