A searing, unforgettable anthology, with valuable insights provided at the end of each chapter by the editors.

ANATOMY OF INNOCENCE

TESTIMONIES OF THE WRONGFULLY CONVICTED

A unique collection of 15 wrongful conviction sagas bound to shake faith in the American criminal justice system.

In the past three decades, books about wrongful convictions have become so numerous that they form their own genre. The advent of DNA testing for law enforcement purposes validated the previously discredited statement that American prisons are filled with innocent inmates while the actual perpetrators remain unpunished. Few of the books, however, match this skillful anthology, assembled by Life After Innocence founder Caldwell (The Dog Park, 2014, etc.) and Edgar Award–winning mystery editor Klinger (editor: In the Shadow of Edgar Allan Poe: Classic Tales of Horror, 1816-1914, 2015, etc.), in which exonerated individuals tell their stories to high-profile authors, most of them known for their fast-paced crime novels. While the names of the exonerees may be unfamiliar to general readers, the names of the authors are better known: Sara Paretsky, Lee Child, Laurie King, and more. Scott Turow and Barry Scheck provide the introduction. Each of the 15 chapters is worthy. Perhaps the chapter combining the highest level of storytelling with the most gut-wrenching detail is Brad Parks’ account of Illinois exoneree Michael Evans, wrongfully convicted of the sexual assault and murder of a 9-year-old girl; he served 26 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Each chapter focuses on a specific aspect involved in these wrongful convictions. Parks’ account focuses on the jurors who reached the wrong decision, including the chairwoman of the jury, who felt all along that Evans was innocent. Other chapters emphasize dirty cops, craven prosecutors, flawed forensic evidence, mistaken eyewitness testimony, lying jailhouse snitches, noncompassionate judges, and more. One across-the-board theme is the hell of serving prison time while innocent, with seemingly no way out.

A searing, unforgettable anthology, with valuable insights provided at the end of each chapter by the editors.

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63149-088-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 23, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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