A memoir, a legal thriller, and a heartening perspective on law enforcement at its best and brightest.

TAKING DOWN BACKPAGE

FIGHTING THE WORLD’S LARGEST SEX TRAFFICKER

How a ferocious California prosecutor fought successfully against a significant component of the global sex-trafficking industry.

Krell was 25 years old when she worked on her first case involving young sex workers and began to see that prostitution was anything but a victimless crime. "The images of those girls from that motel…were etched into my brain,” she writes, “and would drive me throughout my career….By the time I became a supervising deputy attorney general at the California Department of Justice, the seedy motel, I realized, had metamorphosized into a website: Backpage.com." For 10 years in 800 cities, Backpage ran ads selling young people for sex, taking a cut that amounted to millions of dollars. Yet when Krell fought through local and federal resistance to orchestrate the arrests of Backpage’s leaders, she saw an award from the FBI on one of their desks, praising his "outstanding cooperation" in helping them "find victims." As the author knew, Backpage merely helped pimps thwart law enforcement by rewriting the ads that had gotten them in trouble. When she finally got the case to court in 2016, it was dismissed without a trial due to the Communications Decency Act, perceived as “a complete shield from liability” for any business conducted on the internet. Shaken but undeterred, Krell built a team of attorneys and law enforcement officers who finally put an end to the outrages of this online brothel. Of her counterpart in Texas, lead attorney Kirsta Melton, Krell writes, "We were both busy moms scrambling to get our kids to sports practices and games while also prosecuting some of the most depraved criminals in our respective states….Above all else, we were both hell-bent on helping kids and doing everything we could to disrupt sex trafficking.” Both women deserve the highest praise for their enterprising work on behalf of some of society’s most vulnerable members.

A memoir, a legal thriller, and a heartening perspective on law enforcement at its best and brightest.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-4798-0304-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: New York Univ.

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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