A true-crime tale vividly portrays a Denver hidden by picturesque vistas of its snow-capped mountains.

THE HOLLY

FIVE BULLETS, ONE GUN, AND THE STRUGGLE TO SAVE AN AMERICAN NEIGHBORHOOD

Journalist Rubinstein tells the haunting story of a former gang member who tried to go straight and ran into a skein of political, philanthropic, and law enforcement interests.

When Ernestine Boyd, a grandchild of slaves, fled to Denver from the Jim Crow South, she became one of the first Black residents of the Northeast Park Hill part of the city, which included the Holly, a neighborhood that would earn a reputation as “the proud center of the city’s civil rights movement.” Decades later, Boyd’s grandson Terrance Roberts left his own mark on the Holly. He had found God and quit the Bloods while in prison; after his release, he founded an anti-gang nonprofit that led the mayor to name him “one of Denver’s 150 Unsung Heroes.” Roberts’ standing in the city began to unravel when, at a rally marking the opening of a Boys & Girls Club in the Holly, he shot a member of the Bloods who had credibly threatened him. In a multigenerational saga that builds toward a suspenseful courtroom drama centered on Roberts’ trial for assault and attempted murder, Rubinstein—who grew up and still resides in Denver—creates a historical palimpsest that sets its events against the backdrop of broad social and political changes, including the Crips’ and Bloods’ spread from Los Angeles to Denver; the Clinton administration’s decision to treat street gangs as “organized crime” groups; and the often clashing aims of politicians, philanthropists, and Black leaders. The author offers especially sharp and well-developed scrutiny of the use of active gang members as confidential police informants, but this important book is about more than dubious policing. A larger theme is how difficult it is for gang members to go straight while their former partners in crime still have the power to harm them, the problem a Denver activist chillingly summed up in a Chinese proverb: “He who mounts the tiger can never get off.”

A true-crime tale vividly portrays a Denver hidden by picturesque vistas of its snow-capped mountains.

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-374-16891-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Feb. 25, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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A fiery, eloquent call to action for White men who want to be on the right side of history.

LETTERS TO MY WHITE MALE FRIENDS

A Black man speaks hard truths to White men about their failure to dismantle systemic racism.

A “child of the Black bourgeoisie,” journalist Ross first learned “the shadow history of Black revolutionary struggle” in college. He accepted that he “directly benefited from the struggle that generations of Black folks had died in the name of, yet I wasn’t doing anything to help those who hadn’t benefited.” The author calls the White men of his generation, Gen X, to also recognize their complicity and miseducation. “We were fed cherry-picked narratives that confirmed the worthlessness of Black life,” he writes, “The euphemistic ‘culture of poverty,’ not systemic oppression, was to blame for the conditions in which so many Black people lived.” The story that White people have been told about Black people is “missing a major chapter,” and Ross thoroughly elucidates that chapter with a sweeping deep dive into decades of American social history and politics that is at once personal, compelling, and damning. Through a series of well-crafted personal letters, the author advises White men to check their motivations and “interrogate the allegedly self-evident, ‘commonsense’ values and beliefs” that perpetuate inequality and allow them to remain blissfully unaware of the insidiousness of racism and the ways they benefit from it. Ross condemns the “pathological unwillingness to connect the past with the present” and boldly avoids the comfortable “both sides” rhetoric that makes anti-racism work more palatable to White people. “It is on you,” he writes, “to challenge the color-blind narratives your parents peddle.” The letters are consistently compelling, covering wide ground that includes the broken criminal justice system, gentrification, and the problem with framing equity work as “charity.” Finally, Ross offers practical guidance and solutions for White men to employ at work, in their communities, and within themselves. Pair this one with Emmanuel Acho’s Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man.

A fiery, eloquent call to action for White men who want to be on the right side of history.

Pub Date: June 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-27683-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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Readers would do well to heed the dark warning that this book conveys.

A WARNING

The nameless resister inside the White House speaks.

“The character of one man has widened the chasms of American political division,” writes Anonymous. Indeed. The Trump years will not be remembered well—not by voters, not by history since the man in charge “couldn’t focus on governing, and he was prone to abuses of power, from ill-conceived schemes to punish his political rivals to a propensity for undermining vital American institutions.” Given all that, writes the author, and given Trump’s bizarre behavior and well-known grudges—e.g., he ordered that federal flags be raised to full staff only a day after John McCain died, an act that insiders warned him would be construed as petty—it was only patriotic to try to save the country from the man even as the resistance movement within the West Wing simultaneously tried to save Trump’s presidency. However, that they tried did not mean they succeeded: The warning of the title consists in large part of an extended observation that Trump has removed the very people most capable of guiding him to correct action, and the “reasonable professionals” are becoming ever fewer in the absence of John Kelly and others. So unwilling are those professionals to taint their reputations by serving Trump, in fact, that many critical government posts are filled by “acting” secretaries, directors, and so forth. And those insiders abetting Trump are shrinking in number even as Trump stumbles from point to point, declaring victory over the Islamic State group (“People are going to fucking die because of this,” said one top aide) and denouncing the legitimacy of the process that is now grinding toward impeachment. However, writes the author, removal from office is not the answer, not least because Trump may not leave without trying to stir up a civil war. Voting him out is the only solution, writes Anonymous; meanwhile, we’re stuck with a president whose acts, by the resisters’ reckoning, are equal parts stupid, illegal, or impossible to enact.

Readers would do well to heed the dark warning that this book conveys.

Pub Date: Nov. 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-1846-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

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