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JAFFREY

Daughter of Cold War spy on life

Amos Fortune Forum hosts writer whose youth was a struggle of identity

  • Sara Mansfield Taber discusses her latest book and her life as the daughter of an American spy during the Cold War at the Amos Fortune Forum in Jaffrey on Friday.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

    Sara Mansfield Taber discusses her latest book and her life as the daughter of an American spy during the Cold War at the Amos Fortune Forum in Jaffrey on Friday.

    (Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

  • Sara Mansfield Taber discusses her latest book and her life as the daughter of an American spy during the Cold War at the Amos Fortune Forum in Jaffrey on Friday.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

    Sara Mansfield Taber discusses her latest book and her life as the daughter of an American spy during the Cold War at the Amos Fortune Forum in Jaffrey on Friday.

    (Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

  • Sara Mansfield Taber discusses her latest book and her life as the daughter of an American spy during the Cold War at the Amos Fortune Forum in Jaffrey on Friday.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Sara Mansfield Taber discusses her latest book and her life as the daughter of an American spy during the Cold War at the Amos Fortune Forum in Jaffrey on Friday.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

JAFFREY — “Like a low tide, the secret was always there laughing at the shore and rising,” read author Sara Mansfield Taber at the Amos Fortune Forum on Friday night from her memoir, “Born Under an Assumed Name: The Memoir of a Cold War Spy’s Daughter.” Taber didn’t learn her father was a Cold War spy until age 15. But the signs were there, she said, and the truth hidden in the ocean’s deepest waters.

Born in Japan in 1954, Taber told a packed Jaffrey Meetinghouse that she had an exotic childhood moving from country to country and was always fascinated by new sites and sounds. But her glamorous life had a darker undertone, one characterized by conflict, fear and a constant search for identity, she said.

“As a kid, he always told me he was a China watcher,” Taber of Washington, D.C., said of her father who worked as a Central Intelligence Agency operative whose specialty was Communist China. “To him, government service was a high calling. But the truth was the troubling conflicts inherent to such an occupation kicked in.”

Taber, whose mother now lives in Harrisville and her extended family in neighboring towns, said that growing up she struggled for normalcy in a life that was anything but normal. She said she constantly tried to gain a foothold for herself, which was nearly impossible when her family was moving around the world all of the time.

At the age of 16, Taber — who found herself captivated by the 1960s counterculture and hippie dress in her search for identity — was placed in a psychiatric hospital at the U.S. Air Force base near Tokyo, Japan, with shell-shocked Vietnam veterans. “I was in my love beads in this huge ward of badly damaged young men,” Taber said, adding that all the grief she had suffered didn’t hold weight to the trauma these men had experienced.

It was during her time at the hospital that Taber said she finally developed a clear understanding of who she was and what she wanted to be. “These bruise-eyed airmen taught me to be tender,” she said.

Throughout her personal struggles, Taber said she always held her father in great regard and admired him for serving his country.

In her memoir, she shares with readers how her sweet-natured and philosophical father increasingly became disillusioned by his work, as well as the agency and country he served. As a witness to his sacrifice as a child, Taber said she made it her mission as an adult to explore the complexities inherent in his job and the impact that his work had on the family. “There was huge pressure on the men [in the CIA] to hide their feelings. You couldn’t have emotional problems, or your job would be in jeopardy,” Taber said, explaining that a man in that condition was viewed as bait for the enemy. “The wives carried the emotional burden in many ways.”

In one of the final talks in the 2013 Amos Fortune Form series, Robert Putnam of Jaffrey will take the stage on Aug. 9 at 8 p.m. to discuss his research on the opportunity gap between kids from the upper third of the social hierarchy and their peers in the lower third.

Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 228 or adandrea@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @alyssadandrea.

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