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Born Under an Assumed Name: The Memoir of a Cold War Spy's Daughter
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Born Under an Assumed Name: The Memoir of a Cold War Spy's Daughter

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  125 Ratings  ·  27 Reviews
From literary journalist Sara Mansfield Taber comes a deep and wondrous memoir of her exotic childhood as the daughter of a covert CIA operative. Born under an Assumed Name portrays the thrilling and confusing life of a girl growing up abroad in a world of secrecy and diplomacy—and the heavy toll it takes on her and her father. As Taber leads us on a tour through the allur ...more
Hardcover, 396 pages
Published February 1st 2012 by Potomac Books (first published August 31st 2011)
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Emily Klein
Oct 05, 2012 rated it really liked it


I really enjoyed this enormously. She gets a little preachy in the end and I still think over idealizes Japanese culture but it is a minor quibble about a really engaging read. She also makes a strong case for the challenges of growing up as a quiet introvert in American society - especially as a teenager.
Anita
Apr 23, 2012 rated it it was ok
I couldn't help thinking all the way through--slogging through, a very slow read--that she wrote this memoir about the wrong person. I kept waiting for more about her father. He seemed much more interesting to me than she did.
Kathleen
Feb 13, 2013 rated it liked it
This book was quite interesting especially in her personal experiences. When she got into lots of interpretations of same it was much less compelling. This was more a problem toward the end.
Jeannie
Sep 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Not so much a book about espionage but more about honoring her father. How an introvert child has to learn how to express herself to become a happy and adult woman. Her parents set a wonderful example how to appreciate different countries and cultures. A book that gave me insight how children can experience multiple relocations to different countries. I truly enjoyed this memoir.
Michele Weiner
Jun 10, 2013 rated it did not like it
This is the true story of Sara Taber, whose father was a government agent of some kind that had to do with secret meetings, staying in the background, and being a true believer in American democracy. Dad transmitted his uncritical view of US foreign policy to his daughter, who couldn't help but feel Americans superior to the Chinese who were so poor and illiterate. Although assuring the reader that her father's rosy view matured after a while, as did hers, I couldn't get past page 28. I found th ...more
Patrick Ross
Aug 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
Sara Taber is a masterful writer, and she pulls off an ambitious undertaking with this memoir. It is both a story of her childhood moving from place to place (Taiwan, D.C., The Hague, Japan and other places) but also a portrait of American foreign policy during the Cold War. We see her changing perspective on America's role in the world both through her own evolution but also through the depiction of her father, a patriotic CIA agent who is an idealistic globalist and increasingly chafes under t ...more
Megan
Jun 18, 2016 rated it it was ok
Eh. In between episodes of overly-dramatic and flowery writing, the adventures of a spy's daughter weren't exactly adventurous. The only mention of an assumed name is on the cover - I suppose to draw people in, thinking there might be some actual spying going on. Ms. Taber gives supposed hints of what might be interesting spy stuff, but it peters out to the tiny bit she actually ever knew, which is essentially nothing.

A lot of political commentary and flower power country hating. I appreciate t
...more
Denise L Jenne
Nov 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
a personal journey that takes the reader through recent history providing a different perspective -- that of a child, an adolescent and then an adult who lived through the events of the era closer than many of us and influenced by an insider. If you are, as I am, approximately the same age as the author, you will find her experiences unique and different from yours, yet, in some respects, strangely familiar. Tabor describes events from our history growing up during the Cold War. She confirms man ...more
Jon Tupper
Aug 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a brilliant and touchingly sensitive book about a woman’s growing up in many cultures. She wrestles with her identity and the fabrics of those different cultures in the context of secrecy and questions of what is honesty, loyalty and truth. Her description of a mental break down unknowingly caused by a medication is absolutely unnerving and real. This is written in prose. However, she is a poet. In the climate of so many books written by and about war fighters this is a refreshing work. ...more
Florence
Mar 24, 2013 rated it liked it
I enjoyed seeing this author at the Virginia Festival for the Book. She has an engaging presence when describing her unusual childhood as the daughter of a CIA covert officer. Her childhood was quite chaotic. Everytime she began to adapt to a new country and enjoy herself, she seemed to be uprooted. Ironically, becoming adjusted to life in the Washington DC suburbs was especially difficult. I never did understand why she thinks that her father was so badly treated by the CIA. I don't have a clea ...more
Katie
May 14, 2013 rated it did not like it
I was so excited to read this book and, sadly, did not bother to finish it. The author has such a good story to tell (at least that's what the reviews said) but that was lost due to a bizarre writing style. Instead of letting the story unfold and drawing the reader in, I felt like she cared more about impressing readers with her command of language. I wanted to care about her, her family and the story but I didn't and lost patience with trying.
Monica
Oct 05, 2012 rated it really liked it


A fascinating read about the ways in which identity can be influenced by location and circumstance. I related to much of what the author discussed, having lived abroad for a large chunk of my childhood. What does it mean to be an American abroad? Much of what she discussed reminded me of the descriptions of border identities. At times it felt unbalanced as if she idealized one culture over another but for the most part it was an engaging read.
Carole Geithner
Dec 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is a shocking and fascinating tale of the author's childhood as the daughter of an undercover Cold War spy, living and hiding in plain sight, longing to adapt in far away lands while struggling to understand what it means to be an American who both loves and hates her country. Her psychological insights into the costs of a clandestine life full of deceptions and near constant loss are fascinating.
Tim
Jul 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Touching memoir from a daughter of a CIA agent as she travels around the world growing up and finding her place in life. The sensitivity of this story and how Taber gradually recognizes the cost of her father's work is poignant.
I like the writing, but I did find her regular digressions into side stories slowed down the narrative though.
Oliver
Apr 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
Sara Taber portrays an American family whose patriotism is almost astounding by today's standards, yet they are unwaveringly believable. She does an excellent job of showing us her own evolution as her world changes, geographically, politically, and personally.

I'll say more when I've finished it.
Wendy
Apr 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A sensitive account of the painful dilemmas of a life of espionage, told from the unusual perspective of a child raised with love and curiosity about other peoples and cultures. Woven throughout are recollections and insights about an itinerant childhood, a theme that will resonate with many readers - especially those who have lived with the silences enforced by life in the shadows.
Jody Curtis
I thoroughly enjoyed Sara's memoir, and how she describes her evolving perceptions of her culture-sampling upbringing. I like her ability to describe experiences in a way that uses all the senses. Her candor is brave and refreshing.
Marsha Blitzer
Dec 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
My real live writing mentor, Sara Taber, has an exquisitely poetic command of language and a fascinating tale to tell.
Almira
Sep 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
look for "review" shortly
Patricia
Aug 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Interesting story
Pat
Jun 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I just started this book and am enjoying it so far. It is an interesting perspective...a child's view of life as the young daughter of a cold war spy.
Claudia
Feb 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
gripping, lyrical memoir. This book will resonate with anyone who's ever had to move between cultures.
Karen  Fiandaca
Nov 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
an interesting thought provoking memoir - with a decided liberal bent - at times a bit slow and repetitive IMHO. But worth reading!
Karla Larson
Jul 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-club
Enjoyed this . Seemed more like fiction than non fiction. Got a little preachy and wordy at times but, overall, thought it was great.
Judy
Jan 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Kindle
Cathy
Jul 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Very interesting. An inside look into the life of a covert officer's daughter's life growing up in the 60's.
Chayce
rated it it was amazing
Mar 31, 2016
Terry Boyarsky
rated it liked it
Jul 06, 2018
Matthew Dayton Cavallaro
rated it really liked it
May 05, 2017
Alice
rated it really liked it
Feb 04, 2017
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