cover image Outside the Law: Narratives on Justice in America

Outside the Law: Narratives on Justice in America

. Beacon Press (MA), $23 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-8070-4406-3

As Harvard law professor Minow comments in her introduction, this collection of 17 original essays--some meditations, others reportage--reminds us that justice is a question far too important to leave to lawyers or philosophers: it is our responsibility. The pieces focus mainly on questions of criminal justice as well as racial and economic injustice. Novelist Charles Johnson provides a fictionalized job-interview scenario to explore issues of affirmative action (this topic deserves more attention here, even if from a conservative perspective), and novelist Madison Smartt Bell recalls the human rights legacy of the Haitian slave rebellion in the 18th century. Poet Garret Hongo reports on the difficult path to gaining redress for Japanese Americans interned during WWII. Blanche McCrary Boyd offers a lyrical portrayal of the 1996 trial of Susan Smith, the South Carolina woman who killed her two sons, accused a black man then saw her life spared by a jury that eschewed vengeance. Editor Susan Shreve, a novelist, reflects thoughtfully on her own difficulty in reaching a verdict when she served as a juror, while columnist Clarence Page comments that the trend toward jury nullification by African American jurors is a reminder of the enduring faults in our justice system. Other contributors include Julia Alvarez, John Edgar Wideman, Michael Dorris and Alex Kotlowitz. (June)