Hello mystery fans! I have two narrative nonfiction titles for you that are many things rolled into...
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Jul 07, 2021

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Sponsored by Flatiron Books, publisher of Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby.

Provocative and fast-paced, S. A. Cosby’s Razorblade Tears is a story of bloody retribution, heartfelt change – and maybe even redemption.

Hello mystery fans! I have two narrative nonfiction titles for you that are many things rolled into each book from history to legal cases, both urgently current. I can not recommend these two books enough, especially the first for its exceptional writing and both for the information.

A Knock at Midnight: A Story of Hope, Justice, and Freedom by Brittany K. Barnett

A Knock At Midnight reminded me of Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy and Chanel Miller’s Know My Name in that it is exceptionally written about difficult topics while managing to somehow always keep a level of hope. So much so that I usually have to pace myself on this type of nonfiction, but I instead listened to the audiobook over two days; the narrator, Karen Chilton, is fantastic.

Brittany K. Barnett tells the story of growing up with a loving family, including her mom who dealt with drug addiction, her first career, deciding to go to law school, and then discovering cases of people imprisoned for lengths of time that were grossly disproportionate to the crimes. The war on drugs created a war against Black and brown communities disproportionate to white ones by creating a fixed sentencing that was different for powder cocaine to crack cocaine. This left many people with life sentences for nonviolent drug offenses. Not only does Barnett take us through the cases that crossed her path and those she took on, but she also takes a look at the system and laws that were created during the war on drugs and also where things stand now.

Reading the cases in this book and how addiction was treated cruelly and criminally is heartbreaking, but Barnett always has hope and leads with action. A Knock At Midnight is a fantastic mix of memoir, history, law, legal cases, a love letter to Black communities, and how to turn outrage into action for change. I can’t recommend this book enough and have been kicking myself for taking so long to get to it.

(TW addiction/ partner abuse/ malpractice pregnancy loss/ brief suicide mention, detail/ racism/ prison abuse)

The Unfit Heiress Cover

The Unfit Heiress: The Tragic Life and Scandalous Sterilization of Ann Cooper Hewitt by Audrey Clare Farley

This is a shocking story to start with about a mother, Maryon Cooper Hewitt, who had her daughter, Ann Cooper Hewitt, sterilized without her consent or knowledge for an inheritance. It gives you the story of Maryon and Ann along with the court case that followed when Ann realized what had been done to her. But the book has a much wider and horrifying scope because laws that allowed this to happen are still in place and still function to control mostly people with uteruses by controlling their reproductive rights. Think of Britney Spears saying in court that she’s being forced to keep an IUD (it is worth the time to read Britney Spears’s Conservatorship Nightmare) and women coming forward last year to say hysterectomies were performed on them while in immigration custody.

The book takes a dive into the history of eugenics and how these laws were devised, the tests used to determine who was “unfit” to have children, and how certain communities—including disabled people and people of color—were targeted because white wealthy women went from having six children to three. This is not a history that we’re far removed from, this is a horrifying and terrifying practice in the here and now.

(TW child abuse/ suicide, detail/ attempted suicide treated as criminal case/ ableism/ eugenics–racism, misogyny, homophobia)

From The Book Riot Vault

Bolder and Wiser: 3 Shows About Older Women Writer-Detectives


Browse all the books recommended in Unusual Suspects previous newsletters on this shelf. See upcoming 2021 releases. Check out this Unusual Suspects Pinterest board and get Tailored Book Recommendations!

Until next time, keep investigating! In the meantime, come talk books with me on Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, and Litsy–you can find me under Jamie Canavés.

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