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American Spy

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It’s late at night—or perhaps early in the morning—and there’s an intruder in Marie Mitchell’s house. From the very first pages of Lauren Wilkinson’s American Spy, Mitchell’s story is captivating. Turn a few pages. She grabs her gun; the police are there; Mitchell is packing her bags and grabbing a fake passport. She’s leaving the country with her two young boys. Then, she’s in Martinique at her mother’s home. Who was the intruder, what is she running from, and why? Those questions help jump-start Wilkinson’s novel, which is a cross between a gripping spy thriller and a family drama. Through a letter to her sons William and Tommy, Mitchell begins to unravel her career as an intelligence officer with the FBI in the 1980s. Since American Spy’s 2019 release, the novel has earned acclaim. A New York Times review commends Wilkinson for balancing a thrilling plot with “ambitious” social commentary. The Sellout’s Paul Beatty says American Spy “lays bare” the complicities of race, sex, and politics. Even from the beginning of the novel, that much is clear. Mitchell is a young black woman in the old boys’ club that is the intelligence community. Snippets of past conversations, her present-day interaction with the police, and flashbacks to a mission in Burkina Faso all combine to illustrate her story. If you’re itching to figure out just why Mitchell was on the run, pick up a copy of American Spy and sign up for The Phillips Collection’s monthly book club. After an hour of Zoom discussion, you’ll likely come away with even more appreciation for the thriller. The book discussion begins June 25 at 5:30 p.m. Free. Register at phillipscollection.org. —Sarah Smith  

Veep

To laugh at real-life federal stupidity, without fear of the tangible impacts said stupidity will wreak on the wellbeing of living citizens, requires either immense privilege, an obscene lack of political consciousness, or both. Enter Veep, Armando Iannucci’s award-winning satirical series: a fictional answer to your hunch that the government is brimming with idiots. Starring small screen legend Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Vice President Selina Meyer, Veep is set firmly within the hallowed halls of Washington (Selina’s rare ventures into D.C. mostly serve as opportunities to showcase her opportunism and complete ineptitude when it comes to interacting with “normals”). And yet, even if we rebel against the tendency to perceive D.C. solely through the perspective of Blackberry-wielding suits, it’s fun to acknowledge that these folks—like the overwrought chief of staff or the weasel-y comms guy who networks his way to the top—do haunt our streets. It also helps that Veep is hilarious. There are supercuts dedicated to its inimitable insults, and Louis-Dreyfus more than earned each of her six consecutive Emmy awards. Safely confined within the edges of your laptop or television screen, the cast wreaks havoc for no other purpose than our entertainment. Veep is available to stream with an HBO subscription. —Amy Guay