Monday, July 3, 2017

Anatomy of Innocence: Testimonies of the Wrongfully Convicted

Anatomy of Innocence: Testimonies of the Wrongfully Convicted 

by Laura Caldwell

Well, that was completely terrifying. A collection of stories about people who were minding their own business when suddenly they are being tried and convicted of crimes they didn't commit. Spending years upon years in prison, having their entire life controlled down to the minuscule details and knowing the entire time that they shouldn't even be there. Yelling their innocence to the world with no one interested in listening. And let's be real, most of these tales are from young black males just going about their lives when they are all of a sudden picked out of a lineup. They don't really touch on this specific issue, but it's there in between the lines.

Caldwell has put together this collection of true stories of exonerees as interpreted by various authors. As a result there are various styles of storytelling, and that was the one glaring thing I didn't appreciate about the book. I believe she was going for gut-punches over actual explanations of the atrocities committed against these individuals which has it's own merits. For myself, I would have preferred more detailed, factual deep-dives but I know that's not what they were trying to do here. That being said, there were stories that had more depth in the post-chapter notes than in the story itself. The last one in particular does this, which was frustrating as a reader.

These stories are timely, horrifying, and a topic that everyone needs to be knowledgeable on. We all have a chance to sit on a jury that can decide the fates of similar people and truly understanding the impact of your decisions on that bench is important. However, this collection was only successful up to a point and I think more substance was needed in order to really drive their message home.

Copy courtesy of W. W. Norton & Company/Liveright via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Caught in the Revolution: Petrograd, Russia, 1917 – A World on the Edge

Caught in the Revolution: Petrograd, Russia, 1917 – A World on the Edge

Helen Rappaport

It took me months to finish this book, but it was mostly my fault. I've been in a bit of a reading slump, and anything about Russia probably wasn't going to get me out of it. That being said, this was quite a unique subject and an interesting read.

Rappaport has put together the stories of some of the foreign nationals who lived in Russia right at the tail end of WWI, around the time of their communist revolution a la Lenin. There aren't a lot of first-hand accounts available from this very specific time period and from this specific group of people, but the author manages to put what she found together in a compelling narrative. The people she is referencing are from America, the UK, France, etc so their point of view varies from seeing the revolutions as a waste of life and resources by a confused people, to highly idealistic and hopeful philosophical musings. I found the accounts of the reporters the most compelling since they were always getting right into the middle of things, witnessing the bloody reality of the revolutions.

The only thing I found lacking was a deeper understanding of the revolution, what was happening and why. Although I think that might have more to do with the chaotic nature of the beast, since there didn't seem to be much rhyme or reason for how things played out in general. The books hops from event to event but I never felt the cohesiveness of relating it all together.

Overall this was a very interesting read, but I'm sure it would have even more meaning if you knew more about the background of the events.

Copy courtesy of St. Martin's Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.