A well-documented, hard-hitting, necessary exposé.

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A PLACE OUTSIDE THE LAW

FORGOTTEN VOICES FROM GUANTANAMO

The founder and director of Witness to Guantánamo shares his research on nearly 20 years of lawlessness there.

Since the military prison was founded in 2002, this “detention center for alleged terrorists” has housed inmates who have been held indefinitely without being charged and without legal representation or recourse for enduring extralegal torture. (Most have since been released from custody.) Honigsberg (Univ. of San Francisco School of Law; Our Nation Unhinged: The Human Consequences of the War on Terror, 2009, etc.) and a crew of researchers have conducted 158 videotaped interviews (more than 300 hours of film across 20 countries) with detainees; their distraught family members; Guantánamo guards and interrogators from the U.S. military; civilian and military lawyers; and interpreters hired by the federal government to deal with the mixture of languages spoken by those incarcerated. The author presents factual accounts based on the videotaped interviews and wide-ranging supplemental research. Honigsberg combines his impressive research with his persistent advocacy for detainees who clearly played no role in the 9/11 attacks and who almost certainly never posed any threat to American citizens. In easily understood lay terms, the author explains how the George W. Bush administration ignored federal court rulings regarding humane treatment, how Congress furthered the lawlessness, how federal lawyers invented the status of “enemy combatant,” and how the Obama administration never observed promises to shut down Guantánamo. Some of the most unforgettable profiles in the narrative focus on detainee Mourad Benchellali, interpreter Rushan Abbas, military defense attorney Matt Diaz, civilian defense lawyer Gita Gutierrez (on the staff of the Center for Constitutional Rights), military guard Brandon Neely, journalist Carol Rosenberg, and Damien Corsetti, the so-called “King of Torture.” As presented convincingly by the author, the misconduct by the U.S. government is so egregious that readers with a moral compass could fairly conclude that many individuals have been wrongly incarcerated.

A well-documented, hard-hitting, necessary exposé.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8070-2698-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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Finely honed biographical intuition and a novelist’s sensibility make for a stylish, engrossing narrative.

THE MAN IN THE RED COAT

A fresh, urbane history of the dramatic and melodramatic belle epoque.

When Barnes (The Only Story, 2018, etc.), winner of the Man Booker Prize and many other literary awards, first saw John Singer Sargent’s striking portrait of Dr. Samuel Pozzi—handsome, “virile, yet slender,” dressed in a sumptuous scarlet coat—he was intrigued by a figure he had not yet encountered in his readings about 19th-century France. The wall label revealed that Pozzi was a gynecologist; a magazine article called him “not only the father of French gynecology, but also a confirmed sex addict who routinely attempted to seduce his female patients.” The paradox of healer and exploiter posed an alluring mystery that Barnes was eager to investigate. Pozzi, he discovered, succeeded in his amorous affairs as much as in his acclaimed career. “I have never met a man as seductive as Pozzi,” the arrogant Count Robert de Montesquiou recalled; Pozzi was a “man of rare good sense and rare good taste,” “filled with knowledge and purpose” as well as “grace and charm.” The author’s portrait, as admiring as Sargent’s, depicts a “hospitable, generous” man, “rich by marriage, clubbable, inquisitive, cultured and well travelled,” and brilliant. The cosmopolitan Pozzi, his supercilious friend Montesquiou, and “gentle, whimsical” Edmond de Polignac are central characters in Barnes’ irreverent, gossipy, sparkling history of the belle epoque, “a time of vast wealth for the wealthy, of social power for the aristocracy, of uncontrolled and intricate snobbery, of headlong colonial ambition, of artistic patronage, and of duels whose scale of violence often reflected personal irascibility more than offended honor.” Dueling, writes the author, “was not just the highest form of sport, it also required the highest form of manliness.” Barnes peoples his history with a spirited cast of characters, including Sargent and Whistler, Oscar Wilde and Sarah Bernhardt (who adored Pozzi), Henry James and Proust, Pozzi’s diarist daughter, Catherine, and unhappy wife, Therese, and scores more.

Finely honed biographical intuition and a novelist’s sensibility make for a stylish, engrossing narrative.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-65877-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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