Did a Priest Murder a Nun, and Did the Catholic Church Cover it Up?

Book review: Sin, Shame & Secrets, by David Yonke On Holy Saturday in 1980, the day before Easter Sunday, elderly nun Sister Margaret Ann Pahl was found murdered in the sacristy of Mercy Hospital in Toledo, Ohio. She’d been strangled with an altar cloth and her body bore stab wounds in the shape of an inverted cross. Blood on her forehead appeared to mimic anointing. … Continue reading Did a Priest Murder a Nun, and Did the Catholic Church Cover it Up?

Undercover Reporting and the Disturbing History of For-Profit Prisons in America

Book review: American Prison, by Shane Bauer The United States imprisons a higher portion of its population than any country in the world. In 2017 we had 2.2 million people in prisons and jails, a 500 percent increase over the last forty years. We now have almost 5 percent of the world’s population and nearly a quarter of its prisoners. This book focuses on one … Continue reading Undercover Reporting and the Disturbing History of For-Profit Prisons in America

The Working Poor of the Heartland

Book review: Heartland, by Sarah Smarsh Journalist Sarah Smarsh is a fifth generation Kansan who grew up with her family life centered around a wheat farm in the countryside, with Wichita being the closest big city. In her memoir, she chronicles generations of her family, particularly the strong but troubled women in her lineage, and puts their struggles and choices into clear economic and cultural context. … Continue reading The Working Poor of the Heartland

Brave, Funny Takes on “Cultural Shifts” and Being an Outspoken Feminist Writer

Book review: Shrill, by Lindy West That period—when I was wholly myself, effortlessly certain, my identity still undistorted by the magnetic fields of culture—was so long ago that it’s beyond readily accessible memory. I do not recall being that person. Lindy West has written boldly and bluntly – but not actually shrilly – on all manner of cultural, artistic, and feminist topics for newspapers like … Continue reading Brave, Funny Takes on “Cultural Shifts” and Being an Outspoken Feminist Writer

The Story Lolita Forgets, and Nabokov at Work

Book review: The Real Lolita, by Sarah Weinman Even casual readers of Lolita…should pay attention to the story of Sally Horner because it is the story of so many girls and women, not just in America, but everywhere. So many of these stories seem like everyday injustices – young women denied opportunity to advance, tethered to marriage and motherhood. Others are more horrific, girls and … Continue reading The Story Lolita Forgets, and Nabokov at Work

The Pseudoscience of Personality Typing and its Eccentric Mother-Daughter Developers

Book review: The Personality Brokers, by Merve Emre Only the smallest fraction of those who encountered the indicator knew anything about Isabel, Katharine, or the origins of type. If asked about the indicator’s provenance, most people would have assumed that Myers and Briggs were the last names of two collaborating psychologists – two men, naturally… Almost everyone’s familiar with the Myers-Briggs personality indicator, a personality … Continue reading The Pseudoscience of Personality Typing and its Eccentric Mother-Daughter Developers

The Interstate and the Murderer

Book review: Killer on the Road, by Ginger Strand America became more violent and more mobile at the same time. Were they linked? Did highways lead to highway violence? Yes and no. More highways meant more travel, more movement, more anonymity—all conducive to criminality. Highway users could become easy victims: stranded motorists, hitchhikers, drifters, and truck stop prostitutes were vulnerable to roving predators. But most … Continue reading The Interstate and the Murderer

Living Through Scientology’s “Fair Game” Policy

Book review: The Unbreakable Miss Lovely, by Tony Ortega Journalist Paulette Cooper survived the Holocaust but she almost didn’t survive Scientology. That thought lingered while reading this biography and account of her years of harassment by the cultlike religion for daring to write honestly and critically about them. Her parents suffered persecution as Jews in Second World War Europe and Paulette was lucky enough to … Continue reading Living Through Scientology’s “Fair Game” Policy

An Atlantic Shipwreck Seen Through its Sole Survivor

Book review: Adrift, by Brian Murphy with Toula Vlahou Adrift tells the story of the packet ship John Rutledge, which in 1856 crossed the North Atlantic from Liverpool to New York with a cargo consisting mostly of mail and around 100 passengers, many of them emigrating from Ireland. The ship navigated turbulent winter conditions before ultimately hitting an iceberg somewhere off the coast of Newfoundland, and … Continue reading An Atlantic Shipwreck Seen Through its Sole Survivor

A “Family Album” of Emotional, Complicated Relationships

Book review: True Crimes, by Kathryn Harrison I see the bravado required to be funny and beguiling when what you really are is old and aching and breathless from congestive heart failure, when what you really are is afraid. Kathryn Harrison is such a tricky author. A writer of quietly powerful, serious talents, her nonfiction can be uncomfortably confessional, and is deeply personal to the … Continue reading A “Family Album” of Emotional, Complicated Relationships

Narrating Stalin’s Terror: The Beginning of Eugenia Ginzburg’s Journey

Book review: Journey into the Whirlwind, by Eugenia Semyonovna Ginzburg I opened the door briskly, with the boldness of despair. If you are to jump over a cliff, better take a run at it and not pause on the brink to look back at the lovely world you are leaving behind. Eugenia Ginzburg’s memoir of her arrest in 1937 on charges that eventually became “terrorism” … Continue reading Narrating Stalin’s Terror: The Beginning of Eugenia Ginzburg’s Journey

An Austrian Serial Killer: The Strange Story of “Rehabilitated” Murderer Jack Unterweger

Book review: The Vienna Woods Killer, by John Leake John Leake, an American writer who lived nearly a decade in Vienna, wrote this definitive account of Austrian serial killer Jack Unterweger. Unterweger’s is quite the interesting story, not least because the crime of serial murder is far from common in Austria. Combined with his background of alleged rehabilitation and crime spree across Austria and internationally, … Continue reading An Austrian Serial Killer: The Strange Story of “Rehabilitated” Murderer Jack Unterweger