October presents a number of reasons to dig into a true story of crime and punishment: issues of criminal justice have come up repeatedly in this election season; the immediacy of memoir can provide insight into a specific time and place that you’re studying for any discipline; and the suspense of an investigation can put a welcome tingle up your spine in this most haunted of months. Here are a few new books at the DePaul University Library that examine real-life stories of crime and its aftermath.
If you haven’t already been swept up in WBEZ Chicago’s Peabody Award-winning “Serial” podcast phenomenon, here’s a brief summary without spoilers: In 1999, a Baltimore teenager named Adnan Syed was arrested for the murder of Hae Min Lee, his ex-girlfriend. Adnan said he was innocent. The court didn’t agree. “Serial” host Sarah Koenig weaves together interviews and narrative to tell a dramatic story of homicide and courtroom proceedings, one which feels unjust and unresolved to Syed and his advocates. Koenig started looking at Adnan’s case at the urging of Rabia Chaudry, a lawyer and family friend of the Syeds who maintains Adnan’s innocence and advocates for a re-examination of his case and ultimately his exoneration. Following the success of “Serial,” Chaudry continued to tell Adnan’s story with her own podcast, “Undisclosed.” In August 2016, Chaudry published a book to give further insight into the case, Adnan’s Story: The Search for Truth and Justice After Serial. Chaudry presents previously unpublished letters and documentation, new evidence, and reflections from Adnan himself. The book also serves as an exploration of what it means to stand before the court of public opinion in the digital age, when crowdsourced research and finances can turn podcast listeners into participants in the criminal justice process. Available in the Unwind the Mind: Popular Reading Collection on the 1st floor of the John T. Richardson Library, Call Number 364.1523092 C4968A2016.
While Adnan Syed’s experience has been transmitted to hundreds of millions of people via a download button, the experience of Austin Reed was quite the opposite– hand-written but read by no one for 150 years. The Life and the Adventures of a Haunted Convict, edited by Caleb Smith, puts Reed’s memoir in print for the first time since the manuscript was discovered at an estate sale and verified by a team of Yale scholars in 2009. Born a free man in New York in the 1820’s, Reed was an indentured servant before ending up in a juvenile reformatory as a boy and then Auburn State Prison as a man. His memoir is not a protestation of wrongful conviction– his crimes are on record– but a protestation of the hauntingly wrongful treatment of African-Americans in the Antebellum criminal justice system, even those who are free, middle-class, and living in a Northern state. Smith includes historical documents to give context and corroboration to this striking primary source, which is now considered to be the earliest known prison memoir by an African-American. Available in the John T. Richardson Library, Call Number 365.34 R3233l.
Corey Pegues knows how to view crime and punishment from both sides of the law. He has lived both sides, spending his early life as a gang member in Queens before becoming an accomplished member of the NYPD. He translates his life experience into a candid discussion of the relationship between the police and their communities in his new book, Once a Cop: The Street, the Law, Two Worlds, One Man. Pegues isn’t afraid to ask tough questions about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to policing. He approaches a tense and complicated issue with scrutiny, but not without compassion; after all, he better than anyone knows how to empathize with multiple points of view. Does Pegues believe American cities have worked out the best way to police? Not yet. Does he write with hope and openness to change? Absolutely. Available in the Popular Reading section of the Loop Campus Library, Call Number 363.2092 P376O2016.
Has the October air gotten just a little bit darker and colder since you started reading this post? Grab one of these books, a blanket, and a warm drink– or, if you want to step further into the world of crime and punishment, a bowl of ramen.