A revealing study with broad implications for policymakers and law enforcement.

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POWER ON THE INSIDE

A GLOBAL HISTORY OF PRISON GANGS

Eye-opening examination of the different hierarchies and ideologies employed by prison gangs around the world.

In many instances, writes criminology professor Roth, prison gangs are essential units of self-government in places where institutional management is weak. In the Philippines, for example, they provide a “network of social support in what is generously described as an overcrowded and deprived environment.” Similarly, the Neapolitan Camorra was the only branch of the too widely applied term Mafia to have been born inside the prison walls, where its leaders maintained order and discipline on behalf of the wardens for a hefty fee, even while “taxing prisoners for every facet of their prison existence.” Some prison systems have a clear ethnic component. The laws of apartheid South Africa, for example, “guaranteed that a large proportion of black South African males would be exposed to the criminal justice system at one time or another,” and the structure of New Zealand justice is such that while Maoris represent a small portion of the population, they constitute about half of the country’s prisoners. The U.S. is, interestingly, broad-based in its ethnic representation owing to what Roth characterizes as a vast expansion of the prison system beginning in the 1950s. The country has the world’s largest population of prisoners, but “its prisons are comparative sanctuaries of safety and order” in which the bloody riots common in places like Guatemala and El Salvador seldom occur. Even so, American prisons are carved up into territories belonging to groups such as the Mexican Mafia and the Aryan Nations that operate both inside and outside the walls and exact a harsh justice system of their own. Ranging across the world, Roth closes with the ominous prediction that prisons are likely to remain overcrowded and gang-infested well into the future since “a much larger supply of potential gang recruits looms on the horizon as the world’s population gets younger.”

A revealing study with broad implications for policymakers and law enforcement.

Pub Date: Nov. 19, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Reaktion Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

HUMANS

The creator of the hit internet series Humans of New York takes it global, chasing down a panoply of interesting stories.

In 1955, Edward Steichen staged a show called “The Family of Man,” a gathering of photographs that emphasized the commonality of humankind. Stanton’s project seemingly has much the same ambition. “You’ve created this magic little corner of the Web where people feel safe sharing their stories—without being ridiculed, or bullied, or judged,” he writes. “These stories are only honestly shared because they have a long history of being warmly received.” The ask is the hard part: approaching a total stranger and asking him or her to tell their stories. And what stories they are. A young Frenchwoman, tearful, recounts being able to see things from the spirit world that no one else can see. “And it’s been a very lonely existence since then,” she says. A sensible teenager in St. Petersburg, Russia, relates that her friends are trying to be grown-up, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, whereas she wants to remain a child close to her parents: “I’d like these times to last as long as possible.” A few stories are obnoxious, as with a Dutch incel who has converted himself into a pickup artist and outright cad: “Of course it’s manipulation, but why should I care? I’ve been manipulated so many times in my life.” A great many stories, some going for several pages but most taking up just a paragraph or two, are regretful, speaking to dashed dreams and roads not taken. A surprising number recount mental illness, depression, and addiction; “I’d give anything to have a tribe,” says a beleaguered mother in Barcelona. Some are hopeful, though, such as that of an Iranian woman: “I’ve fallen in love with literature. I try to read for one or two hours every day. I only have one life to live. But in books I can live one thousand lives.”

A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11429-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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This guide to Black culture for White people is accessible but rarely easy.

UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATIONS WITH A BLACK MAN

A former NFL player casts his gimlet eye on American race relations.

In his first book, Acho, an analyst for Fox Sports who grew up in Dallas as the son of Nigerian immigrants, addresses White readers who have sent him questions about Black history and culture. “My childhood,” he writes, “was one big study abroad in white culture—followed by studying abroad in black culture during college and then during my years in the NFL, which I spent on teams with 80-90 percent black players, each of whom had his own experience of being a person of color in America. Now, I’m fluent in both cultures: black and white.” While the author avoids condescending to readers who already acknowledge their White privilege or understand why it’s unacceptable to use the N-word, he’s also attuned to the sensitive nature of the topic. As such, he has created “a place where questions you may have been afraid to ask get answered.” Acho has a deft touch and a historian’s knack for marshaling facts. He packs a lot into his concise narrative, from an incisive historical breakdown of American racial unrest and violence to the ways of cultural appropriation: Your friend respecting and appreciating Black arts and culture? OK. Kim Kardashian showing off her braids and attributing her sense of style to Bo Derek? Not so much. Within larger chapters, the text, which originated with the author’s online video series with the same title, is neatly organized under helpful headings: “Let’s rewind,” “Let’s get uncomfortable,” “Talk it, walk it.” Acho can be funny, but that’s not his goal—nor is he pedaling gotcha zingers or pleas for headlines. The author delivers exactly what he promises in the title, tackling difficult topics with the depth of an engaged cultural thinker and the style of an experienced wordsmith. Throughout, Acho is a friendly guide, seeking to sow understanding even if it means risking just a little discord.

This guide to Black culture for White people is accessible but rarely easy.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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