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Master of Deceit
Cover of Master of Deceit
Master of Deceit
J. Edgar Hoover and America in the Age of Lies
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A fascinating and timely biography of J. Edgar Hoover from a Sibert Medalist."King, there is only one thing left for you to do. You know what it is. . . . You better take it before your filthy,...
A fascinating and timely biography of J. Edgar Hoover from a Sibert Medalist."King, there is only one thing left for you to do. You know what it is. . . . You better take it before your filthy,...
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  • A fascinating and timely biography of J. Edgar Hoover from a Sibert Medalist.

    "King, there is only one thing left for you to do. You know what it is. . . . You better take it before your filthy, abnormal, fraudulent self is bared to the nation."
    Dr. Martin Luther King received this demand in an anonymous letter in 1964. He believed that the letter was telling him to commit suicide. Who wrote this anonymous letter? The FBI. And the man behind it all was J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI's first director. In this unsparing exploration of one of the most powerful Americans of the twentieth century, accomplished historian Marc Aronson unmasks the man behind the Bureau- his tangled family history and personal relationships; his own need for secrecy, deceit, and control; and the broad trends in American society that shaped his world. Hoover may have given America the security it wanted, but the secrets he knew gave him
    — and the Bureau — all the power he wanted. Using photographs, cartoons, movie posters, and FBI transcripts, Master of Deceit gives readers the necessary evidence to make their own conclusions. Here is a book about the twentieth century that blazes with questions and insights about our choices in the twenty-first.
    Back matter includes an epilogue, an author's note, source notes, and a bibliography.

About the Author-

  • Marc Aronson is living proof of the magic of the world of writing books for young readers. He did not expect this to be his career—he went to New York University, where he earned a doctorate in American history, and worked in adult reference publishing. But when he saw an advertisement for an editor of a series of books about the lands and peoples of the world (The Portraits of the Nations series, originally published by Lippencott)—books he had grown up reading and loving—he applied for and won the job. Working on books for young people—and then meeting other authors and artists, reviewers, librarians, teachers—he found he was in a world he loved. Editing books about different nations, peoples, and cultures, he came to realize he wanted to publish fiction and poetry, as well as nonfiction for young people. He created Edge—a place for books that explored all of the borders and boundaries in growing up, from immigration to coming-of-age. He then began to write his own books.

    Marc's older son once asked him why his first book, Art Attack, was so different from the others. It is the one book he has written about art; all the others in some way relate to history or current events. In a way he experienced in nonfiction what many novelists go through: his first book was the most autobiographical. Marc grew up learning about radical art, avant-garde art, from his father, who was a painter and innovative scenic designer. The book was a form of passing on what he had learned. While all of his books are nonfiction, they all also have a personal dimension—a way that person, subject, idea, spoke to him. Marc grew up in a school where many families had suffered from the Red Scare, a school devoted to racial integration when that was the law, but often not the practice. Master of Deceit is, in a way, Marc visiting his own childhood and looking at the conflicts he grew up hearing about with his trained adult eyes.

    Marc now wears many hats, he is part of the graduate faculty in the School of Communication and Information at Rutgers University, where he trains librarians and teachers in using books with K–12 readers. He gives talks in schools to students, trains teachers and librarians—especially on the new Common Core standards, and he is exploring how nonfiction can flourish in the world of e-books and apps. For example, for Master of Deceit, he has found a film, You Can't Get Away With It, that was crafted for J. Edgar Hoover and fits perfectly with chapter 7 (you can see the original poster for it on page 62). You can see the entire film for free by going to his website, www.marcaronson.com, where he also has a discussion guide for the book and other resources.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from February 20, 2012
    “his book is not and should not be just about Hoover,” Aronson (Trapped) tells readers in the epilogue to this wide-ranging, extensively researched, and detailed biography of the controversial 20th-century FBI director. He’s not kidding: Hoover’s story unfolds against the tumultuous immigrant history of the U.S. and the growth of the FBI, which Hoover molded for more than 40 years. Hoover emerges as a magnified example of abusive governmental power, portrayed as a controlling conformist who was organized, intelligent, sexually suppressed, and manipulative. Aronson’s stimulating questions (“ho is the bigger liar: the capitalist who teases the poor with images of goods they cannot afford or the Communist who hypnotizes the masses with empty slogans and false ideals?”), and his occasional use of first- and second-person, will wake up readers accustomed to less in-your-face historical narratives. The book does an excellent job of creating parallels between America’s anticommunist efforts and the current fight against terrorism as it questions the price of security and the media’s roles in keeping secrets. Period photographs, movie posters, cartoons, and FBI documents supplement a biography abounding in historical context. Ages 14–up. Agent: Ken Wright, Writers House.

  • School Library Journal

    March 1, 2012

    Gr 9 Up-We hear a great deal in the media about the loss or watering down of American values. If Master of Deceit makes nothing else clear, it shows plainly that these issues are far from new, and that powerful people have always attempted to shape events and trends in ways that benefited them. It begins with a prologue discussing a letter to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1964, a letter that threatened him with exposure of being a Communist pawn unless he committed suicide. It was penned by an FBI official in an attempt to impress his boss, J. Edgar Hoover. The text moves on to give a lucid account of the rise of the Communist Party in both Russia and the United States. It parallels the lives of John Reed and J. Edgar Hoover, showing the varying impacts of two strong personalities, and then moves on chronologically to cover the main events of Hoover's life. Relying on wide reading and vast research, Aronson paints a nuanced and evenhanded portrait of a man who was complicated, almost certainly neurotic, and who had an iron will to control-both himself and others. Thoroughly discussing the FBI's role in law enforcement, the McCarthy witch hunts and HUAC, campaigns against Dr. King and civil rights, and comparing the egregious violations of individual rights and due process committed by the agency to the conduct of post-9/11 containment and treatment of Arab Americans, this book is a must for high school students. Extensive use of black-and-white photos and period cartoons greatly enhances the text. The author's closing note on "How I Researched and Wrote This Book" is both revelatory and engaging. This groundbreaking volume will encourage dialogue on tough issues of integrity, security, individual rights, and the shifting sands of American values.-Ann Welton, Helen B. Stafford Elementary, Tacoma, WA

    Copyright 2012 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from February 1, 2012
    In fascinating detail, Aronson tells the story of America during J. Edgar Hoover's reign as head of the FBI and "the nearly fifty years of criminal activity that was his legacy." For today's students, Communism and anti-Communism are "just terms that appear on tests, like the Whig, Greenback, or Know-Nothing parties," but this volume brings alive the drama of the Cold War period and demonstrates its significance for readers now. Taking his title from Hoover's 1958 work on the dangers of Communism, Aronson writes about the dangers of a "security at all costs" mentality during the Cold War and, by extension, our post-9/11 world. He covers a large slice of history--the Palmer raids of 1919, the gangster era, the Scottsboro case, World War II, the Rosenbergs, Joseph McCarthy, the civil rights movement and Watergate--but this is no mere recitation of the facts; it's a masterpiece of historical narrative, with the momentum of a thrilling novel and the historical detail of the best nonfiction. With references as far-flung as Karl Marx, Stalin, Wordsworth, American Idol, The Hunger Games and The Lord of the Rings, this is as much about how history is written as it is about Hoover and his times. Extensive backmatter includes fascinating comments on the research, thorough source notes that are actually interesting to read and a lengthy bibliography. Written with the authority of a fine writer with an inquiring mind, this dramatic story is history writing at its best. (Nonfiction. 14 & up)

    COPYRIGHT(2012) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    April 15, 2012
    Grades 9-12 This biography is an unflinching portrait of an insecure, scheming zealot who conflated communism, civil rights, and the antiwar movement into a singular, immeasurable menace and dedicated himself to eradicating it. The author looks at and behind the historical record, examining Hoover's public conduct and peering into the murky corners of his personal life, finding motivation for his fierce exertion of control in the suspicions about his sexuality and his race. Large black-and-white reproductions of photos, internal memos, and cultural artifacts document a troubled man on a mission. For all of his respect for his subject's complexity, Aronson's contempt is unmistakable. He draws overt parallels between Hoover's particular brand of fearmongering and the intractable contemporary polarity of American government. A full 30 pages of back matter include an epilogue, copious source notes, and an index (not seen). Most compelling is the afterword, wherein the author expresses the challenges and fears he faced exposing the underbelly of the FBI under Hoover, making this both a gripping historical investigation and an instructive example of the researched communication of ideas.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2012, American Library Association.)

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J. Edgar Hoover and America in the Age of Lies
Marc Aronson
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