Useful reading for anyone interested in helping to change a deeply flawed system.

GIDEON'S PROMISE

A PUBLIC DEFENDER MOVEMENT TO TRANSFORM CRIMINAL JUSTICE

An indictment of the U.S. criminal justice system, which treats the majority of defendants as ciphers—or worse.

Rapping, a public defender who has received a MacArthur award for his pioneering work, explains how his career has led him to spearhead much-needed reforms. After struggling against recalcitrant judges, prosecutors, and even fellow public defenders in numerous jurisdictions, the author decided that the path to meaningful change for indigent defendants would need to come from public defenders themselves. Throughout the book, filled with detailed case studies of justice gone awry, Rapping describes the heavy caseloads and lack of funds with which most public defenders struggle, which means that their clients receive almost no attention. Rather than seeking courtroom trials for clients, besieged public defenders accept plea bargains for defendants without even exploring the possibility of an acquittal or a reduction of a prosecutor’s charges. “The prosecution,” writes the author, “has developed a formidable arsenal…to coerce people into giving up the protections at the heart of our justice system, and now only one in twenty Americans convicted of a crime even experience a trial.” The method Rapping devised emphasizes a “client-centered defense,” in which men and women represented by public defenders are more than just a case on paper and are “treated with dignity in the system.” The approach morphed into an organization called Gideon’s Promise, named for Gideon v. Wainwright, in which the Supreme Court ruled that the state must provide an attorney to those who cannot afford one. As Rapping documents, state legislatures, prosecutors, and judges have often resisted the intention of the court ruling, leading to countless travesties. Rapping tellingly quotes one judge who saw through the resistance: “While we all may not be able to agree on what justice looks like, surely we can agree on what injustice looks like.”

Useful reading for anyone interested in helping to change a deeply flawed system.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8070-6462-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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