A frightening and realistic story about the realities of racism, poverty and injustice in the Obama era.


An African-American teen accused of murder experiences the terror of the court system while his mother and his lawyers pursue an unusual argument for justice.

It’s only 22 days into the New Year as this desperate novel begins, and there have already been 29 murders in Philadelphia. Cush (Tattered Bonds, 2006) draws on her experience in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office to paint a frightening picture of the awful day-to-day realities faced by impoverished children accused of crimes. The child at issue here is 15-year-old Malik Williams, who finds himself violently slammed to the ground by a white police officer and charged with the murder of another black kid; he's to be tried as an adult for a crime he did not commit. His mother, Janae, is a cafeteria worker and a woman of faith who lacks the resources to help her only child. She’s suspicious when approached by Roger Whitford, a human rights attorney who wants to spark a national debate over Malik’s defense. “I believe we can make a solid argument that African-American boys ought to be deemed legally endangered,” he tells a startled Janae. “Their very lives are threatened with extinction, or at least any meaningful existence, and thereby ought to be afforded certain protections based on their classification as such.” It’s a bold and risky defense, but Janae is running out of options. Buoyed by the genius of Calvin Moore, an ambitious defense attorney on loan from a high-end firm, Malik’s defenders navigate the hostile and dangerous ground between the justice system, the media and the American public. There’s not much mystery—Malik’s defense eventually becomes a case of figuring out who really committed the crime—but Cush makes a passionate argument for the defense of young men whose only crimes were being born black in America.

A frightening and realistic story about the realities of racism, poverty and injustice in the Obama era.

Pub Date: July 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-231623-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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