Considering her youthfulness, Barnett has accomplished more reform than most individuals could accomplish in two lifetimes.

A KNOCK AT MIDNIGHT

A STORY OF HOPE, JUSTICE, AND FREEDOM

A welcome new addition to the groaning shelves of books about the critically flawed U.S. legal system.

For the first 90 pages, Barnett, born in 1984, focuses on her youth as a Black female in rural East Texas whose drug-addicted mother ended up in prison. In the remainder of the book, the author mixes straightforward memoir with inspiring accounts of her crusades for social justice. Determined to avoid her mother’s fate, Barnett worked diligently to graduate from college, after which she found work at a top accounting firm and then earned a law degree. The author is painfully aware of the racism built into the criminal justice system, including the absurd prison terms handed down to Black drug users and dealers—the most egregious being “the 100-to-1 crack-to-powder-cocaine sentencing ratio.” Though corporate law was her initial goal, while studying for a criminal law course, Barnett learned about Sharanda Jones, who had received a life sentence for a first-time drug offense. The author poignantly writes about how she was able to identify with families torn apart by such heavy-handed sentences. After obtaining a job in the finance and banking group of a corporate law firm in 2011, Barnett devoted her spare time to advocacy. She hoped to win the release of Jones and others in similar situations through reversals in the appellate courts. When that avenue failed, the author decided that seeking clemency from the president was the only option, no matter the long odds—especially given Barack Obama’s general reluctance to grant pardons. Eventually, however, Obama granted clemency to Jones and other pro bono clients of Barnett’s. In 2016, the author left her corporate career to follow her passion for representing “all those suffering under draconian drug-sentencing laws.” Among her impressive not-for-profit initiatives are the Buried Alive Project and the Girls Embracing Mothers project.

Considering her youthfulness, Barnett has accomplished more reform than most individuals could accomplish in two lifetimes.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2578-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

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A PROMISED LAND

In the first volume of his presidential memoir, Obama recounts the hard path to the White House.

In this long, often surprisingly candid narrative, Obama depicts a callow youth spent playing basketball and “getting loaded,” his early reading of difficult authors serving as a way to impress coed classmates. (“As a strategy for picking up girls, my pseudo-intellectualism proved mostly worthless,” he admits.) Yet seriousness did come to him in time and, with it, the conviction that America could live up to its stated aspirations. His early political role as an Illinois state senator, itself an unlikely victory, was not big enough to contain Obama’s early ambition, nor was his term as U.S. Senator. Only the presidency would do, a path he painstakingly carved out, vote by vote and speech by careful speech. As he writes, “By nature I’m a deliberate speaker, which, by the standards of presidential candidates, helped keep my gaffe quotient relatively low.” The author speaks freely about the many obstacles of the race—not just the question of race and racism itself, but also the rise, with “potent disruptor” Sarah Palin, of a know-nothingism that would manifest itself in an obdurate, ideologically driven Republican legislature. Not to mention the meddlings of Donald Trump, who turns up in this volume for his idiotic “birther” campaign while simultaneously fishing for a contract to build “a beautiful ballroom” on the White House lawn. A born moderate, Obama allows that he might not have been ideological enough in the face of Mitch McConnell, whose primary concern was then “clawing [his] way back to power.” Indeed, one of the most compelling aspects of the book, as smoothly written as his previous books, is Obama’s cleareyed scene-setting for how the political landscape would become so fractured—surely a topic he’ll expand on in the next volume.

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6316-9

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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