Equal: Women Reshape American Law

Lest we take for granted the rights that today's women expect, Fred Strebeigh creates a compelling tale of how hard -- and how recently -- women worked to get us here. More behind-the-scenes and personal than straight legal narrative, Equal: Women Reshape American Law combines the author's interviews and exclusive archival access to create a revealing account of the groundbreaking cases involving women's rights. Flexing his journalistic storytelling muscle, the author portrays plaintiffs, lawyers, and judges as complex characters with financial woes, competing agendas, and setbacks. The unfolding legal battles become dramatic as the reader develops an emotional attachment to the people who made change happen. Strebeigh's standout section is about sexual harassment. Here he chronicles the ways that judges ruled against women, because not only did the problem "have no law," it "also had no recognition, no politics, no movement, and no awareness to the nation. Perhaps most remarkably, it had no name." It took until 1986 for the Supreme Court to rule in favor of one woman who was consistently harassed and coerced by her boss. Without the efforts of women law students and professors to imagine creative new interpretations of the law, beginning in 1976, such a victory would have been unlikely. Strebeigh tackles the political motivations behind decisions, including a skeptical Chief Justice Rehnquist's surprising majority opinion on sexual harassment, one that made him appear pro–civil rights just before his nomination for chief justice. Guiding readers to understand how laws against racism paved the way for monumental decisions involving gender, the author zooms in on some stars, like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Catharine MacKinnon, and a host of perseverant plaintiffs. The book begins with a widowed father's quest to get the Social Security benefits a single mother would, then moves to discuss pregnancy, barriers facing women lawyers, harassment, and violence. This dynamic account of legal wranglings is accessible to anyone interested in how greater equality between the sexes came to our fair country, not too long ago.

April 23: " 'A job,' the woman repeated again, smiling, as if I hadn't heard her. 'Would you like one?' "

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysely Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.

The Promise of Hope

Killed last year in the infamous terror attack at Nairobi's Westgate mall, Kofi Awoonor was a national treasure in his native Ghana.  His career began in 1964 with Rediscovery, and this magnum opus serves as a tribute to his entire long journey charting his beloved nation's course through his accomplished poetry.

Winter Mythologies and Abbots

A pair of linked stories finds that, as translator Ann Jefferson relates, "[Pierre] Michon's great theme is the precarious balance between belief and imposture, and the way the greatest aspirations can be complicated by physical desire or the equally urgent desire for what he calls glory."