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



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 clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.


Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.

In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a “white supremacist country.” The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as “one of the most defining forces” in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism “in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.” “Is it really about race?” she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. “Is police brutality really about race?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and “What is the model minority myth?” Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, “when somebody asks you to ‘check your privilege’ they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing.” She unpacks the complicated term “intersectionality”: the idea that social justice must consider “a myriad of identities—our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more—that inform our experiences in life.” She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, “they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you” and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make “diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority.”

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58005-677-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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A meandering chronicle of a year on the road.


The bestselling author explores the lure of nomadism.

At the age of 51, childless and soon to be divorced, Junger spent much of one year walking 400 miles alongside railroad lines in the eastern U.S. with a changing cast of three companions and his dog. They called their trek “the Last Patrol”: an escape, “a temporary injunction against whatever was coming,” and an interlude of freedom from the restrictions and demands of conventional life. Because the swaths of property alongside railroad lines were “the least monitored” land in the country, it seemed a safe choice for the wanderers, who did not want to be mistaken for vagrants. “Most nights,” Junger notes, “we were the only people in the world who knew where we were.” The author’s contemplative, digressive narrative combines vivid details of the walk, which was completed in several segments, with political, social, and cultural history; anthropology; and science. He ruminates on nomadic society, hunter-gatherers, Indigenous peoples, the perilous escapes of runaway slaves, various wars, and conflicts that include Cain’s jealousy of Abel and Ireland’s Easter uprising. Sometimes these musings involve considerations of freedom; not always. “Throughout history,” he writes, “good people and bad have maintained their freedom by simply staying out of reach of those who would deprive them of it. That generally meant walking a lot.” Nomadism has romantic appeal for Junger, just as, he claims, it has had for “the settled world.” To hunter-gatherers, working the land seemed a form of subservience; nomadic societies, asserts the author, were more equitable than societies centered around land ownership. Among hunter-gatherers, “although leaders understandably had more prestige than other people, they didn’t have more rights.” Although the trip did not yield epiphanies, Junger finally arrived at a place where he decided to stop wandering and step into his future. It was time “to face my life.”

A meandering chronicle of a year on the road.

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982153-41-0

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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