A thoroughly researched, clearly presented book that suggests that imprecise brain science will become increasingly more...

READ REVIEW

THE BRAIN DEFENSE

MURDER IN MANHATTAN AND THE DAWN OF NEUROSCIENCE IN AMERICA'S COURTROOMS

American Bar Association Journal editor Davis (Defending the Damned: Inside Chicago's Cook County Public Defender's Office, 2007, etc.) engagingly explores how sophisticated brain studies might help explain the causes of violent crimes.

The author uses an unlikely New York City murder as the connecting link in his wide-ranging inquiry into “broken brains” that might leave criminals helpless to control violent urges. On Jan. 7, 1991, 65-year-old Herbert Weinstein, a mild-mannered, respected business executive with “a clean record and no history of violent behavior,” argued with his wife before knocking her unconscious and throwing her out of their apartment window to the street 12 stories below. Though Weinstein confessed to the homicide, he could not account for his uncharacteristic rage. His lawyer decided to order scans of Weinstein’s brain, a revolutionary tactic at the time; the scans showed a cyst the size of an orange. At that juncture, Weinstein’s lawyer, the prosecutor, the judge, and highly specialized neuroscientists had to decide whether the cyst provided a complete explanation for the murder, only a partial explanation, or was simply an extraneous factor. As the well-written narrative unfolds, Davis returns to the Weinstein case frequently. Amid the chapters about the murder, the author skillfully interweaves accounts of other alleged “broken brain” cases, research battles among neuroscientists about how to interpret brain injury data, and inquiries into specific types of brain damage—for instance, from football and other contact sports or from military combat. Perhaps the most crucial question revolving around broken brain research is whether the injuries invalidate free will. Could Weinstein have controlled his rage during the altercation with his wife, or did the damage to Weinstein’s capacities from the cyst render him unable to exercise free will?

A thoroughly researched, clearly presented book that suggests that imprecise brain science will become increasingly more common as evidence in criminal cases.

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-59420-633-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

THREE WOMEN

Based on eight years of reporting and thousands of hours of interaction, a journalist chronicles the inner worlds of three women’s erotic desires.

In her dramatic debut about “what longing in America looks like,” Taddeo, who has contributed to Esquire, Elle, and other publications, follows the sex lives of three American women. On the surface, each woman’s story could be a soap opera. There’s Maggie, a teenager engaged in a secret relationship with her high school teacher; Lina, a housewife consumed by a torrid affair with an old flame; and Sloane, a wealthy restaurateur encouraged by her husband to sleep with other people while he watches. Instead of sensationalizing, the author illuminates Maggie’s, Lina’s, and Sloane’s erotic experiences in the context of their human complexities and personal histories, revealing deeper wounds and emotional yearnings. Lina’s infidelity was driven by a decade of her husband’s romantic and sexual refusal despite marriage counseling and Lina's pleading. Sloane’s Fifty Shades of Grey–like lifestyle seems far less exotic when readers learn that she has felt pressured to perform for her husband's pleasure. Taddeo’s coverage is at its most nuanced when she chronicles Maggie’s decision to go to the authorities a few years after her traumatic tryst. Recounting the subsequent trial against Maggie’s abuser, the author honors the triumph of Maggie’s courageous vulnerability as well as the devastating ramifications of her community’s disbelief. Unfortunately, this book on “female desire” conspicuously omits any meaningful discussion of social identities beyond gender and class; only in the epilogue does Taddeo mention race and its impacts on women's experiences with sex and longing. Such oversight brings a palpable white gaze to the narrative. Compounded by the author’s occasionally lackluster prose, the book’s flaws compete with its meaningful contribution to #MeToo–era reporting.

Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4516-4229-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller

HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more