A sometimes-moving, sometimes-simplistic take on the problem of race and justice.

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TOWARD HEALING AND RECONCILIATION

AN ANALYSIS OF ANTIQUATED AND MODERN DAY FORMS OF LYNCHINGS AND THEIR EFFECTS ON THE AFRICAN AMERICAN COMMUNITY AND THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

Black men are still being lynched by overtly racist cops and subtly racist courts and laws, according to this debut book.

Cobb, a minister, argues that latter-day incidents of police killings of unarmed black men, along with disproportionately harsh sentences given to black defendants, constitute a reprise of the lynching of black men in the South during the Jim Crow era. He begins his impassioned work with a history of lynching, from Reconstruction through the Emmett Till killing in 1955 and the murders of civil rights activists, noting the role of these crimes in enforcing racial segregation and suppressing African-American labor and political organizing. This section, illustrated with grisly photographs, is a powerful reminder of the pervasive violence blacks faced during that time. The author proceeds to apply the concept of lynching to contemporary police brutality and criminal justice disparities. He cites statistics showing that police kill unarmed black men at a much higher rate than white men, and that blacks are more likely to get the death penalty than whites who commit similar crimes. He also criticizes drug laws that disproportionately affect minorities. (He served 10 years in federal prison on what he believes were inflated drug charges.)  Along the way, he revisits notorious cases, like the police killing of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old black Cleveland youngster who was playing with a toy gun, and more obscure ones, such as the nonfatal shooting of Charles Kinsey, a black health worker trying to help an autistic patient, who was shot by Florida police while lying on the ground in broad daylight, unarmed, with his hands up. From these tragic case studies, Cobb makes a cogent argument about the ongoing unfairness in policing and the legal system. But his assertion that “police assault and shoot African- American males almost randomly” seems exaggerated, and his comparison of police killings, many done in a split second under chaotic circumstances by officers uncertain about the risks they face, to the deliberate public lynchings of the Jim Crow regime feels overdone. In addition, the author’s doctrinaire theorizing—“Within neo-colonial white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, the black male body continues to be perceived as an embodiment of bestial, violent, penis-as-weapon hyper-masculine assertion”—doesn’t always clarify a complex reality.

A sometimes-moving, sometimes-simplistic take on the problem of race and justice.

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5447-0229-2

Page Count: 236

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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