--- Suggested Reading & Viewing: Book and Film Reviews ---
--- Films ---
Todd Field’s superb film adaptation of the novel by Tom Perrotta, begins in a clean and leafy suburban playground, where toddlers cavort under the watchful, benevolent gazes of their pretty young mothers. This may strike you as a rare tableau of innocence in a hectic world, unless, that is, you have spent time in such a place. For the playground really is a scene of primordial brutality, in which a few agreed-upon rules — play nice, share your toys, no hitting — barely suppress the essential savagery of the human species. ...more...|
More sour than hard, this highfalutin exploitation flick starts with an unsavory premise — possible pedophile meets the jailbait of his dreams — that quickly becomes downright unpalatable. Working from an expository, intellectually clotted script by the playwright Brian Nelson, lingering in the shadows of Ariel Dorfman and Neil LaBute, among others, the director David Slade opens his first feature with his camera trained on a computer monitor. There, a teasing pas de deux is unfolding between two Internet chatters, Thonggrrrrrl14 and Lensman319. She's young (hence the 14), precocious (she namedrops Zadie Smith) and seemingly as eager as he is. They arrange to meet, silent alarms screaming. ...more...
In "The Woodsman," Nicole Kassell's lean, disturbing first film, Kevin Bacon plays Walter, who has just been released from prison after serving 12 years for molesting young girls. This subject matter, and the moral puzzle of Walter's character, present an enormous challenge to Mr. Bacon, to the director (who collaborated on the script with Steven Fechter) and, above all, to the audience. How much sympathy can we extend to a man who has done the things Walter has, and who may still be capable of doing them? ...more...
Capturing The Friedmans:
So many of us have joked -- and in our darkest moments, wondered -- exactly what family films would reveal about us and those bound to us by blood. The director Andrew Jarecki has made exactly that self-absorption the heart of his engagingly evenhanded and intelligently assembled first feature, the documentary ''Capturing the Friedmans.'' Essentially, that's what the film is about, the American middle-class obsession with documenting innocuous daily life with eight-millimeter cameras, and now videotape. Mr. Jarecki assembled film from a continuing familial tragedy and shrewdly wove it into a grim, watchable wormhole narrative about a family's decades-long tumble into shattering denial, lies and abuse. ...more...
An American Travesty: Legal Responses to Adolescent Sexual Offending (Adolescent Development and Legal Policy):
by Franklin E. Zimring, Francis A. Allen (Forward)|
From Library Journal:
An American Travesty is the first scholarly book in half a century to analyze the justice system's response to sexual misconduct by children and adolescents in the United States. Writing with a refreshing dose of common sense, Franklin E. Zimring discusses the "American travesty" noted in title--our society's failure to consider the developmental status of adolescent sex offenders. Too often, he argues, the American legal system ignores age and developmental status when adjudicating young sexual offenders, in many cases responding as they would to an adult.
This book is a summary of what we know about adolescent sex offenders, and a much-needed indictment of the legal system's ability to make appropriate decisions concerning young sexual offenders, and a call for specific reforms. Zimring shows that current policy toward young sex offenders is rarely based on facts and is often the result of and false judgements. Assumptions about juvenile sex offenders in current legislation and debate are often based only on the motives and inclinations of adult offenders. But seventy-five years' worth of empirical data show that such assumptions are wrong. After surveying the facts and outlining the additional information needed for rational policy, this book proposes a series of reforms in juvenile and criminal courts as well as sex offender registration laws. As such, An American Travesty's compelling argument will inform policymakers, lawyers, criminologists, psychologist, psychiatrists, social workers, and others trying to address the problem of the young sexual offender.
Failure to Protect: America's Sexual Predator Laws And the Rise of the Preventive State:
by Eric S. Janus |
From Library Journal:
Most crimes of sexual violence are committed by people known to the victim-acquaintances and family members. Yet politicians and the media overemphasize predatory strangers when legislating against and reporting on sexual violence. In this book, Eric S. Janus goes far beyond sensational headlines to expose the reality of the laws designed to prevent sexual crimes. He shows that "sexual predator" laws, which have intense public and political support, are counterproductive. Janus contends that aggressive measures such as civil commitment and Megan's law, which are designed to restrain sex offenders before they can commit another crime, are bad policy and do little to actually reduce sexual violence. Further, these new laws make use of approaches such as preventive detention and actuarial profiling that violate important principles of liberty.
Janus argues that to prevent sexual violence, policymakers must address the deep-seated societal problems that allow it to flourish. In addition to criminal sanctions, he endorses the specific efforts of some advocates, organizations, and social scientists to stop sexual violence by, for example, taking steps to change the attitudes and behaviors of school-age children and adolescents, improving public education, and promoting community treatment and supervision of previous offenders.
Janus also warns that the principles underlying the predator laws may be the early harbingers of a "preventive state" in which the government casts wide nets of surveillance and intervenes to curtail liberty before crimes of any type occur. More than a critique of the status quo, this book discusses serious alternatives and how best to overcome the political obstacles to achieving rational policy.
Not Monsters: Analyzing the Stories of Child Molesters:
by Pamela D. Schultz|
From the Publisher: What could possibly motivate a person to molest a child? In search of insights, Not Monsters documents the stories of nine convicted child molesters through one-on-one interviews, listening to what offenders have to say about their crimes and exploring the roots of these behaviors from a social constructionist perspective. Their words paint a compelling and frightening portrait of how sexual abuse works in Western culture to perpetuate a political and social system of dominance and control.
Synopsis: Schultz (communication studies, Alfred U.) prefaces these interviews of nine convicted child molesters with the story of her own molestation and her eventual forgiveness of the person she calls "The Man who Molested Me." She continues this personal approach in describing the opposition to her research and her belief in narrative psychology. The volume concludes with Schultz' analysis of the molesters' narratives from personal, situational, organizational and cultural perspectives. Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR
Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex
by Judith Levine|
Newspaper & Other Reviews: University of Minnesota Press List of Reviews.
From the Publisher: Now available in paperback, Judith Levine's controversial book challenges American attitudes towards child and adolescent sexuality-especially attitudes promulgated by a Christian right that has effectively seized control of how sex is taught in public schools. The author-a thoughtful and persuasive journalist and essayist-examines the consequences of "abstinence" only education and its concomitant association of sex with disease, and the persistent denial of pleasure. She notes the trend toward pathologizing young children's eroticized play and argues that Americans should rethink the boundaries we draw in protecting our children from sex. This powerful and illuminating work was nominated for the 2003 Los Angeles Times Book Prize.
From Publisher's Weekly: "In America today, it is nearly impossible to publish a book that says children and teenagers can have sexual pleasure and be safe too," writes journalist Levine (My Enemy, My Love). Levine has somehow pulled that off. Western European countries assume that "sexual expression is a healthy and happy part of growing up"; thus Levine argues that sex is not necessarily bad for minors, and that puritanical attitudes often backfire. According to her, as the age of sexual initiation drops in America, the age of consent is rising. She observes that most so-called pedophiles are attracted to teenagers rather than kids an important subtlety recently aired in the media. (Still, her call for common sense on pedophilia is marred by an inadequate acknowledgment of the extent of online child porn, as documented in Philip Jenkins's recent Beyond Tolerance.)
She notes the disturbing trend toward pathologizing young children's eroticized play and criticizes mainstream America for letting the Christian right steer sex education toward an emphasis on abstinence. Compounding that, she says, the right wing has expunged abortion discussions. A Ms. and Nerve.com contributor, Levine argues, contra Mary Pipher (Reviving Ophelia), that love may ruin teenage girls more than sex. At one point, Levine cogently contends that the term "normal" is "subjective and protean"; she prefers "normative," which means "what most people do." It's a good start to confronting some vital questions.
Agent, Joy Harris. (May) Forecast: Levine's book was bought by a trade publisher, then bounced around one editorial board called it "radioactive" until it found its current publisher. It's already drawn pre-pub fire from conservative groups for its content and an interview Levine gave, in which she said that sex between a priest and a youth could be positive a statement she later modified, noting that she disapproved of any sexual relationship between a youth and an authority figure. All this talk will only help sales. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
From JoAnn Wypijewski: The Wonder Years
Guilty: The Collapse of Criminal Justice:
by Judge Harold J. Rothwax|
From the Publisher:Rothwax takes us inside his courtroom and tells tales of justice gone awry that only a seasoned judge could disclose. We are in his chambers as he does battle with lawyers more interested in their personal ambitions than justice. We are at a judicial conference where Rothwax stumps fifty appeals court judges, who admit they don't understand the Supreme Court's latest search-and-seizure rulings. We are in the courtroom, where Rothwax must sit patiently and allow lawyers to willfully obfuscate the truth. According to Rothwax, America is fast becoming a nation of bad laws, in which criminals and defense attorneys hide behind a morass of poorly conceived statutes, procedures, and rulings that prevent courts from resolving the paramount question at hand: Did the accused commit the crime? In trial after maddening trial, Rothwax sees the truth sacrificed at the altar of an increasingly areane process designed to protect the rights of criminals.
From Publisher's Weekly:Ex-defense attorney Rothwax is known as one of the toughest trial court judges in New York City, and he remains incensed that villains go free because of what he considers not-so-defensible legal protections. Some of his arguments are bold-repudiate the Miranda decision, which requires defendants to be advised of their rights; limit suspects' right to a lawyer during the investigative phase-and assume a good faith on the part of the police that many would deny. Other procedural arguments, born of experience, seem more logical: reform the rules requiring a speedy trial, which affect the prosecution far more than the defense; to prevent defendants from changing their stories after gaining ``discovery'' access to the prosecution's case, require them to file a sealed envelope containing their version of the case-to be unsealed if they take the stand. Like the rest of this brief book, Rothwax's suggestion that jury verdicts of 10-2 be allowed surely will become part of the debate over our court system in these post-O.J. days.
The Culture of Fear:
Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things, by Barry Glassner|
From the Publisher: In this eye-opening examination of a pathology that has swept the country, the noted sociologist Barry Glassner reveals why Americans are burdened with overblown fears. He exposes the people and organizations that manipulate our perceptions and profit from our anxieties: politicians who win elections by heightening concerns about crime and drug use even as both are declining; advocacy groups that raise money by exaggerating the prevalence of particular diseases; TV newsmagazines that monger a new scare every week to garner ratings.
A passionate and reassuring study, The Culture of Fear thoroughly debunks many of the predominant scares of our age. The author lays bare the frightening lies and half-truths told about: workplace violence, the Internet, airline safety, child abduction, gulf war syndrome, baby-killing mothers, suicidal teens and angry African Americans.
Whether by the promotion of dubious statistics about pseudo-problems like "road rage" and "husband abuse," or frightening stories about "middle-class junkies" and "depraved adolescent murderers," the peddlers of fear cost Americans dearly.
Individually, we're weighed down with needless worries, and as a nation, we waste billions of dollars combating minor or non-existent dangers. All the while, we neglect real problems that we could solve if we put our minds to them. Barry Glassner's book diagnoses a predominant pathology of our age and provides a rallying cry for a return to rationality in our personal lives and in our national sense of purpose. As such, The Culture of Fear offers a timely antidote that Americans cannot afford to pass up at the dawn of the new millenium.
by Ann Edenfield|
From L.W. a former inmate: My experience with the justice system, as accused, was a horrifying time. Instead of being on the "right-side" of the law and having the system as an ally, I was cast as the "bad-guy" and the system lost all empathy for me. At such a time confusion reigns, and it is not clear what the priorities are, or what the correct action should be.
One clear thought, should have been, to read "Family Arrested," by Ann Edenfield, beforehand. Ms. Edenfield provides the information necessary to make choices, be informed, and avoid pitfalls; how to choose an attorney, make bail and bond, and she even covers, thoughts of escape and suicide?
DO NOT expect any of the authorities to have compassion. Their job is to protect the public from "bad-guys" and you're one now. Ms. Edenfield's story about financial difficulties with the IRS is typical of the response you can expect from the spectrum of officials that you will encounter, and they will make your life harder, not easier. I suffered throughout probation because of a mistake I made in the Pre-Sentence Investigation (PSI). I expected understanding, but my comments were colored and exaggerated and used against me. Ms. Edenfield correctly points out the importance of the PSI. It cannot be changed after-the-fact!
Besides dealing with the criminal justice system, there are friends, neighbors, your church and family. None are easy. Some will provide support and others will abandon you. "Family Arrested" offers great advice in handling the personal relationships - some of which will become invaluable. Time will pass and it gets better, but the journey will be much smoother if one follows the wisdom found in "Family Arrested," by Ann Edenfield.
by Neil Miller|
From Critic: Library Journal:
Residents of Sioux City, IA, were stunned and shaken by two brutal child molestations and murders in 1954 and 1955. The shock and outrage that followed led to the roundup of 20 gay men, who were then committed to a psychiatric hospital as criminal sexual psychopaths. Journalist Miller (In Search of Gay America) has written a taut and engrossing account of this sad chapter in Sioux City's history. Miller covers the brutal crimes, the politics set against the backdrop of McCarthy-era paranoia, the difficulties of being gay in Sioux City, life in the sexual psychopath ward, and the long-term effects this sex-crime hysteria had on all involved. Miller then comes full circle, discussing the adoption of some form of "Megan's Law" in all 50 states in the 1990s. ("Megan's Law" requires convicted sex offenders to register with their local police departments.) Today, as in the 1950s, criminal sexual acts set off panic and hysteria. The challenge is how to protect citizens without trampling civil rights. Highly recommended for history collections and especially for those specializing in gay and legal history. Karen Sandlin Silverman, Ctr. for Applied Research, Philadelphia Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
"There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one striking at the root." - Henry David Thoreau -
"I know in my heart that man is good. That what is right will always eventually triumph. And there's purpose and worth to each and every life." RR