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Born Under an Assumed Name: The Memoir of a Cold War Spy's Daughter Hardcover – February 1, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 396 pages
  • Publisher: Potomac Books Inc. (February 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1597976989
  • ISBN-13: 978-1597976985
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #208,656 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Born under an Assumed Name is as delicately wrought as bone china . . . A beautiful, mysterious, and unexpectedly suspenseful story of the struggle to find a place in the world."—William O'Sullivan, editor, Washingtonian

"Taber has worked magic with this intoxicating memoir of her childhood. This vibrant family portrait of love and heartache also reveals much about America—our passion, confusion, contradictions, and especially the tragedy we bring upon the world despite our very best intentions."—Mary Stucky, reporter, Minnesota Public Radio

"Lyrical and evocative prose . . . These tales of coming of age are filled with the exotic flavors of far-flung places but also touch on close-to-the-bone feelings about family and childhood relationships that befall all of us, no matter where we grow up."—Sandra Dibble, reporter, San Diego Union-Tribune

"With a poet's sensibility, a seasoned journalist's sense of where and when to probe, and a ravishing talent for conveying the exotic, Taber's writing is on par with anything by M. F. K. Fisher, Jan Morris, or V. S. Naipaul. Everyone who wants to understand America should read this book."—C. M. Mayo, author of Miraculous Air: Journey of a Thousand Miles through Baja California, the Other Mexico

"A gorgeous and shocking tale . . . Taber's poetic, vivid language bathes us in cultural beauty and harsh realities, her psychological insights into the costs of a clandestine life are fascinating, and her ability to electrify history during the era of 'red devils' make this memoir a sizzling read."—Carole Geithner, author of If Only

About the Author

Sara Mansfield Taber holds a BA from Carleton College, an MSW from the University of Washington, and a doctorate from Harvard University. She is the author of Dusk on the Campo: A Journey in Patagonia (1992), Of Many Lands: Journal of a Traveling Childhood (1999), and Bread of Three Rivers: The Story of a French Loaf (2002). Her memoirs and essays have been published in the Southwest Review and the Washington Post, and produced for National Public Radio. She has taught at Johns Hopkins University and currently teaches at the Bethesda Writer’s Center and at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Married with two children, she lives in the Washington, D.C., area.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Nan Fuhrman on February 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In born under an assumed name, Sara Mansfield Taber intelligently and lyrically recounts her life as a young American living abroad with her mother, brother, and CIA agent father on assignment in such varied places as Japan, Taiwan, Holland and Borneo as well as back "home". The subtext is subtle self-discovery, inadvertent wanderings into and wondering about the truth and secrecy of her father's career, and the longing to understand both his life and her own in spite of strong sense of always being "the other". This memoir is also, in part, a period piece of the Sixties and Seventies that must resonate with anyone who grew up during that era and that colorfully illuminates it for those who came later to learn of it.

Throughout her sensitive and beautifully rendered prose threads of contention are interwoven. Where and what is home? What does it mean to be an American, and how does one fit into this world? What is right, and what is wrong? We see inside the observations and questions of a sweet, wide-eyed girl, and then struggle with a more squinty-eyed, questioning adolescent trying to make sense of herself and her role in the world.

Despite the author's youthful wish to steal herself against constant moves and demands on her self-esteem, this young woman perceives those challenges as providing truths to help her navigate the world. At one point she posits: "The great gift of an ex-pat community is that you can always belong - because no one does. Belonging is easiest abroad - there you automatically belong to the human race." However, even with that frame of mind, one's internal compass and family values complicate any simple sense of harmony.

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By WK on February 23, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The craft of Sara Mansfield Taber's amazing memoir, Born Under an Assumed Name: The Memoir of a Cold War Spy's Daughter, is such that within one set of covers is interwoven a period piece of the 1960's and 70's, including exceptional details of both daily life and cultural-political backgrounds; a suspense story; colorful portraits of Asia/Malaysia, Europe, and the United States as seen through the eyes of a "diplomat's daughter;" and a reflective coming of age story featuring young Sara as she keeps absorbing new settings for home, school, and country of residence.

How exactly does a child, and then adolescent, form and maintain personal identity, a cultural sense of self, or national/political allegiances in such shifting landscapes? While the strong loving relationship Sara has with her father helps her learn, process and endure, it is also his line of work and his own growing and troubling questions that infuse Sara's larger crisis. These swirling conflicts reach a head while she is a teenager at a Japanese boarding school, and the reader is given a riveting, unique and insightful account of emotional breakdown and path to recovery.

Sara Taber's writing shines. While retaining the simplicity of a young person's point of view, her description of people and places, her perfect selection of words and narrative flow are stunning. A market scene in Borneo was so vivid that I nearly passed out reading it! Born Under an Assumed Name is a winner. Read it now - this book begs to become a film!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Ellen Cassedy on February 20, 2012
Format: Hardcover
What is it like to grow up as the daughter of a spy? Sara Taber begins with her earliest memories, in Taiwan, then takes us to postings in Bethesda, Maryland; The Hague, Netherlands; Washington, D.C., Kuching, East Malaysia; and Tokyo, Japan. As Taber grows, so does her understanding of her father, her country, and the world.

Taber's ability to evoke the very essence of both the personal and the cultural, in a distinctive and poetic style, is extraordinary. Her compassion for her characters, especially her father, exists side by side with an unflinching critique of the costs of covert operations as she experienced them within her family. The last section of the book is particularly riveting, as those costs come crashing down around her. The conclusions she draws are fascinating, wise, and heart-warming.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Theresa Walker on February 23, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
Sara Taber's Born under an Assumed Name is a stunning memoir. Her intense love for her mysterious father, a CIA operative, is a constant throughout her childhood and adolesence. Her portraits of Asian cultures and the culture of Washington, DC, as she grows up both overseas and in America brim with color, insight, and honesty. As Sara comes of age, the war in Vietnam is tearing American families apart. Tension between ideals and the life experience of a girl growing up in a patriotic family with a loyal yet conflicted father threaten to overwhelm her. How Sara navigates that experience--in a U.S. government hospital, no less, with a group of shell-shocked young Vietnam vets--is only one important part of a beautiful, shining life.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By lw on April 5, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The best part of Born Under an Assumed Name (in addition to the beautiful writing) is Sara Taber's skill at intertwining the two stories--a familiar story of a girl growing into a young woman and a unique story of family constantly on the move who carry with them a growing tension that is exacerbated rather than relieved by the father's revelation of the conflict between his dual lives.

The first story--the story of a girl discovering herself and the world--is so beautifully written that it would stand alone as an insightful and poetic memoir. The most remarkable thing about it (given the constant uprooting and undercurrent of secrets) is that it's so normal. Every woman who reads this book will find (and remember) herself in nearly every experience Taber recounts from her adjustment to being the new girl to her conviction that every other girl is better to her frequent questioning and shifting of values. Even her frightening breakdown is only outside the "normal" girl's experience by it's severity.

The second story (and the wonderful title) is icing on the cake. Taber has turned a beautiful, personal yet universal coming-of-age story into a modern-day tale of espionage and political duplicity and tied the two stories together seamlessly in large part through the unfolding relationship between her and her father--and his desire to live out his convictions through her. There's lots of food for thought for all of us in the way she has told and analyzed that story in relation to the national and international events of the era. (And the government's response to her FOI request--crazy enough to be pulled from a Kafka novel--is ample evidence that she has underplayed rather than exaggerated the government's paranoia.)

This is a don't miss book for everyone who loves memoirs and students of the political realities of our times.
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