A unique historical snapshot of most interest to those just learning about the nation’s highest court.




The sitting Justices and various experts discuss the Supreme Court and its work.

For a documentary originally intended to focus on the gleaming marble temple designed by Cass Gilbert, the C-SPAN producers persuaded all the current Justices and the retired Sandra Day O’Connor and David Souter—Souter later declined to have his remarks printed here—to sit for interviews. The Court’s unprecedented cooperation resulted in an invaluable piece of televised history about the least understood branch of the federal government, but for at least two reasons these transcripts make for a frustrating, occasionally tedious reading experience. First, the Justices are, of course, barred from discussing any of the past or present cases before them or what happens in their exclusive conference. Second, because they are so frequently asked the same questions about process—how cases come to the Court, how they’re selected for review, how opinions are assigned, etc.—the responses are necessarily identical. Moreover, they give strikingly similar answers to questions about life on the bench. They all revere the Court’s traditions—the robes, the handshake before oral argument and the group lunches that follow, the quill pens given to attorneys who argue before them—treasure the collegiality of their peers, admire the professionalism of the Supreme Court Bar, appreciate the assistance of their clerks and fully recognize the steep learning curve imposed on any new appointee. Occasionally, as with the garrulous Stephen Breyer or the guileless Sonia Sotomayor, some genuine personality breaks through. More satisfying are the discussions with Court specialists, including veteran court reporter Lyle Denniston, historian James B. O’Hara and especially appellate attorney and former law clerk Maureen Mahoney. A helpful appendix provides short biographies of the Justices, a listing of all previous Court members and the answers to a poll revealing only dim public understanding of the Court. Other, similar C-SPAN projects—e.g., Lamb and Swain, Abraham Lincoln: Great American Historians on Our Sixteenth President, 2008—have translated into more pleasurable and edifying reading, but these dismal poll results reinforce the need for this elemental civics lesson.

A unique historical snapshot of most interest to those just learning about the nation’s highest court.

Pub Date: May 4, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-58648-835-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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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

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