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My Spy: Memoir of a CIA Wife


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For years we have been reading of spies coming in from the cold; now we have a wife's view of what it is like to lead a secret life in foreign lands with worry as a constant companion. Joe Kiyonaga was a Japanese American CIA officer from Hawaii who had served in Italy during World War II. His wife, Cady, was a red-haired Irish Catholic from Baltimore, and it was only when Kiyonaga lay dying of cancer at age 59 that the author discovered the details behind many of his spying activities. Their relationship makes for interesting reading, and the paragraphs on being peripherally involved in the Cold War spy trade are outnumbered by interesting observations on home life and cultural issues during their stationing in Japan and Latin America. This frequently humorous tale might make a good TV movie. Now if we can just get some Russian wives to contribute to the genre. Suitable for the espionage or women's studies collections of public and academic libraries. (Photographs not seen.) [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/99.]--Daniel K. Blewett, Loyola Univ. Lib., Chicago Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Self-styled "CIA wife" Bina Cady met Joe Kiyonaga, a Japanese-American law student from Hawaii, at the University of Michigan in 1946. They married a year later. Her unpretentious account of their 30-year marriage elicits the reader's sympathy with its witty portrayal of a "mixed" couple facing bigotry (she calls herself Irish-Catholic, "although my father was Welsh-Cherokee") and its description of her lonely life as a mother of five, which unfolded on a need-to-know basis, with a tight-lipped husband always on guard. Kiyonaga, who fought bravely against the Nazis in WWII as part of the Hawaiian Nisei, a Japanese-American regiment, emerges as an urbane, mercurial, suspicious figure, a devoted husband and father who nevertheless used the agency's resources to track his wife's old beaus. While some of his activities as a CIA agent may have advanced the cause of freedom, other operations seem highly questionable. In Brazil, Kiyonaga plotted a coup with a cabal of business and military men, overthrowing Brazil's reformist government in 1964 and installing a 21-year military dictatorship. As CIA station chief in El Salvador and Panama, Kiyonaga (who died of cancer in 1977) exploited his contacts with military strongmen, including Manuel Noriega, Panamanian head of secret police, who later achieved notoriety as a dictator as well as a reputed murderer and drug dealer. The author's account of her husband's exploits is at times cavalier and occasionally insensitive ("Hope Somoza was the best looking and best dressed of the president's wives," she coos about the Nicaragua dictator's spouse), but she justifies almost everything in the name of the Cold War. (Mar.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

"I love this story! It has everything-youth, adventure, romance and intrigue-propelled page after page by a joyous, unmistakably American spirit. Bina Kiyonaga has taken her technicolor life and given us a fabulous book."--Chris Matthews, host of NBC's "Extraordinary and profound...Emotionally and patriotically satisfying...a story that demonstrates that racial differences need not serve as obstacles to a happy union. My spy is a story of America."--Daniel K. Inouye, United States Senator

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