MixedThe Guardian (UK)Having unpacked both his own ambivalent, alienated and somewhat antipathetic personal connection to the weapon itself he then sets out to understand where the nation is coming from and why ... While there is something to Auster’s argument, there is not enough in it to carry the day and not enough elsewhere in the book to sustain it ... There are no easy answers. But I did expect that having demanded an honest, difficult national conversation he would, at least, go on to tell us what he thinks the nation should be talking about ... He doesn’t ... His failure to signal a destination, let alone arrive at one, leaves the reader lost and feeling as hopeless as when they started.
John Woodrow Cox
RaveThe New York TimesCox’s Children Under Fire: An American Crisis lays bare the human cost of things that cannot be counted when it comes to children and gun violence. Statistics on this issue have become so familiar that many Americans have become numb to the society they describe. On average, one child is shot every hour; over the past decade roughly 30,000 children and teenagers have been killed by gunfire — recently eclipsing cancer as their second-leading cause of death ... These children are the focus of Cox’s book, which makes their lived reality vivid and distressing by concentrating on two who are dealing with trauma after gun violence claimed a loved one ... The other element for which there can be no accounting in this engaging book is trust. Nonfiction of this kind cannot be crafted from a few phone calls and fleeting visits. It comes through an investment, both human and professional, that grants the writer a glimpse into the lives of people at their most vulnerable; they open up only if they feel confident the writer will do their stories justice. Earning their confidence takes time. We see Cox’s investment pay off when he witnesses one of Ava’s tantrums, sparked by her mother asking her not to stand on the couch ... Opting to be descriptive rather than prescriptive, he draws a painful, critical picture of what a society with virtually unfettered access to lethal weapons looks like through children’s eyes instead of lecturing the reader on politics and policy ... this book demonstrates that the most effective riposte to those who fetishize bearing arms is to bear witness.
MixedLondon Review of Books (UK)In We Own This City Justin Fenton tells a story of bad people and bad attitudes, but—whether he intends to or not—his book reveals the way systemic discrimination operates, whom it affects and how it is sustained. His narrative is brisk and engaging ... a reporter’s book—detailed in its accounts, sources and references but short on analysis and commentary. He gives us the dots but doesn’t connect them.
PositiveThe GuardianAs a work of political literature A Promised Land is impressive. Obama is a gifted writer. He can turn a phrase, tell a story and break down an argument. As he goes down the policy rabbit hole he manages to keep the reader engaged without condescension. The writing can be vivid ... Some of the most captivating episodes involve his relationship with Michelle, which swings from tense to tender ... For all that, at 700 pages the book is too long ... His literary talents are his own; but the evaluation of his record lies in the hands of others ... The 700% increase in drone strikes in Pakistan receives just a couple of lines here; the escalation in deportations, thanks to a policy inherited from Bush, which he decides not to reverse, gets a paragraph; the prosecution of twice as many whistleblowers as all his predecessors combined is not mentioned ... His side of the story is not, of course, the whole story ... Obama is more perceptive about his own limitations than his cheerleaders are.
RaveThe Guardian...Jesmyn Ward attempts to give both humanity and context in her memoir, in which she relates the unconnected deaths in the space of just four years of five young men who were close to her ... By virtue of a restrained but rich style and gift for storytelling, her book does not read like the litany of woe that one might expect. Melancholic and introspective rather than morbid and self-indulgent, it is really a story of what it is like to grow up smart, poor, black and female in America\'s deep south ... The book\'s structure, however, hollows out much of its emotional impact ... The Men We Reaped is an eloquent account of a psychological, sociological and political condition all too often dismissed as an enduring pathology.