A worthy tool for liberal educators, but it is not likely to change the minds of conservatives who feel that prisoners are...




A graphic primer on the inequities of the American penal system, presumably aimed at students who have yet to form an opinion on the subject.

The third iteration of this title is one that even author Mauer (Invisible Punishment, 2002) writes is “certainly not a version that I would ever have anticipated.” It distills the influential 1999 text and subsequent update into a version that would have more emotional resonance, or, as the foreword by Michelle Alexander puts it, “would be engaging and accessible to young readers and people in all walks of life, not just policy wonks.” As illustrated by Jones (Isadora Duncan: A Graphic Biography, 2008), the simplified condensation hits all the high points: the racial disparities faced by those in the judicial system (particularly in regard to drug cases), the growth of the prison industry, the price paid for the “War on Drugs,” “Law and Order” and “Three Strikes and You’re Out” campaigns, and the tension and conflict between deterrence (and punishment) and rehabilitation. Even comparatively liberal President Bill Clinton failed to reverse a trend in which more than two decades of spending “had bloated the prison system, while cuts to social programs had starved the inner cities.” Where middle-class whites are often allowed to seek treatment for drug abuse, black users more often face prison, with mandated sentences. “Looking back on two centuries of prison in America, how little has changed,” the text maintains. “The basic concept is caging humans.” Though conservatives claim that the increase in incarceration has reduced crime, this manifesto argues that other factors have contributed to this decline. The graphic narrative builds the basic case for human values rather than draconian punishment, for investment in social services rather than the prison industry.

A worthy tool for liberal educators, but it is not likely to change the minds of conservatives who feel that prisoners are getting what they deserve.

Pub Date: April 2, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-59558-541-7

Page Count: 128

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 7, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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