An illuminating account of a somber world behind bars.

RAZOR WIRE WILDERNESS

A nonfiction work chronicles a female inmate’s life in a New Jersey prison.

A judge sentenced Krystal Riordan to 30 years for her part in a 2006 kidnapping, rape, and murder. Her pimp boyfriend raped and beat to death an 18-year-old girl; Riordan’s crime was being in the same hotel room and doing nothing while the vicious attack occurred. Dickinson, who loosely based a novel on the killing, doesn’t focus on the specifics of the 2006 crime in this book. Rather, she shines a light on Riordan and her fellow prisoners in the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility in Clinton. Many inmates had troubled lives before serving time. Riordan herself suffered her uncle’s molestation and later attended the Élan School in Maine, an infamous residential school that abused students. Treatment inside the prison could be cruel as well; Riordan’s closest friend, Lucy Weems, went through an agonizing heroin withdrawal with nothing to alleviate her pain. But the women acclimated to the new normal in prison as they made what they couldn’t afford (such as hygiene products) and engaged in dalliances as secretly as possible (the law forbade even consensual sex). The author also details one inmate’s release and subsequent readjustment to a world featuring a job at a McDonald’s and a humorless parole officer. While Dickinson aptly showcases the New Jersey facility’s hardships, Riordan’s days in Élan seem far more harrowing. She even claimed to prefer the prison’s maximum compound over the school. The engrossing book is nevertheless profound; the author befriended some of the women and includes in her work snippets of personal correspondence with the inmates. She furthermore equates some of her own experiences with Riordan’s, from Dickinson’s troubled past—a gunshot permanently paralyzed her left arm—to the nine days she spent in jail for protesting the Vietnam War. Her prose is sometimes clinical, though to great effect. Describing the prison’s economy, the author deftly shows how frighteningly easily a dispute over $30 turned violent.

An illuminating account of a somber world behind bars. (dedication, disclaimer, acknowledgements)

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 253

Publisher: Kallisto Gaia Press

Review Posted Online: March 22, 2021

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A lively and thoughtful memoir that, one hopes, will inspire readers to pursue activism in every realm of society.

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PERSIST

The Massachusetts senator and financial reformer recounts several of her good fights over the years.

Famous for being chided for “persisting” on the Senate floor, Warren is nearly a byword for the application of an unbending, if usually polite, feminism to the corridors of power. Though she has a schoolmarm-ish air—and indeed taught school for much of her life—she gladly owns up to liking a beer or two and enjoying a good brawl, and she’s a scrapper with a long memory. In 2008, when she shopped a proposal to found a federal agency that “could act as a watchdog to make sure that consumers weren’t getting cheated by financial institutions,” she encountered a congressman who “laughed in my face.” She doesn’t reveal his name, but you can bet he crosses the hall when she’s coming the other way. Warren does name other names, especially Donald Trump, who, with Republicans on the Hill, accomplished only one thing, namely “a $2 trillion tax cut that mostly benefited rich people.” Now that the Democrats are in power, the author reckons that the time is ripe to shake off the Trump debacle and build “a nation that works, not just for the rich and powerful but for everyone.” She identifies numerous areas that need immediate attention, from financial reform to bringing more women into the workplace and mandating equal pay for equal work. Warren premises some of these changes on increased taxes on the rich, happily citing a billionaire well known for insider trading, who complained of her, “This is the fucking American dream she is shitting on.” The author reverts to form: “Oh dear. Did I hit a nerve?” Warren’s common-sensical proposals on housing, infrastructure development, and civil rights merit attention, and her book makes for a sometimes-funny, sometimes–sharp-tongued pleasure.

A lively and thoughtful memoir that, one hopes, will inspire readers to pursue activism in every realm of society.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-79924-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: yesterday

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