"This is a strange and remarkable book. There must be dozens of books on the Declaration of Independence written from every conceivable point of view—historical, political, theoretical, philosophical, and textual—but no one has ever written a book on the Declaration quite like this one. If we read the Declaration of Independence slowly and carefully, Danielle Allen believes, then the document can become a basic primer for our democracy. It can be something that all of us—not just scholars and educated elites but common ordinary people—can participate in, and should participate in if we want to be good democratic citizens."review by Edmund White of three books on marriage equality: Jo Becker's Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality (Penguin), David Boies and Theodore B. Olson's Redeeming the Dream: The Case for Marriage Equality (Viking), and Walter Frank's Law and the Gay Rights Story: The Long Search for Equal Justice in a Divided Democracy (Rutgers University Press). The second is a review by David Cole titled, "The Anti-Court Court." It takes a look at Lawrence Tribe and Josua Matz's Uncertain Justice: The Roberts Court and the Constitution (Henry Holt), Mark Tushnet's In the Balance: Law and Politics on the Roberts Court (Norton), and Bruce Allen Murphy's Scalia: A Court of One (Simon & Schuster).
Over on H-Net there is a review of Harry Truman and the Struggle for Racial Justice by Robert Shogan (University Press of Kansas).
"In the last, and most interesting, section of the book, chapters 10 and 11, Truman falls out of the narrative and Shogan delves into the work of various members of the Truman administration as they carried out the desegregation of the armed services and supported civil rights litigation."There's also a review of Nico Slate's Colored Cosmopolitanism: The Shared Struggle for Freedom in the United States and India (Harvard University Press).
"Through the notion of colored cosmopolitanism, these colored cosmopolitans--or the racial vanguards and most often the elites of the respective groups--questioned the meaning of color and freedom, bridging cultural and historical differences and achieving, although fleeting at times, transnational solidarities. But, Slate also shows that the diversity of the Indian and American freedom struggles produced contradictions which challenged and reinforced definitions of race, nation, class, cast, and gender."Adding to this week's reviews on civil rights topics is an HNN review of Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party by Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin, Jr. (University of California Press).
Unreasonable Men: Theodore Roosevelt and the Republican Rebels Who Created Progressive Politics (Palgrave Macmillan), is reviewed in The Washington Post and is in excerpt form on The Daily Beast. Here's a snippet of what the Post has to say about the book,
"“Unreasonable Men” invites comparison with another book on the same era, Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism.” Wolraich pays relatively little attention to muckraking journalism, whereas Goodwin’s long, impassioned account of that phenomenon is the best thing in her book. Goodwin devotes ample space to the roles played in Roosevelt’s and Taft’s careers by their wives — a subject that concerns Wolraich hardly at all. But Goodwin neglects the process by which the progressive agenda became legislative reality; for example, she covers the emasculation of Cannon in a single paragraph. As for the two books’ treatment of the tumultuous 1912 presidential campaign, I would call it a tossup."The New York Times has a review of Edmund Fawcett's Liberalism: The Life of an Idea (Princeton University Press).
"One will find in Fawcett’s brief reflections on the future neither a liberal celebration à la Francis Fukuyama nor bitter nostalgia about liberalism’s decline into decadence à la Robert Bork. We have come full circle to liberalism’s origins, he believes, as once again we’re faced with the task of bringing a humane and respectful order out of the chaos of the world around us. Far from being the sole product of the rich liberal democracies of the West, liberal ideas, he believes, offer enormous promise to those struggling for a better future in places like Iran, India and China. “They have work for many lifetimes,” Fawcett concludes. “If something like that is close to true, it is too early to bury liberalism under a statue of hope.”"In The New Yorker a piece by Louis Menand, "The Sex Amendment: How women got in the Civil Rights Act" discuss Clay Risen's The Bill of the Century (Bloomsbury) and Todd Purdum's An Idea Whose Time Has Come (Holt).
The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Reveled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime (St. Martin's Press) and Alexander Wohl's Father, Son and Constitution: How Justice Tom Clark and Attorney General Ramsey Clark Shaped American Democracy (University of Kansas Press). All reviews can be found here.
And, lastly, The LA Review of Books reviews Acquittal: An Insider Reveals the Stories and Strategies Behind Today's Most Infamous Verdicts by Richard Gabriel (Berkley Books).