From Publishers Weekly
In this damning, often excruciating account of racism in contemporary American society, Brown, former chair of the Black Panther Party and author of the memoir A Taste of Power, hangs her wide-ranging and well-documented argument on a specific instance of what she sees as emblematic of the problem: the prosecution and trial of 13-year-old African-American Michael Lewis for the 1997 murder of a black father of two in Atlanta. The case against Lewis seemed open and shut: there were eye-witnesses, his own mother testified that he had confessed and Lewis's long history of arrests was against him; not surprisingly he was convicted and sentenced to life as an adult. Brown tackles this story with the eyes and ears of an investigative reporter and spins a narrative that crackles with tension and enormous empathy. Through extensive reporting, she uncovers what she now believes really happened during the murder, exposes who she believes is the killer and describes a scenario whereby an ambitious DA, an inept defense attorney (who literally styles himself after Perry Mason), the press and the white and black communities of Atlanta (who were working together to build up the city's economy and image) may all have found it more convenient to scapegoat and demonize Lewis than convict the real murderer. Interwoven with this is Lewis's own story, an astute investigation into the media-created myth of the predatory black teen, an analysis of school voucher and faith-based community programs, a critique of the careers of Colin Powell and black scholar Henry Louis Gates, as well as the history of violence against African-Americans in the U.S. Packed with detail, strong arguments and flashes of brilliance, Brown's book is extraordinarily powerful. (Feb.) Forecast: Look for short profiles in the glossies focusing on Brown's journey from Pantherism to author and muckraker, and longer think-piece reviews in the left press that give attention to the issues. There's too much history and criticism here for a quick breakout, but those same qualities will give the book staying power, particularly on campus.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
*Starred Review* Little B. is the legal alias for a 13-year-old black youth charged with, and subsequently convicted of, killing another black youth in front of two children. The killing occurred in Atlanta just prior to that city's hosting the Olympics. The time and place of the killing set in motion a high-profile trial, pressed by the prominent and politically well-connected and a media frenzy regarding "super predators." Brown, former chair of the Black Panther Party, analyzes the broader social and political context for the murder and the trial. She explores the local motivations of the black political elite to satisfy the Atlanta corporate elite and keep gentrification on track, and the broader tendency of the legal system to put a black face on crime. Among the broader issues, Brown explores the disparate sentencing for drug crimes involving crack versus powdered cocaine, the New Age thinking of neoliberals such as former President Bill Clinton with little differentiation from the right-wing ideology of Newt Gingrich and others. Brown sharply contrasts Little B.'s treatment with that of the white youths involved in the Columbine shootings, "alienated white youths" in need of psychological treatment versus "black predators" in need of incarceration. This is an absorbing analysis that will appeal to readers interested in contemporary social issues. Vernon FordCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved