A novel glimpse behind the scenes of an incarceration facility during a radical period in American history.

READ REVIEW

Murder at San Quentin

GEORGE JACKSON/MANSON AND OTHER MURDERS, REVISITED

George (The Bishop’s Folly, 2014, etc.) offers a memoir about his time spent working at an infamous California prison.

In 1971, a failed escape attempt at San Quentin State Prison in California resulted in violence and, later, a trial for six suspects known as the San Quentin Six. The events of that day were nothing short of brutal and included multiple deaths; as inmates attacked guards with crude weapons, their goal was often to cut their adversaries’ arteries. At the time of the escape attempt, the author worked at the Sierra Conservation Center, a minimum security facility in Sonora. Later, after he transferred to San Quentin, he had firsthand contact with the San Quentin Six, among other famous criminals, including Charles Manson. George takes readers on a journey that includes a variety of hardened criminals (including weapon-toting members of the Aryan Brotherhood and a man with the unfortunate nickname of “Pincushion”) and never questions the severity of prison life. The author strikes a good balance throughout, showing contempt for both unrepentant murderers and their often inhumane conditions, and he comes across as a man who did his best to stay human and do his job, despite the unthinkable characters around him. Some conclusions seem obvious (e.g., “A prisoner, one who has been locked up for ten years, does not think like a normal person”). However, many events prove the old adage of truth being stranger than fiction, as when counterculture figure Ram Dass came to the prison to lead a meditation “with full beard, cheerfully serene smiles and wearing light, gauzy Yoga attire.” An ending chapter on Manson (and a somewhat puzzling poem about him) feels tacked on, but at less than 200 pages, the book is a highly readable account of one man’s unique experience in a strange, often terrifying place.

A novel glimpse behind the scenes of an incarceration facility during a radical period in American history.  

Pub Date: May 31, 2015

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 145

Publisher: Book Baby

Review Posted Online: Aug. 13, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 11

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

Did you like this book?

more