Intriguing stuff for fans of true spy tales and students of the Cold War alike.

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A BROTHERHOOD OF SPIES

THE U-2 AND THE CIA'S SECRET WAR

High-flying history of the U-2 spy plane program and its unlikely clutch of fathers.

In this constantly surprising tale of espionage and under-the-table diplomacy, Bloomberg Businessweek contributor Reel (Between Man and Beast: A Tale of Exploration and Evolution, 2013, etc.) puts an unlikely figure at the center of events: photographic innovator Edwin Land, developer of, among many other things, the Polaroid camera. He code-named prototypes of that camera U-2, “an acknowledgment of his ‘other life,’ which was an open secret among the scientists inside the Polaroid labs.” That “other life” involved Land’s putting his talents at the disposal of the CIA, which put much more powerful versions of the camera in successive versions of its spy planes. Within the agency, the high-altitude U-2 was managed by a career employee who is best remembered today, a touch unfairly, as the architect of the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion. The U-2 was controversial: Dwight Eisenhower, the president at the project’s inception, insisted that it be under civilian control to keep espionage and warfare at arm’s length; even so, Eisenhower predicted that he would “catch hell” if one of them wound up in enemy territory. One of them did, famously, with Francis Gary Powers serving as living evidence—he was not supposed to live, but he did, while a Soviet pilot was killed by friendly fire during the incident—of capitalist perfidy. After much diplomatic wrangling, Powers was released; Reel notes that he chafed to reveal his side of the story but was ordered to keep silent, living out his few final years working as a helicopter-flying traffic reporter in Los Angeles. The U-2 program was not unsuccessful altogether, however. As Reel writes, it turned up evidence of the Soviet space program before Sputnik even launched, and the photographs it delivers can pinpoint a footprint in the Afghan snow, for which reason the spy plane is still in service today.

Intriguing stuff for fans of true spy tales and students of the Cold War alike.

Pub Date: May 8, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-385-54020-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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