The combination of muckraking research and absolutism make the book passionate and convincing as advocacy, though...

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BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE

THE END OF JUVENILE PRISON

An investigation of the American juvenile justice system, seen as too fundamentally corrosive to be reformed.

“The story of juvenile justice,” writes Bernstein (All Alone in the World: Children of the Incarcerated, 2005), “is often told in terms of pendulum swings between the opposing goals of rehabilitation and punishment.” Today, although cash-strapped states have incentive to modify restrictive facilities, the retributive attitudes formed during the tough-on-crime 1980s and ’90s are more resistant to change. The author argues that even as rates of violent crime committed by juveniles have fallen, an obsession developed for punitive confinement of what she terms “other people’s children,” epitomized in the ’90s by the debunked “super-predator” theory. She notes that over the past several decades, most states have expanded their juvenile detention systems so that they now resemble adult imprisonment. In addition, such confinement is generally reserved for the poor and minority youngsters, whereas white and suburban kids are usually allowed to “grow out” of their juvenile infractions—“for poor kids of color, getting locked up takes appallingly little.” While Bernstein argues the fundamental wrongness of treating children like adult offenders, she is more outraged by the actual conditions that have persisted through sporadic periods of investigation and reform in many state systems. She documents a disturbing litany of violence and endemic sexual abuse, frequently at the hands of guards: “Unprotected, young people learn they are unworthy of protection.” The many former prisoners whose experiences Bernstein documents convince her that the system is beyond repair, even though she encounters compassionate administrators who concur that “understanding the nihilism that can afflict traumatized children opens the door to imagining alternatives” beyond incarceration. The author concludes by asserting that despite massive investments, the current system “[does] not recognize these children’s fundamental humanity.”

The combination of muckraking research and absolutism make the book passionate and convincing as advocacy, though conservative readers may be less moved.

Pub Date: June 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-59558-956-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

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Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

THREE WOMEN

Based on eight years of reporting and thousands of hours of interaction, a journalist chronicles the inner worlds of three women’s erotic desires.

In her dramatic debut about “what longing in America looks like,” Taddeo, who has contributed to Esquire, Elle, and other publications, follows the sex lives of three American women. On the surface, each woman’s story could be a soap opera. There’s Maggie, a teenager engaged in a secret relationship with her high school teacher; Lina, a housewife consumed by a torrid affair with an old flame; and Sloane, a wealthy restaurateur encouraged by her husband to sleep with other people while he watches. Instead of sensationalizing, the author illuminates Maggie’s, Lina’s, and Sloane’s erotic experiences in the context of their human complexities and personal histories, revealing deeper wounds and emotional yearnings. Lina’s infidelity was driven by a decade of her husband’s romantic and sexual refusal despite marriage counseling and Lina's pleading. Sloane’s Fifty Shades of Grey–like lifestyle seems far less exotic when readers learn that she has felt pressured to perform for her husband's pleasure. Taddeo’s coverage is at its most nuanced when she chronicles Maggie’s decision to go to the authorities a few years after her traumatic tryst. Recounting the subsequent trial against Maggie’s abuser, the author honors the triumph of Maggie’s courageous vulnerability as well as the devastating ramifications of her community’s disbelief. Unfortunately, this book on “female desire” conspicuously omits any meaningful discussion of social identities beyond gender and class; only in the epilogue does Taddeo mention race and its impacts on women's experiences with sex and longing. Such oversight brings a palpable white gaze to the narrative. Compounded by the author’s occasionally lackluster prose, the book’s flaws compete with its meaningful contribution to #MeToo–era reporting.

Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4516-4229-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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