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Taking Liberties: Four Decades in the Struggle for Rights Hardcover – January 7, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this unflinching memoir of his 40 years of working for human rights, noted activist Neier brings to light his many successes as well as his "mistakes and errors in judgment"; with 20/20 hindsight and refreshing honesty, he even describes some of the stances he's reconsidered. The volume's three sections recount Neier's tenures at the ACLU (1963-78), where he rose from field director to executive director; as a founding member of Human Rights Watch (1978-93); and his current post as head of the Soros Foundations and the Open Society Institute (1993-present). Each section is divided into chapters about specific crusades against such wide-ranging evils as police brutality in New York, military abuses in El Salvador, and genocide in the former Yugoslavia. Throughout, Neier also weighs in on current affairs and, unsurprisingly, criticizes the Bush administration, which can sometimes muddle the narrative; the brief analyses of recent events that end many chapters feel tacked on. The book is also marred by patches of unimportant details, immoderate praise of Neier’s associates and disconcertingly frequent references to September 11, some of which seem uncalled for. Neier's accomplishments and passion deserve respect, but his prose is too often wordy and dry. His skills as a writer, unfortunately, don't quite match his talents as an advocate.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"A life that encapsulates American progressivism over the past half-century in both its strengths and weaknesses." -- Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2002

"a subtle intelligence joined with an iron dedication to improving civil society...subtle and detailed reporting." -- New York Times Book Review, May 11, 2003.

"a vivid picture of the patience and ingenuity required to translate noble principles and good intentions into practical reality." -- New York Review of Books, May 15, 2003.

"an intellectual history of the rights movement in the United States and abroad, as told by a...highly effective protagonist." -- Washington Post, March 9, 2003.

Best Books of the Month
Best Books of the Month
Want to know our Editors' picks for the best books of the month? Browse Best Books of the Month, featuring our favorite new books in more than a dozen categories.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; 1 edition (January 7, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1891620827
  • ISBN-13: 978-1891620829
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,400,393 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By XO on March 14, 2004
Format: Hardcover
A bunch of books in one as we see the turbulent litigation of the 60s and 70s from an insider's point of view, then the growth of Human Rights Watch and the important work done in Central America and elsewhere to George Soros' occasionally transformational efforts in former Soviet countries. Refreshingly honest, such as the part where Neier admits that the ACLU's mental health litigation asking for the mentally ill to be released from institutions unwittingly contributed to the homeless crises which continues to this day. I have never heard a liberal admit this, though it is probably true (it's important to admit mistakes to avoid them in the future). The book would have been better with more about Neier's personal life and his personal feelings about triumphs and defeats, but all in all a great insider view of civil liberties litigation, NGO politics, and human rights strategy.
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