By Lauren Wilkinson
A black female spy goes undercover in Cold War-era Africa in this electrifying debut novel of race, loyalty, espionage, and love, inspired by true events
LITERARY HUB MUST READ BOOKS OF 2019
'A Spy thriller like you've never read before' TIME
'This unflinching debut combines the espionage novels of John le Carré with the racial complexity of Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man' PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
'A morally nuanced and atmospheric political thriller' WASHINGTON POST
'With unforgettable characters, it's a stunning book, timely as it is timeless' PAUL BEATTY, WINNER OF THE 2016 MAN BOOKER PRIZE
'Like all great novels, this one teaches us most about ourselves and our values' SARA NOVIC
'My most important secret - and this is how I met my sons' father - is that I was once a spy.'
It's 1986, the heart of the Cold War, and Marie Mitchell is an intelligence officer with the FBI. She's brilliant and talented, but she's also a black woman working in an all-white boys' club, and her career has stalled with routine paperwork - until she's recruited to a shadowy task force aimed at undermining Thomas Sankara, the charismatic, revolutionary president of Burkina Faso, whose Communist ideology has made him a target for American intervention.
In the year that follows, Marie will observe Thomas, seduce him, and ultimately, have a hand in the coup that will bring him down. But doing so will change everything she believes about what it means to be a spy, a lover, and a good American.
Inspired by true events - Thomas Sankara is known as 'Africa's Che Guevara', but his story is not widely known across the world - this novel is sweeping historical fiction with an enthralling espionage thriller at its core, and introduces a powerful new literary voice.
Lauren Wilkinson grew up in New York City and lives in the Lower East Side. She earned her MFA in Fiction and Literary Translation from Columbia University and has taught writing at Columbia and the Fashion Institute of Technology. She has received writing fellowships from the Center for Fiction and the MacDowell Colony, and her fiction has appeared in Granta.
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- Publication date:
12 Feb 2019
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Echoing the stoic cynicism of Hurston and Ellison, and the verve of Conan Doyle, American Spy lays our complicities-political, racial, and sexual-bare. Packed with unforgettable characters, it's a stunning book, timely as it is timeless — Paul Beatty, Man Booker Prize-winning author of The Sellout
For the novel's engaging intelligence and serious reckoning with the world's postwar order, Wilkinson deserves the comparisons to John le Carré she's already receiving. But in bringing a virtually unheard-from fictional viewpoint to espionage literature, she has reinvigorated the genre — Time
A gutsy new thriller . . . challenging boundaries is what brave fiction does, and Wilkinson proves confident enough to carry it off — New York Times
It might seem hyperbolic to say that this book is riveting and thrilling from the very first page, except that it totally is. . . . It's a refreshing take on an espionage story . . . that's sexy and suspenseful in equal measure — Marie Claire
American Spy is by turns suspenseful, tender, and funny, always smart and searingly honest. Lauren Wilkinson renders the world of spies with vivacity and depth, and shines a penetrating light on what it's like to be a black woman in America. But like all great novels, this one teaches us most about ourselves and our values — Sara Novic, author of Girl at War
This unflinching debut combines the espionage novels of John le Carré with the racial complexity of Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man — Publishers Weekly
An expertly written spy thriller . . . that tackles issues of politics, race and gender . . . Like the best of John le Carré, it's extremely tough to put down. It marks the debut of an immensely talented writer who's refreshingly unafraid to take risks, and has the skills to make those risks pay off — NPR
[In] this genre-defying novel . . . Marie's journey into the moral and spiritual morass of espionage is inventive . . . Unlike the heroes of John Le Carré's novels, Marie must also grapple with the cognitive dissonance of serving a country in which she is regarded as a second-class citizen — Vulture (Best Books of 2019 So Far)
Lauren Wilkinson reminds us of a less-covered side of the Cold War with her debut set in 1986 Africa. FBI agent Marie Mitchell is stationed in Burkina Faso, and when she's assigned to shadow Thomas Sankara, 'Africa's Che Guevara,' the personal, political and professional collide for her in unforgettable ways — Washington Post