Required reading for this post-Dobbs world.

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LADY JUSTICE

WOMEN, THE LAW, AND THE BATTLE TO SAVE AMERICA

The senior legal correspondent for Slate looks at the responses of women lawyers to the Trump era.

“Something extraordinary happens when female anger and lawyering meet,” writes Lithwick, who begins with oral arguments in the 2016 case Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt before three female justices. She closes, of course, with the June 24, 2022, decision in Dobbs v. Jackson’s Women’s Health Organization. In the author’s telling, that span represents not only the nation’s six-year slide into an abyss, but also a time when women lawyers mounted dogged, directed resistance. Between starry-eyed opening and grim conclusion, she profiles women lawyers whose stories provide a contextualizing capsule tour of the era and offer some bracing hope. Readers will reconnect with Sally Yates, the acting attorney general who almost immediately found herself standing up to her new boss when he executed his first travel ban, and learn that the Democrats’ success in Georgia in 2020 and 2021 was mostly due to Stacey Abrams’ methodical, 10-year plan to mobilize Georgia’s Democratic vote. We also meet Nina Perales of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, who successfully litigated against adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census; and the ACLU’s Brigitte Amiri, who defended the right of a pregnant 17-year-old refugee in U.S. custody to get an abortion—ultimately winning a case in which then–Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s preliminary opinion arguably paved his way to the Supreme Court. In this same profile, the author reveals that the same Office of Refugee Resettlement apparatchik who directed his staff to stop keeping track of the children separated from their families at the border also scrupulously maintained his own records of the menstrual cycles of the girls in custody. Though the text is necessarily bristling with names of court cases, Lithwick’s writing is friendly to lay readers and marked by her trademark pithy wit and an endearing faith in the promise of the legal system. “Women plus law equals magic,” she concludes.

Required reading for this post-Dobbs world.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-525-56138-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

SO HELP ME GOD

The former vice president reflects warmly on the president whose followers were encouraged to hang him.

Pence’s calm during the Trump years has been a source of bemusement, especially during the administration’s calamitous demise. In this bulky, oddly uncurious political memoir, Pence suggests the source of his composure is simple: frequent prayer and bottomless patience for politicking. After a relatively speedy recap of his personal and political history in Indiana—born-again Christian, conservative radio host, congressman, governor—he remembers greeting the prospect of serving under Trump with enthusiasm. He “was giving voice to the desperation and frustration caused by decades of government mismanagement,” he writes. Recounting how the Trump-Pence ticket won the White House in 2016, he recalls Trump as a fundamentally hardworking president, albeit one who often shot from the hip. Yet Pence finds Trump’s impulsivity an asset, setting contentious foreign leaders and Democrats off-balance. Soon they settled into good cop–bad cop roles; he was “the gentler voice,” while “it was Trump’s job to bring the thunder.” Throughout, Pence rationalizes and forgives all sorts of thundering. Sniping at John McCain? McCain never really took the time to understand him! Revolving-door staffers? He’s running government like a business! That phone call with Ukraine’s president? Overblown! Downplaying the threat Covid-19 presented in early 2020? Evidence, somehow, of “the leadership that President Trump showed in the early, harrowing days of the pandemic.” But for a second-in-command to such a disruptive figure, Pence dwells little on Trump’s motivations, which makes the story’s climax—Trump’s 2020 election denials and the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection—impossible for him to reconcile. How could such a selfless patriot fall under the sway of bad lawyers and conspiracy theorists? God only knows. Chalk it up to Pence's forgiving nature. In the lengthy acknowledgments he thanks seemingly everybody he’s known personally or politically; but one name’s missing.

Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2022

ISBN: 9781982190330

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2022

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A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

HUMANS

The creator of the hit internet series Humans of New York takes it global, chasing down a panoply of interesting stories.

In 1955, Edward Steichen staged a show called “The Family of Man,” a gathering of photographs that emphasized the commonality of humankind. Stanton’s project seemingly has much the same ambition. “You’ve created this magic little corner of the Web where people feel safe sharing their stories—without being ridiculed, or bullied, or judged,” he writes. “These stories are only honestly shared because they have a long history of being warmly received.” The ask is the hard part: approaching a total stranger and asking him or her to tell their stories. And what stories they are. A young Frenchwoman, tearful, recounts being able to see things from the spirit world that no one else can see. “And it’s been a very lonely existence since then,” she says. A sensible teenager in St. Petersburg, Russia, relates that her friends are trying to be grown-up, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, whereas she wants to remain a child close to her parents: “I’d like these times to last as long as possible.” A few stories are obnoxious, as with a Dutch incel who has converted himself into a pickup artist and outright cad: “Of course it’s manipulation, but why should I care? I’ve been manipulated so many times in my life.” A great many stories, some going for several pages but most taking up just a paragraph or two, are regretful, speaking to dashed dreams and roads not taken. A surprising number recount mental illness, depression, and addiction; “I’d give anything to have a tribe,” says a beleaguered mother in Barcelona. Some are hopeful, though, such as that of an Iranian woman: “I’ve fallen in love with literature. I try to read for one or two hours every day. I only have one life to live. But in books I can live one thousand lives.”

A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11429-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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