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Hiding in Plain Sight: The Invention of Donald Trump and the Erosion of America

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From New York Times bestselling author Sarah Kendzior comes the bitingly honest examination of the erosion of American liberty and the calculated rise to power of Donald Trump.

The rise of Donald Trump may have shocked Americans, but it should not have surprised them. His anti-democratic movement is the culmination of a decades-long breakdown of U.S. institutions. The same blindness to U.S. decline – particularly the loss of economic stability for the majority of the population and opportunity-hoarding by the few – is reflected in an unwillingness to accept that authoritarianism can indeed thrive in the so-called “home of the free”.

As Americans struggle to reconcile the gulf between a flagrant aspiring autocrat and the democratic precepts they had been told were sacred and immutable, the inherent fragility of American democracy has been revealed. Hiding in Plain Sight exposes this continual loss of freedom, the rise of consolidated corruption, and the secrets behind a burgeoning autocratic United States that have been hiding in plain sight for decades. In Kendzior’s signature and celebrated style, she expertly outlines Trump’s meteoric rise from the 1980s until today, interlinking key moments of his life with the degradation of the American political system and the continual erosion of our civil liberties by foreign powers.

Kendzior also offers a never-before-seen look at her personal life and her lifelong tendency to be in the wrong place at the wrong time – living in New York through 9/11 and in St. Louis during the Ferguson uprising, and researching media and authoritarianism when Trump emerged using the same tactics as the post-Soviet dictatorships she had long studied.

Hiding in Plain Sight is about confronting injustice – an often agonizing process, but an honest and necessary one – as the only way that offers the possibility of ending it.

320 pages, Kindle Edition

First published April 7, 2020

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About the author

Sarah Kendzior

4 books382 followers
Sarah Kendzior is best known for her reporting on St. Louis, her coverage of the 2016 election, and her academic research on authoritarian states.

With Andrea Chalupa, she hosts the podcast "Gaslit Nation".

She is currently an op-ed columnist for the Globe and Mail and she was named by Foreign Policy as one of the “100 people you should be following on Twitter to make sense of global events.”

Her reporting has been featured in many publications, including Politico, Slate, The Atlantic, Fast Company, The Chicago Tribune, TeenVogue, and The New York Times.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 618 reviews
Profile Image for Michael Hicks.
Author 35 books430 followers
April 12, 2020
Reading Sarah Kendzior's Hiding in Plain Sight: The Invention of Donald Trump and the Erosion of America while self-isolating against the rising number of COVID-19 infections and deaths from the coronavirus outbreak is to see her prediction, from 2015, that Donald Trump would decimate American democracy and her central thesis that his administration is a nexus of "political corruption, organized crime, and endemic racism" play out in real-time. With each successive chapter, and each new segment of breaking news in our era of unending crises at the hands of this vulgar, orange-hued goblin, taking us from the outbreak first being a Democratic hoax, and then under control, and then, finally, having hospitals overwhelmed with patients and Trump's regime currently, daily, seizing medical supplies from a number of states in order to sell them off to the highest bidder that's sworn fealty to him personally, as well as Trump's concurrent plans to destroy the United States Postal Service in an attempt to thwart voter's ability to use mail-in ballots during November's election, you can witness kleptocratic autocracy in action, live as it happens, with this book acting as a primer on the decades of history that helped to build Donald Trump while simultaneously weakening American political institutions for further exploitation by the political elite and their well-connected cronies.

What this book is not is a collection of all of Trump's many, many, many crimes - such an accounting would no doubt be a multi-volume effort with each entry rivaling Stephen King's biggest doorstoppers. Kendzior takes a far more interesting approach, using her home of St. Louis, MO as a lens with which to view a larger, evolved, and no less messy, scope of political dysfunction that serves only to benefit and further enrich the already wealthy and the criminal organizations and Russian mafiaosos they lie in bed with. Her survey reaches back through 40 years of American history and the way our laws have been weakened in order to reshape what used to be crimes into a new normal of political theatrics, and the anything-goes mentality that currently exists in D.C., where the bar of acceptable behavior is lowered on a daily basis and we must perpetually contend with the simple fact that this is no bottom to how low Trump and his elite cronies will stoop in order to line their pockets. Kendzior contends that the Trump administration is a transnational crime syndicate masquerading as a presidency, and she has all the receipts to support this claim, not least of which are Trump's own public admissions to such. And yet he remains, and revels in being, untouchable, a Teflon Don, thanks to our own institutions unwillingness to confront him and enforce the law.

Hiding in Plain Sight explains it all - how it happened, why we got to the point we're at today, and why it will keep on happening. The only thing it's lacking is insight into how to stop it. How do normal, everyday people like you, me, Kendzior, and the rest of the 99% put to a stop to this international mafia and the mob boss currently sitting in the Oval Office? Can we, even? Will voting be enough, for those of us who will still be allowed to vote in November, in our Russian-hacked polls at our gerrymandered precincts, while we're likely wearing gloves and facemasks and hoping we don't contract a virus that may kill us or our loved ones?

All we can do is try, because nobody else will save us. We have to stop pining for docile, weak-kneed, old men like Robert Mueller or anybody in Congress to give a single damn about us and our country, let alone save us. We have to save ourselves.

Hiding in Plain Sight, meanwhile, should be on everyone's must-read list. I've been following Kendzior's Twitter feed and podcast, Gaslit Nation, for a while now, and she's a prescient, informed, and intelligent reporter, and an authority on authoritarianism. Every prediction she's made about Trump from his campaign to now have been eerily, frighteningly, and yes, heart-breakingly, gut-wrenchingly, accurate. She's a national treasure, and this book should be made mandatory reading in high school and college in the hopes that future generations, if there are any by the time Trump's finished, can better understand how America reached this point and, hopefully, how to prevent it from ever happening again. This book is a vital and necessary warning shot for our children, if only because it's already too late for us.

[Note: I received an ARC of this title from the publisher via NetGalley.]
Profile Image for Steve.
916 reviews134 followers
April 5, 2020
Coming, this week! .... Read it, share it .... Buy copies (from your local independent bookstore, of course) and give them as gifts.... But, seriously, read it. It's an eye-opener.

Here's a taste: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opini...

Also: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-re...

. . . Mid March 2020 update: Disappointing newsflash : Alas, Kendzior has done the responsible thing and cancelled her book tour, timed to coincide with the release of the book, in light of the coronavirus situation. What a shame! The public needs access to this book, and its wide distribution would be a public service....

. . . [Original review:]

Pre-Order the Book! ... Read it, share it .... Buy copies and give them as gifts.... Leave them in airport lounges and train stations and bus terminals and on subway trains and on park benches ... Consider placing them in high school and college cafeterias or dorm lounges or ....

Encourage your public (or school) library to buy extra copies and display them prominently. Bring the book to the attention of your local independent bookstore.... (If they ask, just tell them it's a perfect companion - in 2020 - to Timothy Snyder's sublime 2017 offering On Tyranny.)

I'm glad the book will be in full circulation long before the 2020 election. I wish it had been available (for mass consumption) in advance of the impeachment investigations and proceedings. But, most of all, I'm glad she wrote it ... and that I've had a chance to read it.

... I just finished reading (my Advance Reading Copy from the publisher)..., and I want (need?) to digest my (extensive, sometimes frantic) notes and ruminate before posting a fulsome review. So, for now, if you haven't read Kendzior's View From Flyover Country, (buy and) read that ... and, of course, pre-order this. (To be clear, this is a more cohesive product than View From Flyover Country, which, of course, is a collection of essays.)

True to form, Kendzior may strike you as shrill (at times, bordering on hysterical), but that's OK (even justified) because she's right ... and she says things that too many are too timid (or unimaginative) to say. I couldn't shake the image of the canary in a coal mine as I read, and I keep reminding myself that, well, the canary is there to save lives....

More later.... Again, pre-order the book.
Profile Image for Jen from Quebec :0).
404 reviews84 followers
November 6, 2020
WOW.....This is NOT simply "a book about Trump". While, yes, it does document his rise from the 1980's to present day, it is actually a tome about the entire SYSTEM in America, about capitalism, about privilege. This book delves into so many other important subjects that I think it should have an entirely different title!

According to Kendzior, Trump is a symptom/result of a broken society, and this book delves into vital questions about things that affect all humanity; a book that's more 'deep' than ANY "book about Trump" that I have read. This is an important read, and one that I will be recommending to people.

I am very happy that I snagged a copy of this during an Audible sale, and I WILL be listening to it again, as there were so many revelations that my head was spinning (in the GOOD way) and I will need a re-read to absorb all of the key elements that Kendzior brilliantly describes. A GREAT book that everyone should read, not just Americans (after all, I myself am not an American, but I do still live in this inter-connected world of global capitalism and class disparity.) --Jen from Quebec :0)
Profile Image for Barbara (The Bibliophage).
1,084 reviews149 followers
May 9, 2020
Originally published on my book blog, TheBibliophage.com.

Sarah Kendzior has done it again with Hiding in Plain Sight: The Invention of Donald Trump and the Erosion of America. This is 320 pages of hard truths, and may or may not feel like healthy quarantine reading. Especially considering how much scarier everything has gotten since she finished writing this book.

But I’d rather see the world through clear perspective and analysis. Rose-colored glasses aren’t my jam. Kendzior posits that the factors leading to the election of Donald Trump started years and years ago. She discusses his long-held connections to Russia, and their correlation to his various attempts to run for President.

But this story is so much more than just one man. It’s a confluence of events, including the Ferguson, Missouri killing of Michael Brown. And as a resident of St. Louis, that’s an event Kendzior has closer ties to than all the journalists who temporarily flew in from the coasts.

She clarifies how her city and state changed from wholesome Midwest to corrupt to the core. And that this wasn’t unique to Missouri, but a symptom of changes happening throughout the country. In the process, some of the usual suspects show up here: Michael Cohen, Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner. And although the latter hasn’t been charged, Kendzior lays out some suspicious dealings. And she delves a little deeper into the Jeffrey Epstein story as well.

My conclusions
You would expect this book to be dark, and it is. It is also written clearly and succinctly, without any bloat. I suppose Kendzior realized that her readers, like me, had probably already read a few books about this GOP administration. Like me, they didn’t need to hear about every single event again.
Instead, what she does is look at this from the eyes of an expert in autocracy. Kendzior is a Ph.D. anthropologist and researcher, in addition to being a journalist. She’s been studying autocratic regimes for more than a decade. To me, this was a fresh perspective more reminiscent of Timothy Snyder than Seth Abramson. (Who are both excellent, by the way.)

As the America we’ve known during our lives erodes, Kendzior suggests that we get out and experience it for ourselves. She takes trips around the country with her kids, so they can see the Rocky Mountains and more. So they can visit Presidential Libraries and other historic sites. Well, I suggest that we explore these sites from home, even while on quarantine. Find their Facebook and Twitter accounts. See what virtual tours you and your family can take. Learn the history now.

And, in the process, we will be reminded that America is so much more than the occupant of the White House. It is history and change, with many languages spoken, and kinds of climate. And it’s worth fighting against corruption so that our kids and grandkids have something in their lives resembling what we’ve had in ours. [end book-inspired rant]

I recommend this book if you’re a student of history, and want to see the living history of the last few decades playing out in the political situation of today. You may need to read it in small bites, but don’t let that stop you.

Pair with either On Tyranny or The Road to Unfreedom by Timothy Snyder. Alternately, try something inspiring as a pair, like We Are The Change We Seek: Speeches of Barack Obama.

Many thanks to NetGalley, Flatiron Books, and the author for a digital ARC in exchange for this honest review.
Profile Image for Tom Jeffrey.
8 reviews1 follower
January 23, 2021
I was very disappointed with this book. While the author has a valuable perspective as an expert on authoritarian states, and accurately predicted Trump’s election and subsequent governing as an autocrat (she says kleptocrat), she seems to believe that her predictive abilities are infallible. She also has an unfortunate tendency to roll up varied historical players in ongoing conspiracies, supporting her many conclusions with loosely linked facts (some of which are themselves are merely conclusive characterizations or allegations).

To be clear, I am not a right-wing troll criticizing an author who is highly critical of Trump. I share her disgust with the current president and his administration, and I share many of her concerns about his autocratic tendencies and his negative impact on the country and the world. I just don’t believe that this book advances the discussion in a helpful way.,
Profile Image for Bettie.
9,988 reviews15 followers
Shelved as 'maybe'
September 2, 2020
Description excerpt: Hiding in Plain Sight exposes this continual loss of freedom, the rise of consolidated corruption, and the secrets behind a burgeoning autocratic United States that have been hiding in plain sight for decades. In Kendzior’s signature and celebrated style, she expertly outlines Trump’s meteoric rise from the 1980s until today, interlinking key moments of his life with the degradation of the American political system and the continual erosion of our civil liberties by foreign powers.

Sarah Kendzior: "Trump may have been involved in an unparalleled and inexplicable pact with the US government to remain above the law, one that was likely buffered by criminal actors and hostile foreign states."
On his missing taxes, from my book HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT
Profile Image for Letitia.
1,044 reviews84 followers
August 16, 2020
Well this was a journey. It was a highly informative and entertaining one, but with some flaws. What I am grateful for and what I successfully found while reading this book was a thorough indictment of pretty much all Trump's associations, behaviors, and business dealings.

I think a lot of people assume anti-Trump sentiment derives entirely from the fact that he defeated Clinton in 2016. Not true. I have ALWAYS hated Trump, and apparently so has Kendzior. I hated him when he was a Democrat. I hated him when he was doing cameos in cute movies and TV shows (I see you, Fresh Prince). I hated him when he was an uncharismatic reality TV host whose show had absolutely zero relationship to successful leadership or business management. He was then, as now, a philandering, racist narcissist who used the illusion of wealth to prop up a classist and sexist ideal of American success. I can criticize him politically for his policies, but as a person I have despised him for decades. This book is an eviscerating reminder of why.

Where Kendzior loses me, although she probably gains herself a different kind of audience, is through her alarmism and evasive thesis. While nothing that she shares is unfactual, her hyperbolism and constantly high level of panic are off-putting. It's also just hard to know what the POINT is. This feels like a string of loosely joined indictments that cover everything from Trump's financial entanglements in Russia to a personal memoir about being a journalist from St. Louis. What are we doing here, Sarah? Is this a memoir? Is this a series of articles? Is this political commentary? Is this activism? Nobody would fault the author for wanting Epstein and Ghislane held accountable but seriously what does that have to do with the protests after Michael Brown's shooting?

I really identified with some parts, particularly when Kendzior describes coastal elites' assumptions about people from the midwest. Yes, most of us can read and have all our teeth and no I've never milked a cow, thanks very much. Kendzior retells offering a shocked NPR interviewer that she was not, in fact, from a rural area, therefore could not comment on rural American perspectives, coming from an urban area of several million people. I laughed out loud because I've had a similar conversation with people in New Jersey who asked me how many stop lights were in my "town." (I live in a city of 3 million people...but I'm from the ignorant state...sure.) BUT...I'm not sure what all that has to do with Trump's financial ties to Putin, Sarah.

The strength of this book is the indictment of Trump and Trump cronies and the deeply embedded nepotism of American wealth that the Trump family has openly dragged into the White House. While a lot of what you find here is not cold hard facts, but rather credible allegations...man are there a LOT of credible allegations! If you can know anything about a person by their friends and associations then good god. Trump is buddy buddy with pretty much the worst people on the planet. Kendzior reminds us, through enormous dumps of information, just how close the president has been to innumerable scandals, illegal dealings, conflicts of interests, and full on child trafficking rings. There he is, just barely escaping indictment, on the edge of every horrible thing that wealthy Americans (and Russians for that matter!) have done for the past 40 years. Kendzior reminds us that these people are used to getting away with evil, corruption, and cruelty. It's not the norm for them to be held accountable; it's the norm for them to get out of trouble and continue destroying lives. Trump has lived exactly such a life, and it ultimately led him to the presidency.

In summation, this is a string of somewhat unrelated articles and could have been structured waaaaaay better, but it is worthwhile rage reading.

3 reviews1 follower
January 30, 2020
Sarah Kendzior's Hiding in Plain Sight gives us a clear and impactful recounting of how Donald Trump got where he is today, and the cast of characters who helped get him there. Essential reading for supporters and opponents alike, this story of what has happened to our nation and its highest office speaks to all of us. If I could compel everyone who truly wants to "make America great again" to read any book in the thick of this election year, it would be this one. History counts and so do facts, and Kendzior explains in a manner as gripping as any novelist's exactly what has happened and why, bringing the story up to what is happening now. The plot, the characters, the context--everything will grab the reader and refuse to let go. Be sure to preorder today!
Profile Image for andy.
183 reviews32 followers
May 16, 2020
This is just as good as Dr. Kendzior´s flyover book. I don’t think that independent thinkers need a book to see what’s going on in our country though. Ideology aside, most of us are caught in that horrible dilemma of accepting between a psychopath or an idiot, for this con artist who supposedly is our president. I feel terribly sorry about the folks who he managed to manipulate because their dignity had been hurt. As for the rest: racists, entitled assholes, or even simply decent people who just surrendered to their political biases, I truly hope they are a minority. Otherwise, United States is totally fucked if we elect him again.
Profile Image for Amanda Mae.
337 reviews20 followers
April 22, 2020
This was a pretty depressing read, but I knew most of the material covered. I've lived through it. I've experienced it. I appreciate the realism and groundedness of Kendzior - I'm a big fan of her other book, and looked forward to reading this one. If nothing else, it's a catalog and a timeline of events that I hope will be rectified and made right in my lifetime. It's a reminder of our recent past. I look forward to reading more from Kendzior and hoping she continues to speak truth as loudly as she can.
Profile Image for Ietrio.
6,597 reviews25 followers
April 8, 2020
Kendzior has a big conflict: the government is for him mommy, daddy and the nanny, the whole trinity. And he does not want Trump as daddy.
Profile Image for Sahitya.
1,021 reviews203 followers
March 21, 2021
I think I came across this book on Twitter as a recommendation after the Jan 6 insurrection and I knew that I had to read it. Seems like many had the same idea because it took me this long to get the book from my library, but it was completely worth the wait.

While I don’t think I had not encountered the author’s writing before, it was not a surprise to know that she was among the few reporters who predicted a 45 win in 2016 because of her extensive experience in researching authoritarianism. And this book is not really about his horrifying campaign or his even worse presidency - this is about the circumstances under which a person such as him managed to ascend to the highest office of the country and how it came to be. But this is not an anti Republican Party book as some would like you to believe - this is an anti authoritarian and anti corruption book, calling out the people and policies which have enabled a 45 win.

As a resident of St. Louis Missouri, the author uses her own life experience to give us a view of how the country has changed across decades. Her meticulous research about the nexus between the political elites, corrupt businessmen and organized crime syndicates is commendable, and just like her, we are left equally dismayed about why none of these corrupt players ever faced any consequences. And when these people get away with their crimes, they continue on with more impunity and what results is the disaster we have seen play out on tv and Twitter for the past 5 years. The author doesn’t shy away from naming names, many whose corrupt and money laundering activities were known to the investigative agencies for almost decades but were never prosecuted because all of the organizations were infiltrated by these corrupt people. As she mentions many times, this is what happens when criminals become a major part of government - crimes and illegal activities become legal, because criminals are now writing the laws. She also details how this has been a decades long project - how slowly laws and ethics have been eroded across multiple presidencies that now, these corrupt elites boast about their criminal activities on national television because they know they will never be punished.

In the end, the author doesn’t give many solutions because there is not much everyday people can do against the rich and powerful. But she wants to keep fighting for and telling the truth, despite the reality of constant death threats. And I guess that’s what we can do too - never lose sight of the corruption that has permeated our system, keep ourselves informed about what’s happening around us, and make sure we exercise all the rights accorded to us by the constitution before they are forcibly taken from us. We may have managed to avert an immediate disaster due to the result of the 2020 election, but that doesn’t mean we can afford to close our eyes, because the fight is not yet over and probably won’t during our lifetimes. There is a lot more I can say about the book and the author’s amazing narration of the audiobook, but I’ll just end by saying this should be recommended reading for anyone who cares about their country.
Profile Image for Christa Van.
1,289 reviews
May 10, 2020
After reading this book, you may find yourself pondering...is democracy even a thing anymore? Crazy times is all you can really think as you marvel at how things have come to this. The country isn't easy to live in anymore but there aren't any obvious other choices either. What will it take to get the average person interested in the decline? It isn't that they aren't interested, there are limits to what any individual can do. Kendzior spends a lot of time talking about these issues and warning people yet is still met with surprise when events she foretold come to pass. Not exactly uplifting but should be required reading.
Profile Image for Steve.
16 reviews
April 27, 2020
This is the most clear eyed and sadly depressing of the Trump themed books I've read over the last three years. It is also the best. As a journalist living in St Louis, Missouri Kendzior has a first hand experience of a living in a battleground (literally and politically) and this gives the book an urgency and depth than had it been written by someone on either of the media friendly coasts. Required reading for anyone who has even a passing interest in the orange one and the social conditions that made his election possible. Highly recommended
Profile Image for Mehrsa.
2,234 reviews3,659 followers
April 12, 2021
As someone who thought Trump was an existential threat to democracy and also a horrible human being, this book should have been catnip, but it was a little too over the top and paranoid. I just haven't been persuaded by some of the international crime schemes. I think Trump is who he is without the hidden russian crime stuff. I mean, I don't claim that the crime ties aren't there, but what he is is someone who doesn't much care about the laws or institutions and he's been very clear about who he is from the beginning. His character, or lack therof, has not been hidden at all.
Profile Image for Scott Rhee.
1,815 reviews64 followers
September 16, 2021
If you’ve had the sense—especially within the last four years but even long before November 8, 2016—-that something in the world has broken and will never be fixed again, then you may find a quantum of vindication (solace would, of course, be asking for too much) in Sarah Kendzior’s vitally important new book, “Hiding in Plain Sight: The Invention of Donald Trump and the Erosion of America”.

You may have sensed it in the growing disgust and displeasure towards schoolteachers and public education in general. You may have sensed it in the frightening complexity and ridiculously outlandish medical billing involved in the health care system. You may have sensed it in the ever-widening gap between what our elected officials promise their constituents and what they actually deliver in terms of policy. You may have sensed it in the gradual realization that goods and services continue to rise in cost while our average take-home has remained stagnant if not decreased considerably in the past decade.

You may have noticed it in the degradation of respect of institutions such as newspapers and journalism in general. You may have noticed it in the completely out-of-control lack of accountability and basic impunity of corrupt politicians, business people, police officers. You may have noticed it in the idiocy of the anti-intellectual anti-science hordes who continue to deny basic truths like climate change and the importance of vaccines.

It is the sense—-correction: the knowledge—-that things are definitely worse than they appear to be. It is the knowledge that we are witnessing a cascade of canaries in the coalmine leading to an inevitable end. It is the knowledge that saying our prayers and going to church regularly and doing the right thing still isn’t enough for our salvation.

Kendzior has had this seventh sense for a long time. As she noted in her first book “The View from Flyover Country”, Trump’s presidency was an inevitability long before Obama made fun of him at that Journalist’s Ball. Trump was being groomed by a segment of the population that had grown weary of both parties ignoring them. Trump was being groomed by a foreign actor who knew what lies and misinformation on Facebook would turn the tide of the election without having to hack into a single ballot box. Trump was being groomed by a cabal of super-wealthy people who had no empathy for poor working people and immigrants. Trump was our destiny.

I don’t hold out much hope for humanity, which is not a flippant statement. Trust me: I have a seven-year-old that I would love to see grow up. I’m just speaking truth: I don’t foresee the way things are going in the world ending on a good note. A phrase that my wife has latched on to lately: “Nothing good will come of this…”

This is pretty much the take-away of Kendzior’s book, which examines the nepotism that now infects our government (Jared and Ivanka weren’t the only catastrophically unqualified people filling powerful positions in government.), the successful kleptocratic attempts to steal from the poor and give to the rich, the woefully ineffectual attempts by Democrats to check Trump’s numerous abuses of power, the completely horrifying cyber attacks by Russia that have yet to be addressed, the white nationalist racism that undergirds our justice system and law enforcement.

This country is fucked up. It’s going to take more than an infrastructure bill that barely scratches the surface, a handful of indictments of brutal police officers, and a build-up of nuclear submarines in Australia to turn it around.
Profile Image for Kimberly.
751 reviews62 followers
June 10, 2020
This book will infuriate you if you aren't already. Sarah Kendzior tracks the rise of Trump from the 80's through today. She explores how our democracy is being threatened and how our popular media and how leaders on both sides of the aisle fail to hold him accountable, and thus are failing American democracy. The most terrifying thing, and something that will now consume all of my worry energy, is how the unprecedented access that Ivanka and Jared have positions them to rise in power and influence - and maybe to the Presidency if they aren't kept in check.

The author weaves in her personal narrative including her experiences during 9/11, the Ferguson protests, and the 2016 election. This book isn't a call to action, or even a wake up call - it's likely that the typical reader of this book is already a member of this choir. In the epilogue she writes about taking her kids on trips to historical sites so they can bear witness to our history and remember the America that was. This book feels like she is her way to bear witness so she can say 'I told you so' when the shit REALLY hits the fan.
Profile Image for Miguel.
689 reviews55 followers
April 9, 2020
The opening chapter in which Kendzior discusses the politics and socio-economic conditions in Missouri is very enlightening – it is reminiscent of the best parts of Thomas Franks’ ‘What’s the Matter with Kansas’. The remainder of the book is in large part a discussion of Trump’s rise and crooked dealings, in which the book covers ground that’s fairly well established regarding his misconduct. She paints a bleak picture of the potential future with the current trajectory and this serves as a good reminder of why so much is at stake next Nov 3rd.
Profile Image for QuietlyKat.
449 reviews
February 16, 2021
I finished Hiding in Plain Sight on the third day of 45’s second impeachment trial. More than anything else, I want to say that this book is still relevant and important and will remain so because it’s not just about 45. It’s about how complacency and apathy and corruption in politics, in the media, in foreign and domestic policy all coalesce to create an environment ripe for autocracy to bloom. All of these conditions still exist in the US and will continue to thrive unless they’re understood and confronted. Awareness is the first step. We must advocate for change and demand that our policy makers and enforcers are held to account for enabling the conditions that lead to the fall of democracy.
Profile Image for Tatiana.
226 reviews32 followers
July 27, 2020
I was super excited to read this book because I felt really uninformed about the history of Trump; and this book really delivers in this regard. Since the 80s, Trump has been allowed to behave with impunity and there were multiple agencies and people who allowed him to form his alliance with Russia, to commit fraud, to have ties with the mafia/organized crime - the list goes on.

My primary complaint about the audiobook is that it's narrated by the author - there were several times where it sounds like she's sighing with exasperation and it's unclear if she's just tired from reading (something that wouldn't happen with a professional narrator) or part of her being exhausted about everything that's happening in her book.

My other issue is how white I really found Sarah and her perspective to be. Although she mentions Black people (and at times by name), I was put off by her fixation on nationalism (I love America and therefore want to defend/protect it from oligarchs like Trump) and in the epilogue, she talks about how she takes her kids on round trips to "see America".

She doesn't mention if she's teaching her white kids to not perpetuate anti-Blackness, or really anything that might be useful when it comes to dealing with racist white people (especially considering how she mentions living in St. Louis and being in close proximity to the Ferguson protests). Instead, she takes them to look at national monuments and national parks (which were formed by removing Native people from their land).

Nationalism isn't a required prerequisite to fight against white supremacist violence, the dismantling of journalism as a career (which is now mostly accessible to other elites who wont speak truth to power), realizing that the ruling elite simply don't want to hold each other responsible for their crimes against America and its citizens (ie: the head of the IRS being unwilling to release Trump's tax forms despite government requests, Obama admin not thinking Russia is a credible threat, a Trump lackey as head of the Treasury, the FBI utterly and completely failing to prosecute Manaford - it goes on).

I think I would've enjoyed the book more if these last two components didn't feel so prominent.

But a very useful read if you want a quick rundown of not only how awful Trump is, but also how we - as citizens - were failed at every level to keep what's happening now from happening. And still, nothing is being done today to reduce its impact/reach.
Profile Image for Olivia.
410 reviews2 followers
January 6, 2021
How does Sarah Kendzior manage to pluck these germs of ideas I have once had and manages to beautiful explain each and every facet I never even knew there was.

I borrowed this from the library, but will be sure to buy this one. Kendzior examines the past few years (sans the year of the pandemic) with such keen insight it's a wonder everybody doesn't immediately agree and lay their arguments aside.

Also being from Saint Louis, it's always a bit reassuring reading her work. Someone out there is speaking these ideas out from flyover country. I will warn though, if you thought you were over being angry at the various illegal and presidential actions of the Trump campaign and administration, guess again.
Profile Image for Jeffrey May.
Author 7 books33 followers
July 1, 2020
Kelptocracy In Plain Sight

Sarah Kendzior writes tight, powerful sentences, poetic and meme-ready quotes to be admired and emblazoned as precursors to action, the clarion calls that helped avoid an all too real impending crisis. If we all had her courage, wisdom, research skills, clarity of thought, and talent at concisely stating fact, the world might become a better place.

And I say this not just because I’m from her hometown. Her description of Missouri and St. Louis almost made me defensive; surely she was wrong about my home. But if I looked beyond the insulated world of St. Louis county where I live and did more than take daylight strolls through north city where I worked as an underpaid, underappreciated adjunct, then I might be screaming louder, working harder to help her turn the country around and right the injustices so clearly evident. I will try to call out the corruption, the Kleptocracy “hiding in plain sight,” despite the potential for online ridicule and retaliation. But whatever online abuse you and I might encounter pales in comparison to the threats of physical harm and the death threats Kendzior has endured. Those who have dared to challenge the Keptocrat and aspiring autocrat who cheated his way into the presidency (worse than how he cheats on his wives) have all suffered from blistering retaliation.

Kendzior finished her book pre-impeachment, pandemic, economic collapse, and the current protests over racism and police brutality, before Trump used the military for a photo op, called for them to attack US citizens, and the ensuing backlash. While she is hesitant to use the word “hope,” I do hope she see these events as the beginning of an age where her generation will not “settle for scraps” left on the floor by subjugating Kleptocrats selling them “survival as aspiration.”

Kendzior is an expert on autocratic authoritarian regimes in Central Asia, specifically Uzbekistan, and she sees an all too familiar pattern, the pillaging of our national treasures, nepotism, threats to our security from the highest office, relinquishing freedoms in service to the autocrat, the unthinkable transformation of the United States into a dictatorship. Her book outlines in clear unassailable detail Trump’s rise to power, his longstanding connections to Russia, clear admissions and evidence that he is inexorably entwined with Russian autocrats and Keptocrats, the Russian mafia, criminals who have helped him rise to power, and the mostly Republican enablers who are complicit in his continuing criminal activity. While most of her ire is directed at Republicans, she casts a sharp eye on failures in democratic administrations as well, adding further legitimacy to her argument.

We have no leader, only a conman who thrives on chaos as a means for imposing autocratic control. In this dangerous world, we the people must take control. We must step in and lead. We must break free of voter suppression and brave the pandemic, ridiculously long lines, intimidation from gun-toting enforcers, and help others go the polls. We must all vote. And in the months leading up to November third 2020 we must be vigilant, we must help others vote by mail, we must call out corruption continually and begin the process of healing. Yes, that means voting for Joe Biden, but our votes need to include the House and the Senate, and state and local officials, and just maybe then we can convince Kandzior to accept hope, with all its positive connotations, and convince her that we will never again divorce hope from action.
Profile Image for Alisa Wilhelm.
1,086 reviews43 followers
May 21, 2020
5 stars because this book is an important documentation of the Trump era. Kendzior has a PhD in West Asian autocracies and returned to freelance journalism after many of the jobs in her field were eliminated. In this book she skillfully and clearly demonstrates the ties between individuals in Russia and the US government that goes back decades (she quips: "'It's all in public record!!' will be on my tombstone."). She has a secondary thesis in the book, which is to show that Trump voters and red states are not a monolith and voted for Trump for a variety of nuanced reasons--none of which included the destruction of national parks and heritage sites, the enrichening of Trump's friends and family with government money through nepotistic contracts, allowing foreign hostile actors to shape national policy, or the infiltration of US institutions like the FBI and the Treasury with documented Russian agents. She has clearly lost hope of any return to our deeply flawed democracy as we used to know it and has focused her energies on preserving a historical record of America as beautiful and diverse before the winners have a chance to rewrite history.

Kendzior writes from a place of love for her country, her state, and her children. She is not afraid to face the flaws (Missouri appears to be a lawless hellscape), yet she remains a loyal patriot... albeit one who needs undercover bodyguards when she speaks in public.
Profile Image for Calvin Webster.
7 reviews5 followers
April 13, 2020
As crazy as times are now, and even crazier what the current admin is doing, Trump specifically, it has been hard to fully understand that what I am seeing and feeling and reading before my very eyes is really really true. So many questions that beg me to reconcile my worldview with the motivations of our current President. Sarah's book refocuses my understanding of this and gives a concise pathology for me to understand the motivations of Trump and how things are interrelated on a world stage. As my eroding trust and increasing bias of information I consume to inform me, I now realize I have to be more discerning in what I accept as truth and what is spin or unfounded opinion and bias. This book helps me have a guidepost to lean on in these exhausting times. I trust it because the author is an expert; I trust it because there are receipts. I trust it because other signals of information I trust also seem to point in these directions.

It's well written, interesting, and clarifies my understanding so that I can better navigate and inform my own opinions.
Profile Image for Amy.
19 reviews2 followers
April 25, 2020
I finished this tonight at about 1:30am during a bout of insomnia brought on by anxiety during the great covid 19 quarantine of 2020. Our feckless leader suggested that we use disinfectant inside the body and use in light on the skin of inside the body at a rally pretending to be a press briefing. This prompted Lysol to issue a statement on the safety of ingesting its product. (Not the best idea btw). The white house is now pushing the false narrative that he orange menace was being sarcastic.

Thank you Ms Kendzior for having the bravery and honesty to do what most journalists won't by calling out Individual One on most of his lawlessness and crimes (I say most because I believe we only have a surface level idea of all crimes he's involved in)
9 reviews3 followers
April 8, 2020
If you read one political book to gain an understanding of how we got to the place we now find ourselves in America, I highly recommend Sarah Kendzior's "Hiding in Plain Sight". Finished in a day as it is a quick read and very hard to put down. She documents what was happening in America alongside what Trump was doing throughout different decades to document the rise of kleptocracy in the United States. I found many parallels between what has happened in her home state of Missouri and my own as corrupt officials funded by dark money took over.
23 reviews
April 28, 2020
Leave it to Sarah Kendzior to give us another quality researched political book - this time on a long history of how, what and why Trump came into power. As she famously says nothing is new, "it's all in the public records" - thankfully she has taken the time and effort to get into those records and produce an alarming history that has always been there in plain sight, but ignored by the majority of us for too long! My wish is this book gets read by everyone - those who, like me, hate what is happening, and even more by those who have come to believe in and accept Trump as their leader.
Profile Image for Lorene.
84 reviews
May 11, 2020
The author brought research that I was not aware of and history that I had forgotten because there is just so much going on with this president. It's too bad that much of what the author discusses is happening in front of our eyes, yet the media is not interested in reporting on it extensively. This book is a must read for background and context on current affairs.
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