American Justice on Trial – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Lise Pearlman

In American Justice on Trial: People v. Newton, Lise Pearlman discusses the murder trial—and subsequent appeals—of Huey P. Newton in the 1960s. Charged with killing a white police officer, Newton was the victim of outrageous racism and injustice, much of which is comparable to the modern instances of racism that occur today.


Though clearly biased in terms of the angle at which the story is told (though perhaps not in a negative way), Lise Pearlman maintains a careful and cordial objectivity throughout her telling of the Newton trial. At times, American Justice on Trial may be a bit too objective, reading more like a history textbook than perhaps was intended. Also, this book does not discuss just the Newton trial, but also all the historical events that led up to, are relevant to, or were directly caused by the sensational court case. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, as it gives the reader more context and detailed information, it can also lead to a bit of confusion here and there in terms of how everything all fits together.


This richness in detail is still one of the greatest aspects about American Justice on Trial, though. Lise Pearlman has clearly done her research and weaves each fact and narrative into a multi-faceted book that is simultaneously riveting and thought-provoking. American Justice on Trial bravely shines light on the history of racism and inequality in the United States, while also comparing it to similar modern-day cases in an eloquent, poignant manner. As Lise Pearlman pointed out in the book’s opening, “What has changed in this country in the last half century and what has not? How do we best move forward?” Perhaps after reading American Justice on Trial: People v. Newton, readers will be able to form some answers of their own to that intriguing question.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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