TAKING DOWN BACKPAGE

FIGHTING THE WORLD’S LARGEST SEX TRAFFICKER

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

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. 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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ELON MUSK

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

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A warts-and-all portrait of the famed techno-entrepreneur—and the warts are nearly beyond counting.

To call Elon Musk (b. 1971) “mercurial” is to undervalue the term; to call him a genius is incorrect. Instead, Musk has a gift for leveraging the genius of others in order to make things work. When they don’t, writes eminent biographer Isaacson, it’s because the notoriously headstrong Musk is so sure of himself that he charges ahead against the advice of others: “He does not like to share power.” In this sharp-edged biography, the author likens Musk to an earlier biographical subject, Steve Jobs. Given Musk’s recent political turn, born of the me-first libertarianism of the very rich, however, Henry Ford also comes to mind. What emerges clearly is that Musk, who may or may not have Asperger’s syndrome (“Empathy did not come naturally”), has nurtured several obsessions for years, apart from a passion for the letter X as both a brand and personal name. He firmly believes that “all requirements should be treated as recommendations”; that it is his destiny to make humankind a multi-planetary civilization through innovations in space travel; that government is generally an impediment and that “the thought police are gaining power”; and that “a maniacal sense of urgency” should guide his businesses. That need for speed has led to undeniable successes in beating schedules and competitors, but it has also wrought disaster: One of the most telling anecdotes in the book concerns Musk’s “demon mode” order to relocate thousands of Twitter servers from Sacramento to Portland at breakneck speed, which trashed big parts of the system for months. To judge by Isaacson’s account, that may have been by design, for Musk’s idea of creative destruction seems to mean mostly chaos.

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9781982181284

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023

BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

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

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