An intelligent and bracingly honest look at the possibility of a post-racial America.

We Hold These Truths

A debut political novel explores the cultural ramifications of the first black U.S. president.

Al Carpenter, about to graduate from Harvard Law School, confronts a potentially life-altering decision: he can accept a position waiting for him at the firm Sullivan & Katz or join the campaign to elect African-American attorney Ron Johnson to the U.S. Senate. Al commits to working for Johnson, but the candidate’s a political neophyte, and his prospects for success are considered slim even among his admirers. It’s not clear that he can get the Democrat Party machine’s backing, and he’ll be perpetually light on funds without the support of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Johnson also desperately needs endorsements from a startup company—North Carolina Sustainable Energy Partners—and veteran political Congressman Branford Darling, who is reluctant to alienate his own constituents in an election year by backing a black candidate. As a matter of implausible coincidence, Darling’s first congressional campaign was generously funded by a racist billionaire, whose son is the CEO of NCSEP. Al audaciously decides to use this information to bully a quick and badly needed endorsement from Darling, who is influential but politically vulnerable. The plot is situated within the historical horizon of President Barack Obama’s momentous election victory, which is treated as both a triumph and a bellwether of future racial progress. Al, warily optimistic, tends to view Johnson’s success or failure as a test of America’s openness to electing other black leaders: “The true value of Obama’s election—and we can unlock it right now—is the potential it has to drive momentum for progress going forward.” In his astute tale, Mitchell knowledgeably captures not only the internecine conflict that occurs within a party, but also the volatile mix of excitement and skepticism that followed Obama’s election victory. In addition, while this novel is driven more by political ideas than concrete characters, Al’s romantic aspirations and failures give his persona some depth (he regularly looks at a framed picture of Martin van Buren, “hoping that something of his talent for king-making might rub off on me”). This is a cerebral work of fiction largely driven by sharply composed dialogue—though it occasionally turns didactic and preachy—and is clearly meant to provocatively instigate political discussion. It succeeds at this, and even a bit more.

An intelligent and bracingly honest look at the possibility of a post-racial America. 

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-692-72013-4

Page Count: -

Publisher: Project Z Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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