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Just Pursuit

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In her latest book Just Pursuit, Laura Coates shares her experiences as a Department of Justice prosecutor. Additionally, being a Black woman (and a mother) adds another layer and depth to her stories demonstrating the intersectionality her gender and race have had in her career. 

Coates discusses cases ranging from immigration deportation to voting rights in the South to child abuse and others in between. She communicates the complexity of her cases and how it affected her decisions. She also pays special attention to her experiences as a Black woman in predominately white spaces in the legal profession and how she navigated specific conversations and scenarios. 

I enjoyed learning about her life as a Black woman in the legal field and found the cases she was assigned to be very eye-opening. I thought it was also interesting to read how she handled being a new mom and the constant pull she felt to parent and have a demanding career. However, there were a few aspects that I did not enjoy about this book. 

At the end of the book, she summarizes justice as a cost-benefit analysis. After reading how she prosecuted some of her cases, framing it as a cost-benefit analysis accurately depicts her thought process in her role as a prosector. I would imagine that a BIPOC (Black Indigenous Person of Color) reader who has felt that the laws do not protect them might find this problematic. To some extent, I can understand Coates' potential thought process of 'Is this decision worth losing my law license?', 'If I make this decision, will my white counterparts think less of me?', 'How much debt I have incurred from legal school and is that playing a role in this decision?', etc. But since we are talking about justice, I think doing what's right for those who have less is the goal. This means that those of us with privilege have to give up something in order for equity to exist.

It's quite possible that Coates and I have different definitions of what is considered just and/or fair which I acknowledge. I also acknowledge that my views can be described as naive or idealistic and that I am not accounting for the complexity and/or nuance, which to a certain degree I understand. However, it frustrates me to read another book where injustice is at the hands of the US legal system and it's being framed as an acceptance because of the weight of cost and benefit. It also bothers me when situations like this are accepted because an individual was able to make other decisions in the name of justice and they wouldn't have been able to do so if this other unjust event didn't happen. 

One last critique is the labeled genre of the book. I was under the impression that this was a memoir but it felt more like essays to me. I actually prefer essays over a memoir but I thought this book would have a more linear timeline than it did. 

All in all, I thought her experiences as a Black woman and mother were very interesting. I also found the cases she chose to speak about were also eye-opening. However as previously stated, I did not like how justice was framed as a cost-benefit analysis and this book did not give me hope that we are moving away from this problematic view of thinking. 

TW: Racism, Abuse, Abuse of a child

Thank you Simon and Schuster for the Netgalley ARC!
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I always felt I could never be a prosecutor, defense attorney or a public defender/prosecutor ever and this book just reinforced that. I cannot imagine doing that job, no matter how much you want to right wrongs. I completely admire Ms. Coates - what she did and what she went through while being in public service is nothing short of amazing to me [and to all the people she worked with as well] - how they dealt with all that sadness and depravity day after day is beyond me. I think towards the end of her tenure, it was her child that kept her sane [she does touch on this in the conclusion of the book].

Told in short story chapters, there really isn't a happy ending story among these. You meet a couple of judges that have no business being on the bench. You meet one prosecutor who obviously chose the wrong profession [one's personal beliefs can never come into play when you are in the Law] Yes, she wins [often and well]. Yes, people who are vile and the dregs of society go to jail. Yet, no one really wins. People who need real help are not helped and you have to wonder how many end up back in that same courtroom again and again. It was sad and disheartening. Yet, there is hope simply because there are people like Laura Coates that give a damn about the damaged and maligned. That fight for truth and justice. That believe that lives matter, especially black lives. That fight tooth and nail for the truth to come out and for lives to begin to be made whole. But!! Like she says in the book, there is much reform needed; an emphasis on mental health and helping victims past the verdict would go far in helping them not be victims again. The way juries are picked needs reformed [some of this was eye-opening to me]. Mostly, we need more people who are willing to fight for justice and not just write it in.

Overall, this book was very good. It shines a light on an area that is not often talked about. I highly recommend this to anyone. Now, I am off to have some chess pie. ;-)

Thank you to NetGalley, Laura Coates, and Simon and Schuster for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Wow.  There is a LOT in this memoir.  Much to wrestle with about how our justice system works (and mostly doesn't).  Compelliing, but ultimately, just very depressing.
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Is it possible my first book of 2022 is going to be my favorite? I won't be surprised.

Laura Coates first came into my universe while I watched news coverage of Derek Chauvin's trial last summer. She's hands down the best legal correspondent I've seen on TV - all I could think when I watched her was that if a loved one or I ever had a legal issue, I wanted her on my side.

So I leaped at the opportunity to read her upcoming book early (thanks Netgalley for a copy). Nonfiction usually takes me a while to read; a chapter or two a day is my typical pace. Coate's book, though, pulled me in immediately; I could not stop reading. Yes, it's nearly noon, and I'm still in my pj's, with no regrets. Her book has seared a place in my heart and brain.

Just Pursuit is not a dry expository analysis of the DOJ. Not at all. It's a personal memoir of Coate's four years as a criminal prosecutor. The book unfolds as a collection of stories. Each chapter details a specific case or situation while describing how Laura, as a Black woman, and Ms. Coates, as an attorney, experienced the intersecting facts and emotions. It was riveting reading.

As a professional woman, I identified with her working through two pregnancies and raising her young family. My vocation is different, but the challenge of compartmentalizing the various sectors of life was relatable. 

Mostly, though, Coates' stories impressed upon me the complexity of our criminal justice system in a way no book I've read before has accomplished (and I've read a lot on the topic). Choose this book if you are looking for a relatable, engaging, and profoundly personal depiction of our justice system.
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This insider's view on the US criminal justice system is a truly immersive read. Through a series of stand-alone stories, Laura Coates shares her empathetic take on her career in the US Attorney's Office in Washington DC, weaving in her perspective as a lawyer, mother, and Black woman. She brings you inside the courtroom, sharing the complex decisions she faced and heartbreaking stories from victims and defendants alike. Coates' pursuit to recognize the humanity of everyone impacted by this often-unjust system, while keeping her own humanity intact, is a must read.
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Just Pursuit provides an insiders look into the justice system. The juxtaposition of Coates as a Black prosecutor is eye opening and complex. It is clear that Coates served her time with the Department of Justice dutifully and honorably but not without carrying pain and heartache. Each case helps the reader  understand how the justice system works and who the people are on the “inside.”
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This book is well-written, very accessible, and very sad. It should be on everyone's anti-racism reading list. I can see a crossover appeal for fans of true crime, as each chapter has a different courtroom scenario that Coates describes in vivid detail. On the whole, it is a more personal illustration of many of the issues and dilemmas raised in Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow. A very powerful book.
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Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this ARC!
I heard this author speak in a session on books on social justice and knew right away I wanted to read it.  And it is good!  The stories the author tells of the cases she has been involved in tell us a lot about our "justice" system and the work that must be done to fix it.  Very well done.
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I've been a fan of the author's work in the past, and have listened to her on her radio show for a while.  But I was never aware of the depth of her experience within the criminal justice system.  This book was both eye-opening and heartbreaking.  And I absolutely loved it.  I really enjoy books that give a reader a glimpse into the inner workings of powerful, life-altering systems such as this one, and this did not disappoint.  I feel that someone such as Laura Coates, who has been a part of this world, is in the best position to speak to its flaws, and that is exactly what happens here.  It's easy for me to say something like "Black individuals are punished by the criminal justice system more harshly than whites", because that intuitively makes sense to me.  But I have very little basis for making that statement, other than my own gut feeling.  This book gave me a great deal more evidence and stories and firsthand knowledge that I will be thinking about (and referencing in conversations with others) for a very long time.  I very much appreciated the chance to read it, and I think you should too.
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I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir by Laura Coates. I enjoy watching and listening to Laura's contributions on CNN and as a new lawyer myself, I was very excited to read this. 

As a black prosecutor, her insight is crucial to fighting systematic racism. In the introduction. she mentions that out of the hundreds of criminal matters her office prosecuted, she could count the number of white defendants on one hand. Throughout the book, Laura shares countless stories of what it means to be a black woman working in the legal system. 

This should be a must-read for all prosecutors. It was thought-provoking and tragic. I cannot wait to purchase a physical copy of this book to add to my shelf in my office.
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I admire the honesty in this memoir. The many stories Coates included were insightful in understanding the weaknesses of the criminal justice system and Coates' perspective as a POC adds to the memoir's significance. However, in the end, I can't help but feel like this was a collection of disjointed stories from Coates' career but not much more. I'd loved to have more of the nuanced discussions of race and justice that appeared in the last chapter of the book; the stories would have a greater impact if more pages were dedicated to Coates' thought process (whether in the moment or after).
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