Fight of the Century: Writers Reflect on 100 Years of Landmark ACLU Cases

Fight of the Century: Writers Reflect on 100 Years of Landmark ACLU Cases


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To mark its 100-year anniversary, the American Civil Liberties Union partners with award-winning authors Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman to bring together many of our greatest living writers, each contributing an original piece inspired by a historic ACLU case.

On January 19, 1920, a small group of idealists and visionaries, including Helen Keller, Jane Addams, Roger Baldwin, and Crystal Eastman, founded the American Civil Liberties Union. A century after its creation, the ACLU remains the nation’s premier defender of the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.

In collaboration with the ACLU, authors Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman have curated an anthology of essays about landmark cases in the organization’s one-hundred-year history. Fight of the Century takes you inside the trials and the stories that have shaped modern life. Some of the most prominent cases that the ACLU has been involved in—Brown v. Board of Education, Roe v. Wade, Miranda v. Arizona—need little introduction. Others you may never even have heard of, yet their outcomes quietly defined the world we live in now. Familiar or little-known, each case springs to vivid life in the hands of the acclaimed writers who dive into the history, narrate their personal experiences, and debate the questions at the heart of each issue.

Hector Tobar introduces us to Ernesto Miranda, the felon whose wrongful conviction inspired the now-iconic Miranda rights—which the police would later read to the man suspected of killing him. Yaa Gyasi confronts the legacy of Brown v. Board of Education, in which the ACLU submitted a friend of- the-court brief questioning why a nation that has sent men to the moon still has public schools so unequal that they may as well be on different planets. True to the ACLU’s spirit of principled dissent, Scott Turow offers a blistering critique of the ACLU’s stance on campaign finance.

These powerful stories, along with essays from Neil Gaiman, Meg Wolitzer, Salman Rushdie, Ann Patchett, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Louise Erdrich, George Saunders, and many more, remind us that the issues the ACLU has engaged over the past one hundred years remain as vital as ever today, and that we can never take our liberties for granted.

Chabon and Waldman are donating their advance to the ACLU and the contributors are forgoing payment.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501190407
Publisher: Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 01/21/2020
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 288,927
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Michael Chabon is the bestselling and Pulitzer Prize–winning author of many books, including The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, Gentlemen of the Road, Telegraph Avenue, Moonglow, Pops, and the picture book The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man. He is the editor, with Ayelet Waldman, of Kingdom of Olives and Ash: Writers Confront the Occupation.

Ayelet Waldman is the author of the memoir, A Really Good Day, as well as of novels including Love and Treasure, Red Hook Road, and Love and Other Impossible Pursuits. She is the editor of Inside This Place, Not of It: Narratives from Women's Prisons, and with Michael Chabon, of Kingdom of Olives and Ash: Writers Confront the Occupation.

Other contributors include: Viet Thanh Nguyen, Jacqueline Woodson, Michael Chabon, Ann Patchett, Brit Bennett, Steven Okazaki, Daniel Handler, Geraldine Brooks, Yaa Gyasi, Sergio De La Pava, Dave Eggers, Timothy Egan, Yiyun Li, Meg Wolitzer, Hector Tobar, Aleksandar Hemon, Elizabeth Strout, Nicole Adrian LeBlanc, Rabih Alameddine, Moriel Rothman-Zecher, Jonathan Lethem, Salman Rushdie, Lauren Groff, Ayelet Waldman, Jennifer Egan, Scott Turow, Morgan Parker, Victor LaValle, Michael Cunningham, Neil Gaiman, Jesmyn Ward, George Saunders, Marlon James, William Finnegan, Anthony Doerr, Charlie Jane Anders, Brenda J. Childs, Andrew, Sean Greer, Francisco Goldman, and Louise Erdrich.


Berkeley, California

Date of Birth:

May 24, 1963

Place of Birth:

Washington, D.C.


B.A., University of Pittsburgh; M.F.A., University of California at Irvine

Table of Contents

Introduction Michael Chabon Ayelet Waldman xiii

Foreword David Cole xvii

Viet Thanh Nguyen on Stromberg v. California (1931) 1

Jacqueline Woodson on Powell v. Alabama (1932) and Patterson v. Alabama (1935) 6

Michael Chabon on United States v. One Book Called "Ulysses" (1933) 11

Ann Patchett on Edwards v. California (1941) 24

Brit Bennett on West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943) 29

Steven Okazaki on Korematsu v. United States (1944) 34

Daniel Handler on Hannegan v. Esquire (1946) 40

Geraldine Brooks on Terminiello v. City of Chicago (1949) 44

Yaa Gyasi on Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954) 49

Sergio De La Pava on Gideon v. Wainwright (1963) 57

Dave Eggers on Escobedo v. Illinois (1964) 66

Timothy Egan on New York Times Co. v. Sullivan (1964) 71

Yiyun Li on Lamont v. Postmaster General (1965) 77

Meg Wolitzer on Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) 82

Hector Tobar on Miranda v. Arizona (1966) 86

Aleksandar Hemon on Loving v. Virginia (1967) 93

Elizabeth Strout On Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969) 100

Adrian Nicole Leblanc on Gregory v. City of Chicago (1969) 105

Rabih Alameddine on Street v. New York (1969) 112

Moriel Rothman-Zecher on Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969) 118

Jonathan Lethem on Cohen v. California (1971) 128

Salman Rushdie on New York Times Co. v. United States (1971) 133

Lauren Groff on Roe v. Wade (1973) and Doe v. Bolton (1973) 138

Ayelet Waldman on O'Connor v. Donaldson (1975) 145

Jennifer Egan on Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld (1975) 152

Scott Turow on Buckley v. Valeo (1976) 158

Morgan Parker on Bob Jones University v. United States (1983) 166

Victor Lavalle on Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah (1993) 183

Michael Cunningham on Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Group of Boston (1995) 189

Neil Gaiman on Reno v. ACLU (1997) and Ashcroft v. ACLU (2004) 196

Jesmyn Ward On City of Chicago v. Morales (1999) 205

Moses Sumney on Zadvydas v. Davis (2001) 213

George Saunders on Immigration and Naturalization Service v. St Cyr (2001) 224

Marlon James on Lawrence v. Texas (2003) 237

William Finnegan on Rasul v. Bush (2004) 243

Anthony Doerr on Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District (2005) 252

Charlie Jane Anders on Schroer v. Billington (2008) 263

Brenda J. Child on Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl (2013) 268

Andrew Sean Greer on United States v. Windsor (2013) 280

Louise Erdrich on ACLU v. United States Department of Defense, et al. (2018) 286

Acknowledgments 293

The Contributors 295

Copyright Credits 303

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