Master of Deceit: J. Edgar Hoover and AMERICA in the Age of LIES by Marc Aronson

Bibliographic Citation: Aronson, Marc. Master of Deceit: J. Edgar Hoover and AMERICA in the Age of LIES. Somerville: Candlewick Press, 2012. 230p. ISBN: 978-0-7636-5025-4.

Awards/Selection Lists:

Kirkus starred review

School Library Journal starred review

Publisher’s Weekly Children’s starred review

Author’s Website:

http://www.marcaronson.com/

Annotation:

Exploring how J. Edgar Hoover capitalized on Americans’ fears to become one of the country’s most powerful men, author and historian Marc Aronson urges readers to question what they know to be true in Master of Deceit.

Personal Reaction:

In Master of Deceit: J. Edgar Hoover and AMERICA in the Age of LIES, author and historian Marc Aronson explores how J. Edgar Hoover capitalized on Americans’ fears of communism, becoming one of the most powerful public figures of the twentieth century. Hoover’s own fears and need for control combined with the political climate at the time of his reign as director of the FBI, resulted in an extreme abuse of governmental power. In the name of national security, Hoover targeted “suspect” individuals regardless of evidence, broke laws, and lied to cover his tracks. Though Aronson admits that the director gave Americans a sense of security, he asks readers if the end justified the means.

In addition to exploring how Hoover showed Americans the price of feeling safe, Aronson urges readers to look beyond what is known (as he did in If Stones Could Speak and Witch-Hunt) to discover a more profound, multi-faceted truth. While Hoover understood the world to be made up of opposing forces (“good and evil, purity and degeneracy”), Aronson recognizes that gray areas exist in history as they do today (Aronson, 2012, p.192). Though Soviet spying and the Communist Party did pose some real threats, Hoover’s pursuit of security bred fear, secrecy, and lies.

Master of Deceit is a sophisticated portrait J. Edgar Hoover (as well as of Hoover’s America) for young adults. Providing extensive historical context, Aronson’s portrayal is honest and thought provoking. It draws parallels between what happened in America during Hoover’s rule and what’s happening in America today, referencing the Patriot Act, The Hunger Games, celebrity gossip websites, and more. These parallels allow readers to recognize their own experiences among the book’s pages, and encourages them to question what they “know” to be true—and why they know it.

Front Matter:

Dedication page, TOC, prologue

Back Matter:

Epilogue, “How I Researched and Wrote This Book,” notes, bibliography, image credits, acknowledgments, index

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