Like eating dessert first, if your idea of dessert is despair flavored with rage.



A bound copy of the text of the dissenting opinions in the recent watershed case.

As the title (printed in massive letters on the cover) hints, the dissenting opinion fronts this publication of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. That is the only change made to the text, which is freely available on the court’s website. The book contains no annotations nor any other concessions to lay readers, who will find themselves picking their way through the document’s many impenetrable citations—e.g., “See Janus v. State, County, and Municipal Employees, 585 U. S. ___, ___, ___–___ (2018) (slip op., at 42, 47–49).” This publication’s chief assets are its portability and, for readers who disagree with the majority as fervently as the dissenting justices do, the bolstering reassurance that at least someone understands the bedrock need for bodily autonomy as a prerequisite of liberty before they tackle the majority opinion, penned by Samuel Alito. (Readers accustomed to the conventions of legal writing may not blink at his sevenfold repetition that Roe v. Wade was “egregiously wrong,” but to lay readers it layers on the spite.) While literary gems are few, some passages may elicit a hollow chuckle or two. At one point, the dissenters mock Alito’s assertion that other rights associated with Roe, such as the right to contraception or marriage equality, are not at risk: “The majority tells everyone not to worry. It can (so it says) neatly extract the right to choose from the constitutional edifice without affecting any associated rights. (Think of someone telling you that the Jenga tower simply will not collapse.)” The unavoidable result of beginning with the dissent, however, is that readers will be faced with not only the majority opinion, but also the three concurrences—Clarence Thomas’ (strident), Brett Kavanaugh’s (vacuous), and John Roberts’ (insipid)—before finishing the book.

Like eating dessert first, if your idea of dessert is despair flavored with rage.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-68589-051-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Melville House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2022

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Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.


The former vice president reflects warmly on the president whose followers were encouraged to hang him.

Pence’s calm during the Trump years has been a source of bemusement, especially during the administration’s calamitous demise. In this bulky, oddly uncurious political memoir, Pence suggests the source of his composure is simple: frequent prayer and bottomless patience for politicking. After a relatively speedy recap of his personal and political history in Indiana—born-again Christian, conservative radio host, congressman, governor—he remembers greeting the prospect of serving under Trump with enthusiasm. He “was giving voice to the desperation and frustration caused by decades of government mismanagement,” he writes. Recounting how the Trump-Pence ticket won the White House in 2016, he recalls Trump as a fundamentally hardworking president, albeit one who often shot from the hip. Yet Pence finds Trump’s impulsivity an asset, setting contentious foreign leaders and Democrats off-balance. Soon they settled into good cop–bad cop roles; he was “the gentler voice,” while “it was Trump’s job to bring the thunder.” Throughout, Pence rationalizes and forgives all sorts of thundering. Sniping at John McCain? McCain never really took the time to understand him! Revolving-door staffers? He’s running government like a business! That phone call with Ukraine’s president? Overblown! Downplaying the threat Covid-19 presented in early 2020? Evidence, somehow, of “the leadership that President Trump showed in the early, harrowing days of the pandemic.” But for a second-in-command to such a disruptive figure, Pence dwells little on Trump’s motivations, which makes the story’s climax—Trump’s 2020 election denials and the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection—impossible for him to reconcile. How could such a selfless patriot fall under the sway of bad lawyers and conspiracy theorists? God only knows. Chalk it up to Pence's forgiving nature. In the lengthy acknowledgments he thanks seemingly everybody he’s known personally or politically; but one name’s missing.

Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2022

ISBN: 9781982190330

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2022

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A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.


From the Pocket Change Collective series

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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