AFTER THE MADNESS

A JUDGE'S OWN PRISON MEMOIR

By turns absorbing, self-pitying, and intentionally (and unintentionally) amusing, former New York State chief judge Wachtler's memoir recounts a journey through hell—a prison term for charges stemming from attempted extortion, harassment, and kidnapping threats made against his former lover, socialite Joy Silverman, and her daughter. Wachtler is certainly entitled to criticize inequities he first discussed as a judge and then experienced as an inmate while serving 12 months in two federal prisons in North Carolina and Minnesota. These include mandatory jail sentences, draconian treatment for first-time drug offenders, dehumanizing strip searches, and overcrowded, violent prisons. One quality for which Wachtler won praise as a judge—his writing skill—is shown to best advantage in stories about fellow inmates, a group consisting of spies, Mafia kingpins, drug addicts, counterfeiters, and robbers. In his shock at his vertiginous fall from power, Wachtler echoes Sherman McCoy in his friend Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities. But it is his version of what brought him so low, not of what transpired in prison, that contains more spin than conviction. He writes that prescription-drug-induced manic-depression sparked his campaign against Silverman after their relationship ended, but doesn't explain why this didn't seem to affect his judicial performance. He attacks Michael Chertoff, the US attorney who prosecuted him, for seeking jail when an ``order of protection'' and mandated psychological treatment would have supposedly sufficed. Moreover, he cannot understand why Silverman went straight to the FBI about this case instead of simply asking him to stop. This is literally a case of ``blaming the victim,'' since one finds in Linda Wolfe's 1994 Double Life (an account otherwise hostile to Silverman) that Silverman did have her lawyer urge Wachtler to cease the harassment, only to have the judge deny everything, then escalate the threats. While compulsively readable, this confession conceals as much as it reveals, reeking more of resentment at the criminal justice system Wachtler once served than of repentance toward his victim. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-679-45653-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1997

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 11

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

SO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT RACE

Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.

In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a “white supremacist country.” The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as “one of the most defining forces” in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism “in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.” “Is it really about race?” she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. “Is police brutality really about race?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and “What is the model minority myth?” Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, “when somebody asks you to ‘check your privilege’ they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing.” She unpacks the complicated term “intersectionality”: the idea that social justice must consider “a myriad of identities—our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more—that inform our experiences in life.” She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, “they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you” and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make “diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority.”

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58005-677-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

Did you like this book?

more