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Book Review – Life Undercover: Coming of Age in the CIA by Amaryllis Fox


Summary

Did you get recruited by the CIA during college? Have you ever fallen in and out of love while traveling the world under a false identity? How about bringing your newborn baby to your undercover missions? Amaryllis Fox has lived a unique life full of adventure, chaos and unforgettable experiences. During her time in the CIA, where she served in one of the most elite clandestine ops units, Fox shares what it was like to train as an undercover operative while finding her own identity as a newly-graduated woman in her twenties. Her intelligence, charm and ability to stay grounded under pressure made her the perfect person to take on undercover missions in some of the most dangerous parts of the world such as the Middle East and SE Asia. Although she had wild experiences throughout the CIA, she also went through some of the typical phases that many women go through. She got married, had a baby, got divorced, fell in and out of love, and eventually quit her job at the Agency. How did she eventually get out and what was life like for her while she was taking on these dangerous assignments as a young American woman? Find out in her memoir, Life Undercover: Coming of Age in the CIA, to understand what it takes to go undercover in the CIA while still finding out who you are.

Review

First of all, I thought it was illegal to disclose all of this information about the CIA. Granted, I’m sure she changed some details but I’ve never read such detailed and well-written accounts of what happens when you’re an undercover operative. Fox does a fantastic job of recounting her own experiences, those of her colleagues and the general politics of the Agency. Classically, it seemed like the CIA is a total boys club. I commend Fox for not only holding her ground as a young woman but becoming one of the top agents during her time. What she touched on, and I also personally believe can be true, is that the male ego hinders the success in a lot of these agent’s careers. It was interesting to read a true female perspective in such a secretive male dominated industry. I also loved how she “technically” achieved what society has deemed as norms for women while also being an undercover agent – she fell in and out of love, got married (and divorced) and had a baby. Although she was literally traveling the world under secret identities and false names, she still managed to have a semblance of a “normal” life outside of her all-consuming career. The contrast between the men that were described in the book, who had fragile egos, turned to heavy drinking, and bent some of the rules, and a woman who fully committed to her career and still achieved the heteronormative standards of society shows the pressure that women of today are put under to “have it all”. I loved this memoir because it was a modern twist on what it’s like to be a woman with a demanding career while simultaneously juggling the social and personal aspects of her life. I know I would not have been able to handle a career in the CIA and try to date…I already know I would’ve been killed off if I ever tried to go undercover. I don’t have a good poker face. Read Life Undercover: Coming of Age in the CIA to see Fox’s journey and if you would fare well in her shoes

Yasi Agah is a San Francisco native who loves to read, write, roller-skate and listen to Blink 182. Her favorite genre is definitely memoirs. Becoming by Michelle Obama makes her tear up every time she reads it.

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