In this bafflingly disappointing autobiography, Kunstler, radical lawyer extraordinaire, is once again arguing a difficult case—this time his own. As defense attorney in some of this country's highest profile political courtroom dramas, throughout his astounding career (he's now 75) Kunstler has chosen to champion political causes rather than people—causes that were often very unpopular (he's currently representing Colin Ferguson, charged with murder on the Long Island Railroad). His rallying cry is the defense of the underdog, those he feels are most rejected by society and who therefore risk missing out on that all-American right: a good defense. But his hard-hitting remarks here (written with Isenberg, Women Who Love Men Who Kill, 1991) about the corruption and racism of the American judiciary get drowned in dry, criminally uniformative narrative that belies the passion it is intended to convey. Instead of offering us a unique view of cases involving Abbie Hoffman and the Yippies, Martin Luther King, and others, we get empty apologies for a childhood appreciation of ``Amos 'n' Andy'' and compulsive philandering during his many travels. He intriguingly calls the Kennedys ``dangerous,'' but presents no further explanation, and his criticism of another leftie lawyer, former NAACP director Jack Greenberg (Crusaders in the Courts, p. 363) smacks of petty in- fighting. Kunstler's career has followed the political times: Earlier in his career he considered any situation in which a black man shot a white cop to be a political case; today he finds himself rushing to defend Arabs (i.e., the World Trade Center bombing case). Though he gives an interesting if idiosyncratic introduction to legal politics, Kunstler seems primarily obsessed with his outsider status; he needs to prove that he is hip and sexy despite his briefcase. One would have hoped for more from a man who has stood up for justice in courtrooms often determined to undermine it.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1994

ISBN: 1-55972-265-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Birch Lane Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1994

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A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.



In her first nonfiction book, novelist Grande (Dancing with Butterflies, 2009, etc.) delves into her family’s cycle of separation and reunification.

Raised in poverty so severe that spaghetti reminded her of the tapeworms endemic to children in her Mexican hometown, the author is her family’s only college graduate and writer, whose honors include an American Book Award and International Latino Book Award. Though she was too young to remember her father when he entered the United States illegally seeking money to improve life for his family, she idolized him from afar. However, she also blamed him for taking away her mother after he sent for her when the author was not yet 5 years old. Though she emulated her sister, she ultimately answered to herself, and both siblings constantly sought affirmation of their parents’ love, whether they were present or not. When one caused disappointment, the siblings focused their hopes on the other. These contradictions prove to be the narrator’s hallmarks, as she consistently displays a fierce willingness to ask tough questions, accept startling answers, and candidly render emotional and physical violence. Even as a girl, Grande understood the redemptive power of language to define—in the U.S., her name’s literal translation, “big queen,” led to ridicule from other children—and to complicate. In spelling class, when a teacher used the sentence “my mamá loves me” (mi mamá me ama), Grande decided to “rearrange the words so that they formed a question: ¿Me ama mi mamá? Does my mama love me?”

A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-6177-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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