A solid combination of research, compassion, and anger that sheds light on a highly flawed system.

THE SHADOW SYSTEM

MASS INCARCERATION AND THE AMERICAN FAMILY

A black journalist with firsthand experience of the incarceration system’s impact on families, especially children, reveals its many wrongs.

With adequate statistics to back up her arguments, Harvey, who reports frequently on race and the criminal justice system (the Nation, New York Post, VQR, etc.), charges that structural racism, inequality, and biased legislation all hit poor and racial minorities the hardest. In addition to presenting her research, the author tells moving human stories of three cases—in Miami, Louisville, and Jackson, Mississippi. She rotates through these so every third chapter returns to one of them, a narrative strategy that allows the author to expand on the details of each case. Rather than focusing on the people behind bars, Harvey investigates the stories of their families on the outside, showing how the family members of the incarcerated provide a vital lifeline to the prisoners. Through her often poignant close-ups, readers get to know them and see how they have been adversely affected both economically and emotionally and how difficult it is for millions of children to spend quality time with incarcerated parents. Moving beyond the individual human stories that make this account so readable, Harvey also gives a bigger picture of the institutions—the criminal justice system, the welfare system, and the education system—and their programs and practices that affect the lives of families of the incarcerated. Furthermore, she makes comparisons between the actions of the Obama and Trump administrations and examines what individual states have and have not done. Reform of the criminal justice system is essential, she writes. In order for this to occur, we must work diligently to overcome public indifference and willful ignorance: “Who are we if we don’t stand up for those most vulnerable?”

A solid combination of research, compassion, and anger that sheds light on a highly flawed system.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-56858-880-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bold Type Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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A forceful, necessarily provocative call to action for the preservation and protection of American Jewish freedom.

HOW TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM

Known for her often contentious perspectives, New York Times opinion writer Weiss battles societal Jewish intolerance through lucid prose and a linear playbook of remedies.

While she was vividly aware of anti-Semitism throughout her life, the reality of the problem hit home when an active shooter stormed a Pittsburgh synagogue where her family regularly met for morning services and where she became a bat mitzvah years earlier. The massacre that ensued there further spurred her outrage and passionate activism. She writes that European Jews face a three-pronged threat in contemporary society, where physical, moral, and political fears of mounting violence are putting their general safety in jeopardy. She believes that Americans live in an era when “the lunatic fringe has gone mainstream” and Jews have been forced to become “a people apart.” With palpable frustration, she adroitly assesses the origins of anti-Semitism and how its prevalence is increasing through more discreet portals such as internet self-radicalization. Furthermore, the erosion of civility and tolerance and the demonization of minorities continue via the “casual racism” of political figures like Donald Trump. Following densely political discourses on Zionism and radical Islam, the author offers a list of bullet-point solutions focused on using behavioral and personal action items—individual accountability, active involvement, building community, loving neighbors, etc.—to help stem the tide of anti-Semitism. Weiss sounds a clarion call to Jewish readers who share her growing angst as well as non-Jewish Americans who wish to arm themselves with the knowledge and intellectual tools to combat marginalization and defuse and disavow trends of dehumanizing behavior. “Call it out,” she writes. “Especially when it’s hard.” At the core of the text is the author’s concern for the health and safety of American citizens, and she encourages anyone “who loves freedom and seeks to protect it” to join with her in vigorous activism.

A forceful, necessarily provocative call to action for the preservation and protection of American Jewish freedom.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-593-13605-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2019

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