An important story of a great civil rights battle told in exhaustive detail.

THE ENGAGEMENT

AMERICA'S QUARTER-CENTURY STRUGGLE OVER SAME-SEX MARRIAGE

A journalist and political science professor chronicles the fight for same-sex marriage from its beginnings through the presidential candidacy of Pete Buttigieg.

In 1990, three same-sex couples applied “on a lark” for Hawaii marriage licenses. The inevitable rejection set in motion a cascade of legal and political challenges that culminated in the landmark Obergefell v. Hodges decision, which legalized same-sex marriage throughout the U.S. In this exceptionally comprehensive but overlong and inefficiently organized account, Issenberg, Washington correspondent for the Monocle, shows how the movement lurched forward through triumphs in states like Vermont and Massachusetts and seemingly fatal setbacks such as Bill Clinton’s signing of the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. Advocates of marriage equality had to overcome not just political and religious foes—among them, Catholic bishops, Protestant evangelicals, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—but conflicts in their own ranks between incrementalists willing to settle for civil unions and those who saw anything less than marriage as second-class status for same-sex couples. The movement prevailed with the help of courageous opponents such as Dan Foley, a Buddhist attorney who took on the Hawaii marriage-license applicants as clients after chanting about it; and Mary Bonauto, a lawyer for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, whom former congressman Barney Frank called “our Thurgood Marshall.” Issenberg’s encyclopedic narrative, though written well on the sentence level, has an inelegant structure that reveals an author unable or unwilling to necessarily condense the narrative (at least 200 pages could have been cut). He also includes too many unedifying details, including an attempt to put Barack Obama’s support for gay rights in context in part by stating, “Both Obama’s high-school drug dealer and favorite college professor were gay men.” Future journalists or historians will likely offer more efficient histories, but Issenberg’s research makes the book a vital source for bookstores, libraries, and LGBTQ studies completists.

An important story of a great civil rights battle told in exhaustive detail.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-524-74873-9

Page Count: 928

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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