I Can't Breathe

I Can't Breathe

A Killing on Bay Street

Book - 2017 | First edition.
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A work of riveting literary journalism that explores the roots and repercussions of the infamous killing of Eric Garner by the New York City police--from the bestselling author of The Divide

NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POST

On July 17, 2014, a forty-three-year-old black man named Eric Garner died on a Staten Island sidewalk after a police officer put him in what has been described as an illegal chokehold during an arrest for selling bootleg cigarettes. The final moments of Garner's life were captured on video and seen by millions. His agonized last words, "I can't breathe," became a rallying cry for the nascent Black Lives Matter protest movement. A grand jury ultimately declined to indict the officer who wrestled Garner to the pavement.

Matt Taibbi's deeply reported retelling of these events liberates Eric Garner from the abstractions of newspaper accounts and lets us see the man in full--with all his flaws and contradictions intact. A husband and father with a complicated personal history, Garner was neither villain nor victim, but a fiercely proud individual determined to do the best he could for his family, bedeviled by bad luck, and ultimately subdued by forces beyond his control.

In America, no miscarriage of justice exists in isolation, of course, and in I Can't Breathe Taibbi also examines the conditions that made this tragedy possible. Featuring vivid vignettes of life on the street and inside our Kafkaesque court system, Taibbi's kaleidoscopic account illuminates issues around policing, mass incarceration, the underground economy, and racial disparity in law enforcement. No one emerges unsullied, from the conservative district attorney who half-heartedly prosecutes the case to the progressive mayor caught between the demands of outraged activists and the foot-dragging of recalcitrant police officials.

A masterly narrative of urban America and a scathing indictment of the perverse incentives built into our penal system, I Can't Breathe drills down into the particulars of one case to confront us with the human cost of our broken approach to dispensing criminal justice.

"Brilliant . . . Taibbi is unsparing is his excoriation of the system, police, and courts. . . . This is a necessary and riveting work."-- Booklist (starred review)
Publisher: New York : Spiegel & Grau, [2017]
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780812988840
Branch Call Number: 363.20973 Tai
Characteristics: xii, 322 pages ; 25 cm

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Persnickety77
Feb 09, 2018

Can't say it better than Taibbi himself: "Garner's death, and the great distances that were traveled to protect his killer, now stand as testaments to America's pathological desire to avoid equal treatment under the law for its black population... But his story - about how our ethnic resentments can be manipulated politically to leave us vulnerable to the lawless violence of our own government - is not his alone. His bad luck has now become ours."
Excellent read - I felt super frustrated and angry while reading about the bureaucratic nonsense that happened after Garner was murdered and how indifferently his family was treated. The justice system in this country is a total joke.

vm510 Jan 11, 2018

Taibbi's book succeeds in giving the reader a fuller picture of Eric Garner - his personality, his life, his family, and his troubles. This book is also successful at showing the reader why Eric Garner died that day: the intersection of broken windows policing, stop-and-frisk, the statistics/numbers-focused NYPD, lack of job opportunity, gentrification, etc. The writing is approachable and conversational. During some parts on audio I dozed off (my favorite parts were learning about Eric and his family).

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