A crisp analysis of the limits of our civil rights laws and a prescription for how to move beyond them.

RIGHTS GONE WRONG

HOW LAW IGNORES COMMON SENSE AND UNDERMINES SOCIAL JUSTICE

A law professor argues against the harmful misuse of our civil-rights laws.

If instances of outright discrimination today are relatively rare, we have the 20th-century's civil-rights movement and the laws it inspired to thank. Ford (Law/Stanford Law School; The Race Card: How Bluffing About Bias Makes Race Relations Worse, 2008, etc.) forthrightly acknowledges this monumental achievement, but asks if those laws are now being stretched too far to cover every type of unfairness or slight. In an increasingly ambiguous and complex social landscape, are we doing more harm than good by insisting every injury or grievance amounts to a civil-rights violation? Ford enlivens his discussion with numerous, colorful example of rights gone wrong, cases where the laws are being abused to the detriment of genuine social justice. For example, Google fires a veteran Internet pioneer, deeming him a poor cultural fit. He sues, claiming age discrimination. A fan sues a Major League Baseball team after being denied the Mother's Day goodie bag distributed to all females. Another man files suit to be a waiter at Hooters; still another repairs to court against a Manhattan nightclub for its ladies' night promotion. All claim sex discrimination. A Harvard medical student, already granted an extra eight hours to complete a licensing exam because of her ADHD, demands still more time for a breast-pumping break. The organized San Francisco bicyclists who disrupt traffic, the Million Man marchers, the Promise Keepers, plaintiffs, protesters, even the Jena Six criminal defendants—all vigorously assert their "civil rights" and all, writes Ford, injure the social compact that recognizes a corresponding duty for every right. To view every instance of disparate treatment through the lens of discrimination—at the expense of common sense, civility and pragmatic problem-solving in the public interest—is to encourage the moral poseurs, narcissists, absolutists and extremists among us and to invite a host of outrageous, unintended consequences for those the laws were intended to help.

A crisp analysis of the limits of our civil rights laws and a prescription for how to move beyond them.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-25035-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: July 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2011

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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