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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A concise personal and scholarly history that avoids academic jargon as it illuminates emotional truths.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

ON JUNETEENTH

The Harvard historian and Texas native demonstrates what the holiday means to her and to the rest of the nation.

Initially celebrated primarily by Black Texans, Juneteenth refers to June 19, 1865, when a Union general arrived in Galveston to proclaim the end of slavery with the defeat of the Confederacy. If only history were that simple. In her latest, Gordon-Reed, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and numerous other honors, describes how Whites raged and committed violence against celebratory Blacks as racism in Texas and across the country continued to spread through segregation, Jim Crow laws, and separate-but-equal rationalizations. As Gordon-Reed amply shows in this smooth combination of memoir, essay, and history, such racism is by no means a thing of the past, even as Juneteenth has come to be celebrated by all of Texas and throughout the U.S. The Galveston announcement, notes the author, came well after the Emancipation Proclamation but before the ratification of the 13th Amendment. Though Gordon-Reed writes fondly of her native state, especially the strong familial ties and sense of community, she acknowledges her challenges as a woman of color in a state where “the image of Texas has a gender and a race: “Texas is a White man.” The author astutely explores “what that means for everyone who lives in Texas and is not a White man.” With all of its diversity and geographic expanse, Texas also has a singular history—as part of Mexico, as its own republic from 1836 to 1846, and as a place that “has connections to people of African descent that go back centuries.” All of this provides context for the uniqueness of this historical moment, which Gordon-Reed explores with her characteristic rigor and insight.

A concise personal and scholarly history that avoids academic jargon as it illuminates emotional truths.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63149-883-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 48

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

A PROMISED LAND

In the first volume of his presidential memoir, Obama recounts the hard path to the White House.

In this long, often surprisingly candid narrative, Obama depicts a callow youth spent playing basketball and “getting loaded,” his early reading of difficult authors serving as a way to impress coed classmates. (“As a strategy for picking up girls, my pseudo-intellectualism proved mostly worthless,” he admits.) Yet seriousness did come to him in time and, with it, the conviction that America could live up to its stated aspirations. His early political role as an Illinois state senator, itself an unlikely victory, was not big enough to contain Obama’s early ambition, nor was his term as U.S. Senator. Only the presidency would do, a path he painstakingly carved out, vote by vote and speech by careful speech. As he writes, “By nature I’m a deliberate speaker, which, by the standards of presidential candidates, helped keep my gaffe quotient relatively low.” The author speaks freely about the many obstacles of the race—not just the question of race and racism itself, but also the rise, with “potent disruptor” Sarah Palin, of a know-nothingism that would manifest itself in an obdurate, ideologically driven Republican legislature. Not to mention the meddlings of Donald Trump, who turns up in this volume for his idiotic “birther” campaign while simultaneously fishing for a contract to build “a beautiful ballroom” on the White House lawn. A born moderate, Obama allows that he might not have been ideological enough in the face of Mitch McConnell, whose primary concern was then “clawing [his] way back to power.” Indeed, one of the most compelling aspects of the book, as smoothly written as his previous books, is Obama’s cleareyed scene-setting for how the political landscape would become so fractured—surely a topic he’ll expand on in the next volume.

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6316-9

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

more