Scholars will appreciate the thoroughness and lucidity. General readers may want to skim certain sections.

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DOUBLE CROSSED

THE MISSIONARIES WHO SPIED FOR THE UNITED STATES DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR

The little-known history of the “sometimes comic, sometimes tragic, and sometimes profound ways that the founders of the United States’ pioneering foreign intelligence service tried to use humans’ deep spirituality as a tool for war.”

The subjects of this military history were missionaries during World War II, sent by their houses of worship to spread the word of God throughout the world. But they also were American spies, charged by their handlers with all sorts of clandestine work that even included assassination plots. Though there were dozens of them, including Protestants, Catholics, and Jews, Sutton (History/Washington State Univ.; American Apocalypse: A History of Modern Evangelicalism, 2014, etc.) focuses on four of them—William Eddy, John Birch, Stephen Penrose, and Stewart Herman Jr.—who served in a variety of arenas, from major embassies to the front lines. (One even led an air raid that killed scores of Japanese fighters.) Most of the missionaries agreed to their missions because they thought of America as the classic city on the hill. Sutton’s research is impressive, his writing is clear, and his account is exhaustive—but also occasionally exhausting. It seems the author couldn’t bear to leave any of his research in his notes; as a result, the primary narrative often gets buried beneath an avalanche of detail. Still, Sutton rescues a crucially important story that raises profound questions regarding the relationship between God and country. Even the missionaries, whose work helped win the war and led to the founding of the CIA, ended their careers wondering whether they had served God or mammon (as the author notes, they "sometimes served their god and the gods of war at the same time”)—and whether they could ever be trusted again by anyone, even themselves.

Scholars will appreciate the thoroughness and lucidity. General readers may want to skim certain sections.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-465-05266-0

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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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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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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