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88 DAYS TO KANDAHAR

A CIA DIARY

A catalog of occasional victories and constant missteps that is eye-opening, illuminating and maddening.

Former CIA officer Grenier delivers an action-packed tale, rich in implication, of the post-9/11 race to unseat the Taliban and rout al-Qaida in Afghanistan.

A field agent who “had a huge natural advantage over desk-bound, bookish analytic types” in having vast experience in both Central Asia and in the paramilitary operations of the CIA, the author was called on immediately after 9/11 to examine the internal politics of Afghanistan and help develop national policy (against, he notes, the CIA’s brief “to inform policy, never to make it”) on the brink of the American invasion of 2001. Grenier’s recommendations were nuanced, allowing even the Taliban some face-saving means of separating from al-Qaida. Among his other tenets: The United States should avoid giving the appearance of taking sides in a civil war that had ethnic dimensions, and “the U.S. effort should always be in support of Afghans, rather than the other way around.” The author’s memoir of transforming from disaffected longhair into dedicated warrior sometimes reads like mere filler, but his critique of what became of that plan is devastating: As he notes, we have broken the china and are now in a rush to flee the shop, while carefully forged alliances are unraveling and supposed allies are casting their eyes in other directions for friends. He opens, darkly, with the hope that the lessons his narrative offers will be useful as we prepare for a third Afghan-American War, having narrowly won the first and botched the second. Apart from his taut, well-written account of action on the ground, its heroes mostly gnarly Special Forces troops and spooks, CIA watchers will be fascinated by Grenier’s look at the twisted, surprisingly nasty politics within the intelligence community in the age of Bush/Cheney and their appointees, squabbling that makes Afghanistan look tame.

A catalog of occasional victories and constant missteps that is eye-opening, illuminating and maddening.

Pub Date: Jan. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4767-1207-9

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

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

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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 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

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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