As he has done before, Maier offers another deft translation of murky American history, focused on dynamic, improbable...




A pulpy, precisely rendered account of the CIA’s dalliance with organized crime in pursuit of Fidel Castro.

Former Newsday investigative reporter Maier (When Lions Roar: The Churchills and the Kennedys, 2014, etc.) provides fresh eyes and an urgent tone in this unsettling narrative. “Historically,” he writes, “the CIA’s murder plot against Castro marked America’s first foray into the assassination business….The tradition of gentlemen spies engaged in gathering intelligence…had now transformed into the killing games of covert operations, carried out by gangsters and other CIA surrogates.” The author makes his rendition of an oft-referenced tale compelling by focusing on statements by key figures who fought to preserve their secrecy. Maier credits “recently declassified files about the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy” for this verisimilitude. The labyrinthine narrative veers from Castro’s 1959 revolution to Watergate and the 1975 Church Committee investigation of the intelligence agencies. Essentially, CIA go-between Robert Maheu approached Mafia members Sam Giancana and Johnny Roselli to pursue assassination plots against Castro. Other CIA officers helped Roselli set up a formidable network of training camps for Cuban exiles in Florida, but their plans were disrupted following the Bay of Pigs fiasco and the Cuban missile crisis. Roselli and others defied Attorney General Robert Kennedy’s ban on further covert action, continuing to scheme assassination plans and commit speedboat raids. Maier focuses on the dramatic personalities of Giancana, the brutal head of Chicago’s Outfit, and Roselli, a suave Hollywood “fixer” who claimed to have taken the CIA’s assignment out of patriotic fervor. The gangsters’ friendship with the Rat Pack provided a back-channel and electoral assistance to JFK, and their disappointment with his presidency would fuel conspiracy theories after his assassination, though Roselli hinted at connections to a vengeful Castro instead. Maier’s writing is approachable (if occasionally repetitive), almost breezy, despite the dark undertones and the violence surrounding Giancana and Roselli, both of whom were murdered in the mid-1970s.

As he has done before, Maier offers another deft translation of murky American history, focused on dynamic, improbable protagonists.

Pub Date: April 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5107-4171-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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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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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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