From Publishers Weekly
On July 4, 2000, Minh Hong and his twin brother, Hung, arrived in Ocean Shores, Wash., to celebrate the holiday. When they stopped at a convenience store to buy fireworks, they were met by a group of drunken young white men—who resembled skinheads—yelling racial slurs. A fight erupted, leaving the leader of the group of white men, Chris Kinison, dead. Minh Hong was charged with manslaughter for killing Kinison, and suddenly the victim of a hate crime became the suspect in a criminal trial. Freelance journalist Neiwert, who became acquainted with the Hong family through eating at their teriyaki shop in Seattle, provides a fast-paced account of the events surrounding this altercation and Hong's trial. The circumstances surrounding the events of that day divided the town, uncovering racist feelings below the thin veneer of smalltown sociability. Neiwert weaves chapters regarding the legal aspects of hate crimes, the myths of hate crimes and the details of other well-known, and less-known, crimes, such as the killing of Matthew Shepard, into his narrative about the Hong case. Although the book often devolves into a pseudosociological treatise in these chapters, Neiwert is at his best in reporting on the details of the trial, the feelings of the families and the disruption of the community.
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Ocean Shores, Washington, July 4, 2000: three Asian American visitors to this seaside town of 3,000 were set upon by a group of skinheads in a gas-station parking lot. Predictably, the assault ended in a fatality. But the victim, Christopher Kinison, was not one of the intended victims. He was, in the author's words, the "primary perpetrator." What followed was one of the more unusual hate-crime investigations police have ever encountered. Because only the attacker was killed, the authorities were put in the awkward position of investigating the case as a homicide in which the intended victims were the prime suspects. In the eyes of the law, the deceased, a bigoted young man fond of spouting white-supremacist diatribes, was the innocent victim. Neiwert, a journalist who had once worked not far from the scene of the crime, uses this case as a springboard to a discussion of a broader issue. How does the American legal system handle hate crimes? It's a vastly complicated subject, and the author handles it delicately, intelligently, and gracefully. David Pitt
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