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THE INDISPENSABLE RIGHT

FREE SPEECH IN AN AGE OF RAGE

A smart book that invites argument—civil argument, that is, with good faith and tolerance.

A vigorous defense of free speech, a right enshrined but often hobbled or outright abrogated.

The American nation was born in rage, writes legal scholar Turley, and rage has since often defined its politics. This is especially true today, in a “period of such public distemper where our most cherished institutions and rights are being questioned by both the left and the right.” By Turley’s account, speech that expresses that rage certainly falls within acceptable limits; it’s the litmus test of falsely yelling fire in a crowded theater that, among other tests, gauges whether speech is protected. Examining free speech from the time of Socrates on, the author analyzes its countless discontents: the Red Scare legislators, for instance, for whom agitating against the big bosses constituted sedition, judicial constraints against “fighting words,” and so on. On either side of the political divide today, calls for censorship and speech suppression are rampant. However, it’s in the academy in particular that the disdain for unfettered free speech comes through most clearly, and Turley’s examples are striking. “By declaring speech as harmful,” he writes of censorious academics, “they give themselves license to stop views from being expressed.” The author parses recent events through the lens of free-speech absolutism, concluding, for instance, that Trump was within his rights to call for his supporters to march on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021—where, of course, so many of them committed non-speech-related crimes of violence. (But what of Trump’s claim that he would pay the legal fees for anyone who assaulted protestors at his rallies?) “We have a right to rage,” Turley insists. However—and he might have emphasized this more—we also have the duty to keep speech from crossing into violence.

A smart book that invites argument—civil argument, that is, with good faith and tolerance.

Pub Date: June 18, 2024

ISBN: 9781668047040

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2024

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WHAT THIS COMEDIAN SAID WILL SHOCK YOU

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

The comedian argues that the arts of moderation and common sense must be reinvigorated.

Some people are born snarky, some become snarky, and some have snarkiness thrust upon them. Judging from this book, Maher—host of HBO’s Real Time program and author of The New New Rules and When You Ride Alone, You Ride With bin Laden—is all three. As a comedian, he has a great deal of leeway to make fun of people in politics, and he often delivers hilarious swipes with a deadpan face. The author describes himself as a traditional liberal, with a disdain for Republicans (especially the MAGA variety) and a belief in free speech and personal freedom. He claims that he has stayed much the same for more than 20 years, while the left, he argues, has marched toward intolerance. He sees an addiction to extremism on both sides of the aisle, which fosters the belief that anyone who disagrees with you must be an enemy to be destroyed. However, Maher has always displayed his own streaks of extremism, and his scorched-earth takedowns eventually become problematic. The author has something nasty to say about everyone, it seems, and the sarcastic tone starts after more than 300 pages. As has been the case throughout his career, Maher is best taken in small doses. The book is worth reading for the author’s often spot-on skewering of inept politicians and celebrities, but it might be advisable to occasionally dip into it rather than read the whole thing in one sitting. Some parts of the text are hilarious, but others are merely insulting. Maher is undeniably talented, but some restraint would have produced a better book.

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

Pub Date: May 21, 2024

ISBN: 9781668051351

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

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Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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