Sunday, February 23, 2020

The Unexpected Spy

The Unexpected Spy by Tracy Walder, with Jessica Anya Blau
St. Martin's Publishing Group: 2/25/20
eBook review copy; 272 pages
ISBN-13: 9781250230980

The Unexpected Spy: From the CIA to the FBI, My Secret Life Taking Down Some of the World's Most Notorious Terrorists by Tracy Walder is a highly recommended memoir about the author's experiences in the CIA and FBI.

Tracy went from being a student at the University of Southern California and in a Delta Gamma sorority house in 2000 to a special agent in the CIA. She was in the CIA when 9/11 occurred and she soon found herself looking for WMD, tracking chemical terrorists, and identifying and watching al-Qaeda members with drones. She felt compelled to help stop further attacks and left the relative safety of a job at CIA headquarters to go undercover in the Middle East as a counterterrorism specialist tracking al-Qaeda.
Then, wanting to be closer to her family, she went into the FBI where she worked in counterintelligence. The FBI was very different that the CIA. There she encountered blatant sexism and bullying behavior from both trainers and recruits. Walder left the FBI to become a teacher at an all-girls school where she can encourage young women to find a place in the FBI, CIA, State Department or the Senate.

Walder has to describe her job at the CIA in general terms due to national security. During the vetting of the book, the CIA actually redacted many large blocks of her original text. She chose to leave these portions of the text as blacked-out lines rather than rewriting the accounts. While seeing the extent of the redacted blocks of text is mildly interesting, perhaps a better approach would have been to insert a [redacted text] and then continue the story or do a rewrite.

Walder has a lot to be proud of so why not tell her story with a look at being an inspiration to young women. While I do see that a case could be made that there is a hint of bragging look-at-me-and-what-I-did, I also felt like this is her story and it is amazing. She was a young woman working in the CIA during a trying time. If she also needs to talk about her blond hair, makeup, etc., it's okay with me because it is a part of her personality and shows that she can be a special agent at the CIA and care about little frivolous things too. I would encourage young women to read this, especially if they are interested in a career in the CIA or FBI.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of St. Martin's Publishing Group.

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