Tuesday, August 09, 2005

'Death on the Fourth of July'

I've been sorely remiss (what with my energies focused on Strawberry Days) in mentioning that the new paperback edition of my second book, Death on the Fourth of July : The Story of a Killing, a Trial, and Hate Crime in America is now out on the bookshelves as well.

For anyone who has hesitated to plunk down $30 for the hardcover edition, this one retails at $15.95 and may thus be more within reach.

While you're at it, you may want to check out the nice review of DOTFJ from Janinsanfran at Happening-Here?:
Death is really two books. One theme is an extremely well researched, exhaustively argued, explication of bias crimes legislation, the laws that enable courts to name and give enhanced sentences when they find that perpetrators were motivated by bigotry. Neiwert covers all the bases here. He describes the origin of the effort to criminalize bigotry with anti-lynching laws in the 1920s and 30s(we never got a federal law!) and continues up through modern right wing insistence that protecting gays from bias crimes would create "special rights."

If I were a neutral Martian I'd be really fascinated by all of this, but I'm not (either a neutral Martian or fascinated.) The creeps who don't want hate crimes laws haven't changed much since they were repressing uppity Negroes in the old South after the Civil War -- they enjoy being top dogs; they don't want to share; and they make up any intellectually specious nonsense (all pretty much cut from the same legal-rights-for-moral-white-folks cloth) that enables them to hang on to superior status.

I was much more interested in Neiwert's other narrative describing the sequence of events which left a Confederate flag waving white man dead and an Asian immigrant on trial for manslaughter in a small Washington state beach resort town. As a pretty visible dyke, I've known what it is to be afraid of the locals in slightly seedy vacation spots where bored local kids sometimes get their kicks by harassing the "wrong kind" of tourists. That kind of scene is trouble waiting to happen. What was unusual in this case was that, not only did someone end up dead, but, almost accidentally, it was the bully who was killed while his intended victim walked away (though certainly not unscathed.)

The book has, frankly, kind of stiffed at the box office; that's the price, I suppose, of writing on unpopular topics. But it continues to garner good reviews, and I know that (as with In God's Country) a number of communities have turned to it as a reference when dealing with these crimes. That's satisfaction enough.

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