Wednesday, November 1, 2017

I CAN'T BREATHE :: To Review or Not Review?

I Can't Breathe is an expose that details the before and after of Eric Garner's murder at the hands of the NYPD. The author delves into myriad issues impacting police culture in New York in general and Staten Island in particular. Politics, culture, race and money all worked together to create a perfect storm of injustice that cost Eric Garner his life.

It's an even-handed account--Garner is not portrayed as a saint. He was as flawed as any man, but one who was almost universally liked and non-violent. Garner worked hard to provide for his family (often to his own detriment) and was a neighborhood fixture on Bay Street where he sold smuggled cigarettes. It's an important story, impressively researched and very well written considering the scope it undertakes.

So what's the problem? The problem is that as I sat down to write a review I saw this article about the author, who worked as a journalist in Russia many years ago. He was apparently also a ginormous asshole, misogynist and perpetrator of sexual assault (and maybe more) against women and perhaps underage girls. His antics are all proudly documented in a memoir he wrote with another journalist about their time in Russia.

He may now claim the memoir was satire, but I'm not sure I care and I'm not buying it regardless. Even as satire it was a supposedly non-fiction work that glorified the assault and denigration of women and children. A quick look-see on Twitter evidences a history of harassment and misogynistic behavior on the author's part since the memoir's publication, which pretty much brings the lie to the satire claim, methinks. So. Here I sat, stuck between the rock of promoting the work of an asshole and the hard place of not promoting an important piece of non-fiction.

I had decided to do nothing, but as I sat with that decision, the inaction bothered me. If this was a work of fiction, the answer would be easy. But it's not. It's an in-depth investigative report on a state of affairs in this country that is costing lives. What I decided to do is this: I am strongly encouraging you to read the book. I'm also encouraging you, even more strongly, not to buy it. Support your local library and borrow a copy instead.

It's no mistake I don't mention the author's name in this "review." That was intentional. Probably silly, particularly since it's right there on the cover image, but it's my own minor protest. In the end, we're all adults and you can make your own determination as to whether you want to put your money into the furtherance of this author's work. On my scorecard, he is a special kind of heinous that shouldn't be rewarded. Once again Eric Garner deserved better.

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About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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