Detailed, balanced and engrossing—sure to displease both sides of the gun-control debate.




In his first book, Daily Beast columnist Winkler (Constitutional Law/UCLA) takes on the contentious issue of gun control in the United States.

There have always been plenty of guns in America, but also plenty of gun control. For the author, there remains a need for both, yet extremist positions have emerged on both sides. “Gun nuts” argue for the absolute right of individuals to arm themselves, “gun grabbers” for a complete ban on all privately owned guns. The Second Amendment to the Constitution has been of little help, as it is not clear if the Amendment meant simply to ensure the formation of state militias or indeed gave the individual the right to bear arms. In 2008, a Washington, D.C., law banning all handguns was challenged before the U.S. Supreme Court, thus putting to the test the meaning of the Second Amendment. The unifying thread of the book is Winkler’s Grisham-like story of the personalities and issues surrounding this case. He also places the current debate within an often surprising historical context. Yes, the Founding Fathers expected white men to have guns for service in the militia, but they also surrounded such gun possession with rules and regulations. The Wild West was not so wild after all. Places like Tombstone and Dodge City had some of the strongest gun laws ever devised in America. Race has played a large part in gun control, as before and after the Civil War black Americans were often terrorized by armed whites, with little legal recourse to arming themselves for self-defense. In 1967, Gov. Ronald Reagan signed into law strict prohibitions on the carrying of arms after the Black Panthers marched into the California Capitol Building armed to the teeth. In the end, the Supreme Court struck down the D.C. law but also noted there remained the right of government to regulate gun ownership. Winkler writes that this decision may open the way for action to truly reduce gun violence, yet unfortunately offers few suggestions for what these actions might be.

Detailed, balanced and engrossing—sure to displease both sides of the gun-control debate.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-393-07741-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

Did you like this book?

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

  • National Book Award Winner



The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

Did you like this book?