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.