This impressively cogent work about mass incarceration provides concrete actions to curb the excesses of a government...

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Justice Restored

10 STEPS TO END MASS INCARCERATION IN AMERICA

A book delivers a scathing indictment of the American criminal justice system.

It’s clear that a social issue has reached critical mass when folks all across the political spectrum publicly recognize it as a fundamental problem. Such is the case with mass incarceration in the United States. As Woltz (The Path, 2014, etc.) points out in this ambitious work, the Department of Justice estimated in 2010 that 25 percent of American adults carry the burden of a criminal record. The author presents similarly alarming statistics throughout the text, but he also explains how things got to this point by means of concise historical analysis. Topics range from parole and plea bargains to jury rights and conspiracy statutes. In each chapter, Woltz examines the issue at hand, offers “action items,” and presents a case (often maddening and Kafkaesque in nature) to exemplify his argument. (On several occasions, he mentions his own bizarre encounters with the criminal justice system, but he recounts them in depth elsewhere.) Even the most politically astute readers may be surprised to learn that the much-criticized Citizens United Supreme Court decision “is actually the culmination of 130 years of misinterpretation by that same Court, ostensibly beginning with an offhand comment that was made by a Supreme Court justice in 1886 before the case [Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company] was even heard, but was left on the record.” Woltz paints such a bleak picture that some may wonder if the situation is essentially intractable due to the deep-seated financial and political interests at play. Others may question the viability of his recommendations, such as the abolishment of the FBI and the Department of Justice. Woltz seems aware of this potential hesitation, as he writes: “However, the nation has become so accustomed to these organizations being in power that it sounds foreign—almost insane—to talk about putting them back in the unconstitutional hole from which they sprang.” Thus, he concludes the book with what is perhaps a more achievable goal: “limit any donation to any politician to those living, breathing human beings who reside in their district of election.” This seemingly simple act, which would necessarily entail the overturning of Citizens United, would have far-reaching implications throughout the entire political landscape.

This impressively cogent work about mass incarceration provides concrete actions to curb the excesses of a government apparatus spinning out of control.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2016

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 141

Publisher: Hybrid Global Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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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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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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