Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Born Under an Assumed Name: The Memoir of a Cold War Spy's Daughter” as Want to Read:
Born Under an Assumed Name: The Memoir of a Cold War Spy's Daughter
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Born Under an Assumed Name, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Born Under an Assumed Name

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sep 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
look for "review" shortly
Aug 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Interesting story
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.
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.
Jan 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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.
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
rated it really liked it
Feb 04, 2017
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Betrayal: The Story of Aldrich Ames, an American Spy
  • Spying in America: Espionage from the Revolutionary War to the Dawn of the Cold War
  • Spies Against Armageddon
  • Chatter: Dispatches from the Secret World of Global Eavesdropping
  • Class 11: Inside the CIA's First Post-9/11 Spy Class
  • Climbing the Stairs
  • My Silent War: The Autobiography of a Spy
  • Inside the Jihad: My Life with Al Qaeda
  • Around the World in 80 Dinners: The Ultimate Culinary Adventure
  • Living with Honor: A Memoir by America's First Living Medal of Honor Recipient Since the Vietnam War
  • My Life with the Taliban
  • The Twilight War: The Secret History of America's Thirty-Year Conflict with Iran
  • Before I Get Old: The Story of the Who
  • Spent
  • The Master Spy: The Story of Kim Philby
  • Sisterhood of Spies
  • Dani's Story: A Journey from Neglect to Love
  • Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies against America

Nonfiction Deals

  • The Man from the Train: The Solving of a Century-Old Serial Killer Mystery
    $14.99 $2.99
  • Real Artists Don't Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Never Stop Walking: A Memoir of Finding Home Across the World
    $5.99 $1.99
  • Life Lessons from Matthew
    $5.99 $1.99
  • The Last Founding Father: James Monroe and a Nation's Call to Greatness
    $11.99 $3.99
  • Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada's Quest to Change Harlem and America
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Voice of Knowledge: A Practical Guide to Inner Peace
    $9.99 $2.99
  • My Mother Was Nuts
    $5.99 $1.99
  • Brotherhood: Dharma, Destiny, and the American Dream
    $7.99 $0.99
  • Final Vows
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Chosen by a Horse: a memoir
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made
    $17.99 $1.99
  • John Quincy Adams
    $12.99 $3.99
  • Easy Soups from Scratch with Quick Breads to Match: 70 Recipes to Pair and Share
    $15.99 $2.99
  • By Myself and Then Some
    $11.74 $1.99
  • The Fifth Agreement: A Practical Guide to Self-Mastery (A Toltec Wisdom Book)
    $9.99 $2.49
  • Shakespeare Never Did This
    $6.99 $1.99
  • No Compromise: The Life Story of Keith Green
    $6.99 $1.99
  • The Guns of August
    $8.99 $1.99
  • Dark Night: A True Batman Story
    $16.99 $4.99
  • Wish You Happy Forever: What China's Orphans Taught Me About Moving Mountains
    $14.74 $1.99
  • The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between
    $12.99 $1.99
  • The Prize: Who's in Charge of America's Schools?
    $12.99 $2.99
  • Leaving Microsoft to Change the World
    $12.74 $1.99
  • People Over Profit: Break the System, Live with Purpose, Be More Successful
    $13.49 $0.99
  • The Crusades: The Authoritative History of the War for the Holy Land
    $9.24 $1.99
  • The Lost Painting
    $12.99 $1.99
  • The Supreme Gift
    $2.99 $1.49
  • Fly a Little Higher: How God Answered One Mom's Small Prayer in a Big Way
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Helping Children Succeed: What Works and Why
    $9.99 $2.99
  • How Dogs Love Us: A Neuroscientist and His Adopted Dog Decode the Canine Brain
    $5.99 $1.99
  • But I Could Never Go Vegan!: 125 Recipes That Prove You Can Live Without Cheese, It's Not All Rabbit Food, and Your Friends Will Still Come Over for Dinner
    $18.50 $3.99
  • A Dog Year: Twelve Months, Four Dogs, and Me
    $8.99 $1.99
  • Deep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South
    $16.99 $4.99
  • Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist
    $13.99 $1.99
  • Forks Over Knives - The Cookbook: Over 300 Recipes for Plant-Based Eating All Through the Year
    $15.95 $2.99
  • Being Dead Is No Excuse: The Official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Make It Fast, Cook It Slow: The Big Book of Everyday Slow Cooking
    $12.99 $2.99
  • The Family Gene: A Mission to Turn My Deadly Inheritance into a Hopeful Future
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Life Lessons from Ephesians
    $5.99 $1.99
  • A Marriage in Dog Years
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Trusting God Day by Day: 365 Daily Devotions
    $11.99 $2.99
  • Blood River: The Terrifying Journey Through The World's Most Dangerous Country
    $15.99 $1.99
  • Rebellion: The History of England from James I to the Glorious Revolution
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Tudors: The History of England from Henry VIII to Elizabeth I
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Smoke and Pickles: Recipes and Stories from a New Southern Kitchen
    $18.95 $2.99
  • Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids
    $13.99 $1.99
  • Founding Mothers
    $8.74 $1.99
  • Through a Window: My Thirty Years with the Chimpanzees of Gombe
    $15.99 $1.99
  • Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation (Kindle Edition)
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours
    $19.99 $2.99
  • Once Upon a Time in Russia: The Rise of the Oligarchs—A True Story of Ambition, Wealth, Betrayal, and Murder
    $11.99 $2.99
  • Manage Your Day-To-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind
    $5.99 $1.99
  • Ida: A Sword Among Lions
    $8.24 $2.99