Necessary reading for would-be reformers and critics of the agency alike.

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BROKEN

THE TROUBLED PAST AND UNCERTAIN FUTURE OF THE FBI

The battered police agency gets smacked one more time—hard.

Powers (History/CUNY; Not Without Honor, 1996), a specialist in the history of the FBI and American anticommunism, opens by observing that the Bureau is not necessarily shot through with incompetence from top to bottom: after all, a field agent in Phoenix reported to Washington that a bunch of Sunni Muslim flight-school students appeared to be up to no good, outlining “a plan of action for the Bureau to follow that, had it been implemented across the country, would have had a very good chance of uncovering several, maybe all, of the strands of the plot.” Incompetent the agency is, though, and the plan wasn’t followed at least in some measure because the FBI, thoroughly politicized and “politically correct . . . scrapped promising investigation rather than risk accusations that by tracking suspicious Middle Eastern men they were racial-profiling everyone from the Middle East.” How did the agency become so timorous, so sensitive to criticism? That’s the meat of Powers’s thesis, which alternates between praising true accomplishments—the stunning destruction of the continent-wide Nazi spy ring in 1941, for example, and the taming of Murder, Inc.—and decrying a long succession of foul-ups. By Powers’s account, these errors include the failure to track Lee Harvey Oswald’s movements in the fall of 1963 and the bungling of the Symbionese Liberation Army/Patti Hearst kidnapping case in the 1970s, the latter of which spoke to profound public disaffection for an agency whose reputation had been golden until the Nixon years, for which reason “no one . . . came forward with information on what was clearly, even from the perspective of the radical left, a dangerous, anarchic, and murderous gang.” By the 1990s, things had degenerated, Powers writes, to the point that the FBI scarcely had any domestic surveillance capabilities and was utterly unprepared for the terrorist threat of recent years, which “could not be solved with a stroke of public relations.”

Necessary reading for would-be reformers and critics of the agency alike.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2004

ISBN: 0-684-83371-9

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2004

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Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

THREE WOMEN

Based on eight years of reporting and thousands of hours of interaction, a journalist chronicles the inner worlds of three women’s erotic desires.

In her dramatic debut about “what longing in America looks like,” Taddeo, who has contributed to Esquire, Elle, and other publications, follows the sex lives of three American women. On the surface, each woman’s story could be a soap opera. There’s Maggie, a teenager engaged in a secret relationship with her high school teacher; Lina, a housewife consumed by a torrid affair with an old flame; and Sloane, a wealthy restaurateur encouraged by her husband to sleep with other people while he watches. Instead of sensationalizing, the author illuminates Maggie’s, Lina’s, and Sloane’s erotic experiences in the context of their human complexities and personal histories, revealing deeper wounds and emotional yearnings. Lina’s infidelity was driven by a decade of her husband’s romantic and sexual refusal despite marriage counseling and Lina's pleading. Sloane’s Fifty Shades of Grey–like lifestyle seems far less exotic when readers learn that she has felt pressured to perform for her husband's pleasure. Taddeo’s coverage is at its most nuanced when she chronicles Maggie’s decision to go to the authorities a few years after her traumatic tryst. Recounting the subsequent trial against Maggie’s abuser, the author honors the triumph of Maggie’s courageous vulnerability as well as the devastating ramifications of her community’s disbelief. Unfortunately, this book on “female desire” conspicuously omits any meaningful discussion of social identities beyond gender and class; only in the epilogue does Taddeo mention race and its impacts on women's experiences with sex and longing. Such oversight brings a palpable white gaze to the narrative. Compounded by the author’s occasionally lackluster prose, the book’s flaws compete with its meaningful contribution to #MeToo–era reporting.

Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4516-4229-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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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