A weighty consideration of the cultural politics behind disturbing flash points like the death of Trayvon Martin.

STAND YOUR GROUND

A HISTORY OF AMERICA'S LOVE AFFAIR WITH LETHAL SELF-DEFENSE

A legalistic polemic arguing that the “natural right” of self-defense has been perverted by American gun culture.

Light (Women, Gender, and Sexuality/Harvard Univ.; That Pride of Race and Character: The Roots of Jewish Benevolence in the Jim Crow South, 2014) sees behind American exceptionalism an ugly tradition of violence, initially reserved for white male property owners. Today, she witnesses a troubling movement toward “individual DIY security as the solution to our nation’s most urgent anxieties, [which] criminalizes many who do not fit the terms of idealized citizenship.” She attributes this to “the spread of perceived insecurity, as well as a lack of faith in the protective powers of the government and local police.” This contradicts the common-law roots of self-defense principles, which historically held a duty to retreat. Light examines the case of Thomas Selfridge in 1806, which “provided legal foundation for the gradual decay of the duty to retreat.” Particularly after the bitter collapse of Reconstruction, marked by violence against black self-determination, “nineteenth century debates over self-defense implicitly centered on the urgent need to protect white masculine honor.” These privileges were not extended to women and black people who killed in self-defense, leading civil rights pioneers like Ida B. Wells to paradoxically embrace armed self-defense as “human nature.” This counternarrative manifested in the fascinating tale of African-American defense leagues in the rural South during the civil rights era, which “characterized ‘armed self-reliance’ as a necessity” in the face of threats against community leaders. Today, Light sees gun culture as selectively reminiscent of these historical complexities and devoted to a covert white male supremacy at the expense of others’ safety. The author is a keen legal analyst, deftly examining obscure cases that underlie this historical narrative, but her narrow fixation on identity politics leads her to disparage the broad consensus that “the good citizen is one who takes her own safety seriously.”

A weighty consideration of the cultural politics behind disturbing flash points like the death of Trayvon Martin.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8070-6466-5

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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

NIGHT

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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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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