Calling America in 3 Books

This is America at the beginning of the 21st century: Women are being elected to office in increasingly large numbers; terrorism continues to be a larger threat than foreign invasion or war; and race relations between the police and minorities are becoming increasingly tense. To explore these topics, here are two true stories and one novel.

SeeSee Jane Win: The Inspiring Story of the Women Changing American Politics
Caitlin Moscatello
Hardback, $28

On Street: August 27 / Dutton

Since Donald Trump took office, Kamala Harris and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have become household names. This is their story, along with a baker’s dozen of first-time female candidates inspired by the 2016 election to strive for change. Journalist Moscatello focuses mainly on four candidates:

  • Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA agent and mother of three young girls.
    • Challenged Tea Party favorite Dave Brat in Virginia.
  • Catalina Cruz, a Columbian immigrant and Dreamer.
    • Bid for the New York State Assembly.
  • London Lamar, a young African-American woman.
    • Ran for the Tennessee State House in one of the only Democratic, Black-majority areas of a largely conservative state.
  • Anna Eskamani, an Iranian-American concerned about her mother’s health-care struggles and the Parkland shootings.
    • Ran for state office in Florida.

Why It’s Worth Choosing

In the words of the author, without more women in office, women’s rights will continue to be in jeopardy. And in the words of Dr, Phil, you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge. Prior to Donald Trump’s election, white men made up less than a third of the US, but held 80% of Congressional seats, and a vast majority everywhere else. This book looks back at the tidal wave of pink that rushed over the country after 2016 to see how Jane won. Then it acts as a primer and a clarion call for women for the 2020 election and beyond. The book’s dedication is “To all the young girls looking up.”

LifeLife Undercover: Coming of Age in the CIA
Amaryllis Fox
Hardback, $27.95
On Street: October 15, 2019 / Knopf

Finding a secret note taped to the toilet tank in a restaurant in Burma that says “Order the French fries.” (They come with chopsticks and a side of hot sauce.) Passing a poster praising “the security of the veil” while being tailed in Karachi by a man who resembles Mr. Ed. Ordering beryllium from a lab in the former USSR. It sound like a movie, but this was the author’s life. An expert on coding and an Oxford graduate, Amaryllis Fox spent eight years hunting the world’s most dangerous terrorists in 16 countries, then quit the CIA and worked as a journalist for global news outlets like the BBC and Al Jazeera. In 2018 she married Robert Kennedy III and had a daughter. Now she lectures on the topic of peacemaking.

Recruiting spies is like proposing marriage, she says–you have to test the waters and drop hints first. And speaking of marriage, has she ever had to pretend to be a newlywed like the do in the movies? You bet.

Why It’s Worth Choosing

  • The author grew up in “the Company”, having  travelled with her American father and English mother around the world, growing up “as a gypsy child” and “running feral through the streets of London and St. Petersburg”.
  • Dad’s code word for signaling the kids not to talk about something was Narnia, referring to Mr. Tumnis telling Lucy that the White Witch has spies everywhere. Mom read to them from Joan Aiken’s childhood classic The Wolves of Willowby Chase. How awesome is that?

Your HouseYour House Will Pay: A Novel
Steph Cha
Hardback $26.99
On Street:  October 15, 2019 / Ecco (Harper Collins)

L.A., the city Grace Park and Shawn Matthews call home, is on edge after the police shooting of a black teen. Sheltered Grace is largely oblivious, working long hours in her Korean immigrant parents’ pharmacy. She’s more worried about the fact that her sister has not spoken to their mother in two years, for reasons unknown.

Shawn has problems of his own, after an act of violence shattered his family years ago. Now, he just wants to be left alone. But when another shocking crime hits L.A., both families are forced to face down their history together–as there is an unexpected connection between them–while navigating the tumult of a city on the brink of violence.

Why It’s Worth Choosing

  • Crisp, clean writing style with sharp dialogue
  • The author is the Noir editor at the Los Angeles Review of Books
  • Plus, she and her husband have two basset hounds