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




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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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

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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