About My CIA: A Memoir
Book Description on the back of the book:
In her third book, a memoir, Katherine McCord uses the lens of the present to delve into the past: McCord was born in Monrovia, Liberia, Africa, the daughter of a CIA Officer and a beautiful, sheltered, young mother of Irish catholic descent, ten months after the birth of her sister. After a brief stay in Florida, McCord's father would take on his next mission in Katmandu, Nepal. There McCord's mother has a nervous breakdown and the family is secretly flown back to the states where McCord and her sister, fiercely close, would grow up in a "normal" Midwest environment but under and within a shroud of secrecy and propelled by disjointed memories, borrowed histories, and confusing recounts of the past. In My CIA, McCord looks at her life, so far lived with the eyes of a poet, one who knows not how to report and "tell everything" but knows only to tell the truth--of her sorrow, of her hope, of her love and how it finds itself through lyric. In other words, she gives us everything she has to give and finds that the answers are hard won and sometimes in the asking.
Some Blurbs/Reviews for MY CIA (and some blurbs/reviews--included within the first few pages of the book also--for my other two books of poetry):
Katherine McCord's heartbreaking lyric memoir, My CIA, is a fine example of a literary work in which the artist has found the perfect form to contain the content, a shapely vessel to hold shards of memory and loss. Just as the life and identity of a CIA agent (the author's father) is provisional, the persona narrating this story of a family fractured by a mysterious father's absences is a shape-shifter: now knowing, now child-like, now elegiac, now funny, now deeply compassionate and forgiving, and always wise and razor-sharp. Whether McCord is writing about getting on a plane in the middle of the night as a child to go to Nepal or about driving over curbs after a run to the grocery store, talking to her children or mother or sister, or packing up the house to take her family and the dog on vacation in Maine, her voice sings. This memoir is haunting, disturbing, beautiful, and resonant. I could not put it down.
--Natalia Rachel Singer, author of Scraping by in the Big Eighties, a memoir.
You'll want to read My CIA in one go, like I did, greedily, ready for every twist and in-breath that comes from the intricate layers of this expressionist tale. The poetic suspense of My CIA is a bit like Our Man in Havana colliding with Ariel, with deadpan humor and a poetic wit that cuts through the interstices between personal and public history. The family McCord creates, itself a kind of secret agency, operates like a postmodern dollhouse family with the banal-going-on-mysterious behaviors of Mother, Sisters, the Girls and the Father juxtaposed with genuine enigmas. What family espionage is revealed during a conversation between the Sisters where one holds the phone to the washing machine and the other responds, "But you wash everything"? There are hints of underhand influence and Who is the manipulator? floats above the pages making the reader want to investigate anyone's daily reality; but McCord's language is true blue. My CIA is at once smooth and complex, a comedy of manners and ghostly politics played on the stage of the Cold War, anticipating the epilogue of the 21st century. Best enjoyed with a martini, shaken not stirred. --Kathleene West, author of The Summer of the Sub-Comandante and Water Witching
Naming My CIA a top ten book for 2012 and placing it on their ongoing list of Great Nonfiction Books, Sarah Lee Fox of The Review of Arts, Literature, Philosophy and the Humanities wrote, "Ms. McCord is a charming writer, and I was knocked out by my CIA, oops, I mean, MY CIA. There is a mix here of the normal and ordinary life, and the very exotic if now existentially threatening previous life . . . She's a stylist well capable of blending the banal and the scary."
“My CIA is an informative and curious read,” Reviewer's Choice, Midwest Book Review
More Praise for McCord:
"The pared inscription, as well as the delicacy and discretion, of Katherine McCord's debut collection, Island, are always deeply compelling and often breathtaking. The honorable simplicity of this work rewards us time and time again with both wisdom and delight. Quietly elegant, and as intimate as a whisper, this is a book to hold close in the silence of night."
~David St. John, author of The Auroras
"McCord's is a searching poetry, asking questions that have answers too hard to bear."
~Sheila Cowing, author of Jackrabbit Highways
and Stronger in the Broken Places
"Katherine McCord explodes triumphantly onto the poetry scene with her newest collection of prose poems . . . She writes with fevered delicacy. . .and offers us an astounding package. This is the work of a mature, talented writer who integrates her personal amazement at the details of daily life with the inescapable act of being an artist . . . It is deeply compelling work that speaks to the artist's method and madness with delicious effect . . . McCord gives us a year of her life and it is a privilege to experience it through her passionate language."
~Jeanie C. Williams, co-editor of Saludos! Poemas
"Sometimes from dry ground some of the most important and exciting poetry springs. From the saturated reds and greens of New Mexico comes the moving lyric of a life told in poems. Katherine McCord's poems captured me from the first line . . . and carried me through their autobiography in poems. I knew it was a book I had to pay attention to and it's a collection I am proud to have had some small part in bringing to the public. It's the big emptiness of the desert sky crying out to be filled that pulls these lines from the poet's heart. It's a cool cloth on the dying man's brow, the only comfort for miles and the only comfort needed."
~Robert Bixby, author of Come Along
Here are the beginning pages of the book:
Telling Our Stories Press
Showcasing the Art of Literary Personal Narratives
Published by Telling Our Stories Press
The independent literary imprint with a focus on
the art of short memoir and
Copyright ©2012 by Katherine McCord
All rights reserved
Library of Congress Control Number: 2011933205
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted
in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without written permission from the author, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review.
Excerpts from Parts I and II appear in South Loop Review, Volume 11,
and are used by permission of the author.
Excerpts from “Blowback” appear in Fogged Clarity, December 2009,
and are used by permission of the author.
Requests for information should be forwarded to
Telling Our Stories Press
Cover Design by Chris Schramm
Typeset and book layout by Chris Schramm
Printed in the United States of America
For Tom, Greta and Adi
again and again and again. . . .
and for my mother and my father
and my sister and my brothers
and my brother-in-law and my nieces. . . .
Here are some of my pieces (and excerpts) introducing the prose of the book:
“O, my god,” Sylvia said, “O, my god, what am I / That these late mouths should cry open / In a forest of frost, in a dawn of cornflowers.” --my italics.
It seemed there was a room for playing house--
a kitchen, dolls.
And then indecipherable things.
Finally, a heart I made with glue.
The boy across. His head on his folded arms.
Until I can’t take it anymore. And everything,
is a dare. Becomes love.
Explodes into words.
Day by day my father flies backwards.
And the pure black dog who was true.
The inside light of winter
and the last few leaves shine through.
Like the book I read with its anguish.
I say, to anyone, it is true.
I tell my students, read it.
It will change you through.
And where were her people? Spun tight? Deep?
(for Greta and Adi)
“‘Blowback’ is a CIA term first used in March
1954. . . . It is a metaphor for the unintended consequences of the US government’s international activities that have been kept secret from the American people.”
I write a book for her. Then my sister and I dredge up the past. And after the last kid is sealed inside, we ride to the sound of phones. The house and life before me. The fan fires. The light flickers. An explosion behind the jets in the sky. We call it Sun. From a friend’s we go on a walk. See a house behind hollyhocks swaying in lanes. Fixated, I’m uprooted by my sister’s hand. Come on, she says. I don’t remember ever being so far from home. At the hospital stairs are carpeted like tires. A Coke machine dispenses cups for a quarter. It is our childhood. We race. Choose the best damned one. ?
So I list things. Like where I can no longer go. A series of sagging second-story porches. And how upon waking I see it. That the mirror reflects the truth. Like a bullet hole.
So oblivion’s a mirror. Shame intermingles. How to proceed with the body and heart and soul you’ve been given. Then there are two trees. Red apples. White. Prodigious. Scarce. Separated by a path. The thunk of a prize tumbling down a shaft slow.
And what’s with the shoes? Always upright.
Unlaced. One of two. At the same intersection. All winter. Dispersed. As if some of us are lifted, willing ourselves to stay intact.