Concise, convincing arguments against the continuation of capital punishment in America.

A DESCENDING SPIRAL

EXPOSING THE DEATH PENALTY IN 12 ESSAYS

Essays from one of America’s most prominent death penalty abolitionists.

In authoritative and scholarly yet largely accessible language, Bookman—director of the Atlantic Center for Capital Representation and veteran capital defense attorney who has contributed to Mother Jones, the Atlantic, and other publications as well as numerous editions of the Best American Essays series—evaluates a dozen cases that expose glaring injustices endemic to the system. Mental illness and its (mis)diagnosis is clearly one of the problem areas, as demonstrated by the chilling case of Andre Thomas, who, inspired by a demonic delusion, murdered his family in a psychotic rage in 2004. The author argues against the death penalty in cases where a severe “intellectual disability” is readily present and medically verified, and he points out that because each state’s laws vary, so do the fates of their felons. Bookman delineates situations where capital punishment is not only unjust, but upheld through an overlooked breach of process and based on convoluted evidence, an unstable criminal, or racially tainted conclusions. The author spotlights cases plagued by prosecutorial misconduct, judicial override, and racially biased judges and jurors, and he details situations in which the convicted party received the death penalty through the improprieties of skewed perspectives. He also probes the history of—and general hesitancy about—the execution of women and shows the danger of impaired representation. “In the same way that alcoholics see things more clearly when they stop drinking,” he writes, “death penalty cases often come into better focus when good lawyers take over from bad ones.” As a staunch death penalty abolitionist, Bookman creates a clear, comprehensive portrait of a broken system, and the cases he highlights make for fascinating reading. The author acknowledges that while executions and death sentences have decreased significantly, there remains a great amount of work to see it “grind to a slow and painful halt after an accumulation of wrongs.”

Concise, convincing arguments against the continuation of capital punishment in America.

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-62097-654-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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A lively and thoughtful memoir that, one hopes, will inspire readers to pursue activism in every realm of society.

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PERSIST

The Massachusetts senator and financial reformer recounts several of her good fights over the years.

Famous for being chided for “persisting” on the Senate floor, Warren is nearly a byword for the application of an unbending, if usually polite, feminism to the corridors of power. Though she has a schoolmarm-ish air—and indeed taught school for much of her life—she gladly owns up to liking a beer or two and enjoying a good brawl, and she’s a scrapper with a long memory. In 2008, when she shopped a proposal to found a federal agency that “could act as a watchdog to make sure that consumers weren’t getting cheated by financial institutions,” she encountered a congressman who “laughed in my face.” She doesn’t reveal his name, but you can bet he crosses the hall when she’s coming the other way. Warren does name other names, especially Donald Trump, who, with Republicans on the Hill, accomplished only one thing, namely “a $2 trillion tax cut that mostly benefited rich people.” Now that the Democrats are in power, the author reckons that the time is ripe to shake off the Trump debacle and build “a nation that works, not just for the rich and powerful but for everyone.” She identifies numerous areas that need immediate attention, from financial reform to bringing more women into the workplace and mandating equal pay for equal work. Warren premises some of these changes on increased taxes on the rich, happily citing a billionaire well known for insider trading, who complained of her, “This is the fucking American dream she is shitting on.” The author reverts to form: “Oh dear. Did I hit a nerve?” Warren’s common-sensical proposals on housing, infrastructure development, and civil rights merit attention, and her book makes for a sometimes-funny, sometimes–sharp-tongued pleasure.

A lively and thoughtful memoir that, one hopes, will inspire readers to pursue activism in every realm of society.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-79924-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

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A PROMISED LAND

In the first volume of his presidential memoir, Obama recounts the hard path to the White House.

In this long, often surprisingly candid narrative, Obama depicts a callow youth spent playing basketball and “getting loaded,” his early reading of difficult authors serving as a way to impress coed classmates. (“As a strategy for picking up girls, my pseudo-intellectualism proved mostly worthless,” he admits.) Yet seriousness did come to him in time and, with it, the conviction that America could live up to its stated aspirations. His early political role as an Illinois state senator, itself an unlikely victory, was not big enough to contain Obama’s early ambition, nor was his term as U.S. Senator. Only the presidency would do, a path he painstakingly carved out, vote by vote and speech by careful speech. As he writes, “By nature I’m a deliberate speaker, which, by the standards of presidential candidates, helped keep my gaffe quotient relatively low.” The author speaks freely about the many obstacles of the race—not just the question of race and racism itself, but also the rise, with “potent disruptor” Sarah Palin, of a know-nothingism that would manifest itself in an obdurate, ideologically driven Republican legislature. Not to mention the meddlings of Donald Trump, who turns up in this volume for his idiotic “birther” campaign while simultaneously fishing for a contract to build “a beautiful ballroom” on the White House lawn. A born moderate, Obama allows that he might not have been ideological enough in the face of Mitch McConnell, whose primary concern was then “clawing [his] way back to power.” Indeed, one of the most compelling aspects of the book, as smoothly written as his previous books, is Obama’s cleareyed scene-setting for how the political landscape would become so fractured—surely a topic he’ll expand on in the next volume.

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6316-9

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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