A well-documented exposé of a broken system for policing errant federal judges.

An investigative reporter reveals flaws in how Americans hold federal judges accountable for sexual misconduct and shows how whistleblowers have brought some to justice.

Rogue federal judges have caused scandals at least since George Washington appointee John Pickering became the first to be removed from office by the Senate, which acted after he’d repeatedly taken to the bench “in a state of total intoxication” or mental “derangement.” Since then, secretive disciplinary procedures and toothless remedies (allowing quiet resignations with full pensions) have enabled further sins documented in alarming detail in this exposé. Olsen focuses on hair-raising abuses by Samuel Bristow Kent of the Southern District of Texas, the first judge impeached by the House of Representatives for sexual misconduct he lied about. He resigned rather than stand trial in the Senate. Two female court employees had alleged that, among other types of sexual assault or harassment, Kent tried to force them to perform oral sex on him in a federal courthouse—a charge his lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, attempted to refute by claiming his client suffered from erectile dysfunction. Olsen shows how—with Kent’s accusers understandably reluctant to go public with intimate experiences—she helped to break the story open in the Houston Chronicle, leading to a public outcry that contributed to his downfall. She also offers abundant evidence of egregious missteps by other federal judges, including Alex Kozinski, a mentor to Brett Kavanaugh. The writing here tends toward journalese (a whistleblower is “a sharply dressed soccer mom” and William Rehnquist, “the balding Wisconsin native”), but Olsen describes a serious oversight problem with vigor and credibility. She also gives deserved credit to courageous whistleblowers who were doubly victimized—first by their abusers and then by a legal system that required them to endure the pain of public exposure to obtain justice.

A well-documented exposé of a broken system for policing errant federal judges.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0867-6

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021


From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

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


A wide-ranging collection of testaments to what moves the heart.

Black Americans declare their love.

This anthology brings together dozens of love letters by prominent Black Americans. The entries, interspersed with illustrations, address an eclectic mix of topics arranged under five categories: Care, Awe, Loss, Ambivalence, and Transformation. In their introduction, editors Brown and Johnson note the book’s inspiration in the witnessing of violence directed at Black America. Reckonings with outrage and grief, they explain, remain an urgent task and a precondition of creating and sustaining loving bonds. The editors seek to create “a site for our people to come together on the deepest, strongest emotion we share” and thus open “the possibility for shared deliverance” and “carve out a space for healing, together.” This aim is powerfully realized in many of the letters, which offer often poignant portrayals of where redemptive love has and might yet be found. Among the most memorable are Joy Reid’s “A Love Letter to My Hair,” a sensitive articulation of a hard-won sense of self-love; Morgan Jerkins’ “Dear Egypt,” an exploration of a lifelong passion for an ancient world; and VJ Jenkins’ “Pops and Dad,” an affirmation that it “is beautiful to be Black, to be a man, and to be gay.” Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts’ “Home: A Reckoning” is particularly thoughtful and incisive in its examination of a profound attachment, “in the best and worst ways,” to Louisville, Kentucky. Most of the pieces pair personal recollections with incisive cultural commentary. The cumulative effect of these letters is to set forth a panorama of opportunities for maintaining the ties that matter most, especially in the face of a cultural milieu that continues to produce virulent forms of love’s opposite. Other contributors include Nadia Owusu, Jamila Woods, Ben Crump, Eric Michael Dyson, Kwame Dawes, Jenna Wortham, and Imani Perry.

A wide-ranging collection of testaments to what moves the heart.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2023

ISBN: 9781638931201

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Get Lifted Books/Zando

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023

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