I've read a lot of entertaining travelogues and informative studies of Supreme Court cases, but never at the same time. Think Sarah Vowell's Assassination Vacation meets Peter Irons' The Courage of Their Convictions. Thank God for Holy Hullabaloos.—Pamela Karlan, founding director of the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic at Stanford University
"Religion and politics are the two things we are not supposed to talk about. Jay Wexler does—with deadpan humor. We need to tone down the anger over these issues, and he shows the way."—Alan Wolfe, author of Does American Democracy Still Work?
"The sharpest, the most insightful, the most side-splittingly funny book on law since—Supreme Courtship!" —Christopher Buckley, author of Supreme Courtship and Thank You For Smoking
"A fascinating and frequently funny journey through many of the sites of the greatest church and state squabbles in modern American history."—Barry Lynn, author of Piety & Politics
Boston University law professor Wexler is also a published humorist. This felicitous combination of talents is put to good use as he visits the towns and cities where the always controversial cases concerning separation of church and state arise. Wexler's lucid explications of difficult constitutional concepts and the vagaries of Supreme Court rulings are superb, providing readers a deeper understanding of the First Amendment and Supreme Court jurisprudence. But that's only half the story. Wexler is laugh-out-loud funny as he narrates his odyssey through battleground sites from rural Wisconsin through Texas to the chambers of the U.S. Senate. Along the way he happily and with a usually generous spirit skewers Supreme Court justices, legislators, educators, law school professors and pretty much anyone else, including himself, who has ever taken a position on the enduring American controversies surrounding prayer in schools, religious displays on public property, or the teaching of evolution. This is a rare treat, a combination of thoughtful analysis and quirky humor that illuminates an issue that rarely elicits a laugh-and that is central to the American body politic. (June)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Dunbar-Ortiz's (Red Dirt: Growing Up Okie) polemic is purportedly the first history of the United States written from an indigenous perspective. The book is framed around the theory that America is a "colonial settler state" that endeavors to subjugate its enemies through warfare that ends with the nation demanding that its defeated opponents "surrender unconditionally or face annihilation." With the book's foundation established from the beginning, the author is thus freed to pick and choose the data that supports the predetermined conclusion. Without a doubt, there are some episodes in the history of the United States's treatment of native peoples that rose to the level of genocide, but to say that the government employed mass killings as a consistent policy is debatable. That claim denies the agency that many Native American groups exerted throughout their dealings with the government. Also, the theory-guided narrative strains credulity when the author makes the case that what happened to the native peoples within the boundaries of the present-day United States is the same as what is currently occurring in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other places where the U.S. military is engaged. VERDICT Not recommended.—John R. Burch, Campbellsville Univ. Lib., KY