If there were ever an argument for prison reform, it’s in these pages.
A multivocal tour of hell on Earth: the infamous prison complex that is “out of sight, hard for visitors to reach, closed, and foreboding.”
“We’re talking about a place that smelled like death, vomit, urine, feces, and like the bad train stations in New York City all wrapped up in one.” Welcome to Riker’s Island, the New York City jail, as narrated, in this case, by Yusef Salaam, detained there (wrongly, as it happens) for five years for his presumed part in the Central Park 5 case. Rikers isn’t so much a jail or prison as a series of them, with facilities for mobsters, murderers, shoplifters, youth offenders, and the mentally ill—but sometimes with such populations intermixed. No one, it seems, is quite clear on what Rikers is supposed to do: Is it to rehabilitate or to punish? Notes one defense attorney, “The lessons that are taught by virtue of the way Rikers has worked are not lessons that are constructive in the real world.” One lesson, award-winning journalist Rayman and Blau reveal in this collection of horrifying testimonials, is that it’s easy to be killed at Rikers, whether by the guards or other inmates. Another lesson is that the system protects itself: If you’re beaten to death there, it’s just collateral damage. The system treats prisoners like animals, and the prisoners oblige, in time, by losing their humanity. But not all. One Lucchese family foot soldier recounts striking a humane deal with a hungry mouse, one of an innumerable infestation: “I leave some food all the way in the corner, opposite corner of the cell, and you leave my food alone.” Such moments of understanding are altogether rare in this brutal oral history, with voices ranging from one-time corrections leader Bernard Kerik to a 15-year-old HIV–positive inmate. Nearly all agree on one point: Rikers needs to be demolished, which is now a very real possibility—save that no one knows what will succeed it.If there were ever an argument for prison reform, it’s in these pages.
Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2023
Page Count: 464
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2022
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2022
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by Walter Isaacson ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 12, 2023
Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.
Awards & Accolades
New York Times Bestseller
A warts-and-all portrait of the famed techno-entrepreneur—and the warts are nearly beyond counting.
To call Elon Musk (b. 1971) “mercurial” is to undervalue the term; to call him a genius is incorrect. Instead, Musk has a gift for leveraging the genius of others in order to make things work. When they don’t, writes eminent biographer Isaacson, it’s because the notoriously headstrong Musk is so sure of himself that he charges ahead against the advice of others: “He does not like to share power.” In this sharp-edged biography, the author likens Musk to an earlier biographical subject, Steve Jobs. Given Musk’s recent political turn, born of the me-first libertarianism of the very rich, however, Henry Ford also comes to mind. What emerges clearly is that Musk, who may or may not have Asperger’s syndrome (“Empathy did not come naturally”), has nurtured several obsessions for years, apart from a passion for the letter X as both a brand and personal name. He firmly believes that “all requirements should be treated as recommendations”; that it is his destiny to make humankind a multi-planetary civilization through innovations in space travel; that government is generally an impediment and that “the thought police are gaining power”; and that “a maniacal sense of urgency” should guide his businesses. That need for speed has led to undeniable successes in beating schedules and competitors, but it has also wrought disaster: One of the most telling anecdotes in the book concerns Musk’s “demon mode” order to relocate thousands of Twitter servers from Sacramento to Portland at breakneck speed, which trashed big parts of the system for months. To judge by Isaacson’s account, that may have been by design, for Musk’s idea of creative destruction seems to mean mostly chaos.Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.
Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023
Page Count: 688
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023
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by Matthew Desmond ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 21, 2023
A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.
A thoughtful program for eradicating poverty from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted.
“America’s poverty is not for lack of resources,” writes Desmond. “We lack something else.” That something else is compassion, in part, but it’s also the lack of a social system that insists that everyone pull their weight—and that includes the corporations and wealthy individuals who, the IRS estimates, get away without paying upward of $1 trillion per year. Desmond, who grew up in modest circumstances and suffered poverty in young adulthood, points to the deleterious effects of being poor—among countless others, the precarity of health care and housing (with no meaningful controls on rent), lack of transportation, the constant threat of losing one’s job due to illness, and the need to care for dependent children. It does not help, Desmond adds, that so few working people are represented by unions or that Black Americans, even those who have followed the “three rules” (graduate from high school, get a full-time job, wait until marriage to have children), are far likelier to be poor than their White compatriots. Furthermore, so many full-time jobs are being recast as contracted, fire-at-will gigs, “not a break from the norm as much as an extension of it, a continuation of corporations finding new ways to limit their obligations to workers.” By Desmond’s reckoning, besides amending these conditions, it would not take a miracle to eliminate poverty: about $177 billion, which would help end hunger and homelessness and “make immense headway in driving down the many agonizing correlates of poverty, like violence, sickness, and despair.” These are matters requiring systemic reform, which will in turn require Americans to elect officials who will enact that reform. And all of us, the author urges, must become “poverty abolitionists…refusing to live as unwitting enemies of the poor.” Fortune 500 CEOs won’t like Desmond’s message for rewriting the social contract—which is precisely the point.A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.
Pub Date: March 21, 2023
Page Count: 288
Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2022
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023
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