A fantastic story with enough minor flaws to irritate but enough real-life drama to keep readers coming back.

THE NYPD TAPES

A SHOCKING STORY OF COPS, COVER-UPS, AND COURAGE

Village Voice staff writer Rayman turns his newspaper series about NYPD corruption into a full-length book.

Introducing the major players in this drama right at the climax of its conflict, the author’s account is immediately striking. Fast-paced and intriguing throughout most of the book, the story remains fascinating even when Rayman goes into intricate detail about the lives of Officer Adrian Schoolcraft and those around him. Schoolcraft’s story became noteworthy when he joined the NYPD in 2002 amid the success of CompStat, an accounting system designed to help the department pinpoint trouble areas for more officers. CompStat and Schoolcraft didn’t mesh well, though, and Schoolcraft believed the system was leading to corruption by those in the precinct who pushed for better numbers. He began wearing a wire to work, recording everything that happened in an attempt to prove not only that the problem existed, but also that it was due to pressure from the top. He went to Internal Affairs with his accusations. After that, his job—already in some jeopardy due to low numbers—became downright distressing. What the department said was simply good management, he saw as harassment and even a threat to his safety. Eventually, he was able to make his story public and bring a lawsuit against the city. The tension remains high throughout, with Schoolcraft’s emotions described exceptionally well. Unfortunately, Rayman’s account feels rather biased in favor of Schoolcraft, and he tends to write off the NYPD’s criticisms of the man. Rayman also tends to repeat the most egregious offenses caught on tape, which loosens the cohesion of the narrative, reminding readers that it is based on a series of shorter pieces.

A fantastic story with enough minor flaws to irritate but enough real-life drama to keep readers coming back.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-230-34227-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2013

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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