A deeply felt, swift-moving account of war and its complex aftermath.

THEY CALLED US "LUCKY"

THE LIFE AND AFTERLIFE OF THE IRAQ WAR'S HARDEST HIT UNIT

A Marine-turned-politician recounts his time under fire in Iraq.

An ambitious but poor youngChicagoan, Gallego worked his way to a Harvard scholarship—and then, as he readily allows, partied hard enough to be asked to leave. Aimless, he joined the Marine Corps after 9/11 and was packed off to boot camp, where he tried to keep the Harvard connection quiet. His drill instructor found out and upbraided him: “Why the hell aren’t you an officer?...Are you stupid?” The author’s well-reasoned response in this agile memoir is to note that the division between Marine recruit and Harvard undergrad isn’t the political one of conservative versus liberal but instead a more abiding one of class and, to some extent, ethnicity. “Statistically,” writes Gallego, “you won’t find many young Latino males raised by single women in households with sketchy backgrounds getting college degrees, let alone from Harvard. The odds were far better that I’d be in prison, or even dead.” By the odd logic of the Marine Corps, Gallego was assigned to a reserve unit in New Mexico and sent to Iraq, where, for a time, his company was dubbed “Lucky Lima” for not having taken casualties. That luck soon ran out. Toward the end of Gallego's tour, Lima “had the dubious honor of being the hardest hit unit in the Marine Corps since the bombing at Beirut.” Gallego writes affectingly of his friendship with a young Navajo man who died there, one reason that, now a liberal Democrat and Arizona congressman, he takes an active legislative interest in Native American affairs. Condemning the Iraq misadventure as a political stunt—of a visiting Dick Cheney, he writes, “This asshole pushed us into a war that we didn’t need and then didn’t get us the armor that we did need”—the author notes that his training has helped put discipline in his life. It also saved others on Jan. 6, when he and fellow veterans helped their congressional colleagues escape the insurrectionary mob.

A deeply felt, swift-moving account of war and its complex aftermath.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-304581-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Custom House/Morrow

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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A welcome new version of a publication that is no less important now than it was in 1967.

THE ESSENTIAL KERNER COMMISSION REPORT

A timely distilled version of the powerful report on racism in the U.S.

Created by Lyndon Johnson’s executive order in 1967, the Kerner Commission was convened in response to inner-city riots in cities like Newark and Detroit, and its findings have renewed relevance in the wake of the George Floyd verdict and other recent police brutality cases. The report, named for Otto Kerner, the chairman of the commission and then governor of Illinois, explored the systemic reasons why an “apocalyptic fury” broke out that summer even in the wake of the passage of significant civil rights and voting acts—a response with striking echoes in recent events across the country. In this edited and contextualized version, New Yorker staff writer Cobb, with the assistance of Guariglia, capably demonstrates the continued relevance and prescience of the commission’s findings on institutionalized discriminatory policies in housing, education, employment, and the media. The commission was not the first to address racial violence in the century, and it would not be the last, but the bipartisan group of 11 members—including two Blacks and one woman—was impressively thorough in its investigation of the complex overarching social and economic issues at play. “The members were not seeking to understand a singular incident of disorder,” writes Cobb, “but the phenomenon of rioting itself.” Johnson wanted to know what happened, why it happened, and what could be done so it doesn’t happen “again and again.” Of course, it has happened again and again, and many of the report’s recommendations remain unimplemented. This version of the landmark report features a superb introduction by Cobb and a closing section of frequently asked questions—e.g., “How come nothing has been done about these problems?” The book contains plenty of fodder for crucial national conversations and many excellent ideas for much-needed reforms that could be put into place now.

A welcome new version of a publication that is no less important now than it was in 1967.

Pub Date: July 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63149-892-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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A marvelous exploration by an author steeped in the craft of his subject’s elastic, elusive work.

THE MYSTERY OF CHARLES DICKENS

The mystery of the iconic novelist’s divided self as beautifully parsed by accomplished English biographer and novelist Wilson.

In this utterly satisfying investigative narrative, the author moves from Dickens’ death in 1870 back through his career and childhood trauma being sent to work in a blacking factory at age 12. It’s clear that Wilson fully comprehends the many complexities of the wily novelist, public performer, and secret lover. Beginning with the mystery of his death, the author re-creates the last day of the famous novelist’s life as he made the habitual hour’s journey from his home at Gad’s Hill, Kent, to his mistress’s house in Peckham (places have major significance in Dickens’ work). There, he suffered a seizure and was returned to his home to die a respectable death, surrounded by his estranged wife—tortured, as Wilson calls her—and some of his many adult children. Wilson gradually, engagingly unravels the circumstances surrounding his death. “Dickens was good at dying,” he writes. “If you want a good death, go to the novels of Dickens.” The novelist had been consumed by his love affair with the former actress Nelly Ternan for the previous 13 years and had bought the house where she lived with her mother and sisters. Just that morning, Dickens had been working toward the conclusion of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, a book that was destined to be left incomplete, and was saturated with a sense of raging passion for a young, unobtainable girl. (Wilson ably dispels the myth that Dickens did not write about sex.) Wilson writes with precision, intuition, and enormous compassion for Dickens’ senses of social justice and outrage, especially regarding children in the mercilessly materialist Victorian era. The author also charmingly conveys his own early enchantment with Dickens’ books.

A marvelous exploration by an author steeped in the craft of his subject’s elastic, elusive work.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-295494-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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