A useful firsthand account of a series of civil rights landmarks, with some additional analysis of our current political...

BENDING TOWARD JUSTICE

THE BIRMINGHAM CHURCH BOMBING THAT CHANGED THE COURSE OF CIVIL RIGHTS

A former U.S. attorney nominated by Bill Clinton chronicles his successful attempt to prosecute the last of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church bombers.

Jones has led a rather remarkable career. His most recent accomplishment was a victory in a special election that made him Alabama’s first Democratic Senator since 1992; he defeated Republican Roy Moore for Jeff Sessions’ vacated Senate seat. Raised in the Jim Crow era of segregated Birmingham, the author was deeply influenced as a young college student by the model lawyer Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. More importantly, in 1977, he watched Alabama Attorney General Bill Baxley work a legal miracle by securing a murder conviction against “Dynamite” Bob Chambliss, the Klansman who had eluded justice 14 years earlier for the bombing that killed four African-American girls. In this lively first-person account, written with Truman, Jones (b. 1954) walks us through his early life as a middle-class white boy who grew up mostly unaware of racial tensions in the Birmingham suburbs—until 1963, when white supremacists launched a campaign of terror against the civil rights protesters, especially the young people’s demonstrations at the 16th Street Baptist Church. The author was 9 when the horrendous bombing occurred. The subsequent FBI investigation went on for years and was thwarted at every turn, shut down in 1968 without any charges against the three prime suspects: Chambliss, Tommy Blanton, and Bobby Frank Cherry. As an up-and-coming federal prosecutor and defense attorney, Jones tied himself to the Democratic Party. Building on what he had witnessed Baxley achieve, he decided it was time to strike at Blanton when he was nominated U.S. Attorney in 1997. The bulk of this compelling account focuses on that extraordinary trial and 2001 conviction.

A useful firsthand account of a series of civil rights landmarks, with some additional analysis of our current political climate.

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-20144-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: All Points/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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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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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

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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