Spy Daughter, Queer Girl: In Search of Truth and Acceptance in a Family of Secrets
by Leslie Absher
For Leslie Absher, secrecy is just another member of the family. Throughout childhood, her father's shadowy government job was ill-defined, her mother's mental health stayed off limits--even her queer identity remained hidden from her family and unacknowledged by Leslie herself.
In SPY DAUGHTER, QUEER GIRL, Absher pursues the truth: of her family, her identity, and her father's role in Greece's CIA-backed junta. As a guide, Absher brings readers to the shade of plane trees in Greece, to queer discos in Boston, and to tense diner meals with her aging CIA father. As a memoirist, Absher renders a lifetime of hazy, shapeshifting truths in high-definition vibrance.
Infused with a journalist's tenacity and a daughter's open heart, this book recounts a decades' long process of discovery and the reason why the facts should matter to us all.
Praise for Spy Daughter, Queer Girl:
"Spy Daughter, Queer Girl is succinctly written, gorgeously rendered, and emotionally illuminating. One could describe it as part memoir, part spy thriller, but it also has a wider scope: It brings to life a micro-history of being young and gay in America in the ’80s."
--Sophia Glock, Ms. magazine
"The fierceness of Absher’s courageous quest to learn the gut-wrenching truths of her father’s obfuscations parallels her search for her own truths in struggling to know herself as a gay woman....This book is a treasure."
--Kathryn Watterson, author of Women in Prison, Not by the Sword, and I Hear My People Singing
“A riveting examination of identity and how the people who raise us make us—and how we all must continually remake ourselves. A moving portrait of a father-daughter relationship defined by secrets so big they spanned continents. Absher writes with heart, humor, and the grace that comes with forgiveness—the ultimate mission impossible.”
--Jessica Pearce Rotondi, author of What We Inherit: A Secret War and a Family’s Search for Answers
"Leslie tells her story with soul-searing honesty, plenty of self-deprecation and humour. In working through her own story, confronting her difficult past, she's revealed the human damage - most often to innocents - inflicted by the espionage "game" played out on the global chessboard."
--Ian Callaghan, producer of the Audible Original series My Dad the Spy
"A gut-wrenching portrait of a daughter in search of her father’s love, affection and attention, with Greece as a backdrop and the CIA always in the shadows. It is a cautionary tale about the effects of parental neglect, and ultimately a long overdue and touching reconciliation between father and daughter. I loved the book as a Greek American, a former CIA officer, and the father of a brave LGBTQ activist who may have felt many similar emotions growing up in a CIA family."
--Marc Polymeropoulos, former CIA senior intelligence officer and author of Clarity in Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the CIA
“In rich crisp prose, Leslie Absher immerses the reader into a world of espionage, loss, love, and becoming. With a literary deftness for observations, Absher is able to depict her early life with a tangible vividness that creates a symbiotic relationship between author and reader that elevates the book beyond a simple retelling of an interesting life.”
--Kacy Tellessen, author of Freaks of a Feather: A Marine Grunt’s Memoir
"As the child of intelligence officers, I was deeply moved by Leslie Absher's book. More than a poignant memoir, it is a thrilling detective story where the stakes are both unique to the child of an intelligence officer and painfully universal. It is a beautiful and expertly crafted exploration of our need for love, connection, and home. Her story broke my heart and engrossed me the whole way."
--Sophia Glock, cartoonist and author of the graphic memoir Passport
"Without a drop of sentimentality but with a giant heart and a fresh, assured voice, Absher explores the roles of memory, secrets, and the grief that comes from what we hide and what we leave behind—and what we simply cannot."
--Natalie Bakopoulos, associate professor and author of Scorpionfish and The Green Shore
"Spy Daughter, Queer Girl is a family saga, a coming-of-age and a coming-out story, an inside view of CIA operations in Greece and other countries, and a mystery. With prose as bright and clear as an alpine lake, Absher lays bare the complexities of her own story side-by-side with her quest to understand her father. Spoiler alert: the jewel at the heart of the labyrinth is love."
--Alison Luterman, poet, essayist, and author of Feral City and In the Time of Great Fires
Latah Books and the author are grateful to Spokane Arts for its generous support of this project.