The American Civil Liberties Union partners with award-winning authors Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman in this “forceful, beautifully written” (Associated Press) collection that brings together many of our greatest living writers, each contributing an original piece inspired by a historic ACLU case.
On January 19, 1920, a small group of idealists and visionaries, including Helen Keller, Jane Addams, Roger Baldwin, and Crystal Eastman, founded the American Civil Liberties Union. A century after its creation, the ACLU remains the nation’s premier defender of the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.
In collaboration with the ACLU, authors Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman have curated an anthology of essays “full of struggle, emotion, fear, resilience, hope, and triumph” (Los Angeles Review of Books) about landmark cases in the organization’s one-hundred-year history. Fight of the Century takes you inside the trials and the stories that have shaped modern life. Some of the most prominent cases that the ACLU has been involved in—Brown v. Board of Education, Roe v. Wade, Miranda v. Arizona—need little introduction. Others you may never even have heard of, yet their outcomes quietly defined the world we live in now. Familiar or little-known, each case springs to vivid life in the hands of the acclaimed writers who dive into the history, narrate their personal experiences, and debate the questions at the heart of each issue.
Hector Tobar introduces us to Ernesto Miranda, the felon whose wrongful conviction inspired the now-iconic Miranda rights—which the police would later read to the man suspected of killing him. Yaa Gyasi confronts the legacy of Brown v. Board of Education, in which the ACLU submitted a friend of- the-court brief questioning why a nation that has sent men to the moon still has public schools so unequal that they may as well be on different planets. True to the ACLU’s spirit of principled dissent, Scott Turow offers a blistering critique of the ACLU’s stance on campaign finance.
These powerful stories, along with essays from Neil Gaiman, Meg Wolitzer, Salman Rushdie, Ann Patchett, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Louise Erdrich, George Saunders, and many more, remind us that the issues the ACLU has engaged over the past one hundred years remain as vital as ever today, and that we can never take our liberties for granted.
Chabon and Waldman are donating their advance to the ACLU and the contributors are forgoing payment.
Husband and wife Chabon (Moonglow) and Waldman (A Really Good Day) gather dozens of prominent writers to commemorate the ACLU's centennial with powerful, inspiring essays on the legal organization's milestone cases. Addressing City of Chicago v. Morales (1999), novelist Jesmyn Ward (Sing, Unburied, Sing) explores how the concept of loitering has been used to police black communities. Novelist Michael Cunningham (A Wild Swan) recalls that a 1995 decision upholding the right of Boston's Irish Council to ban LGBTQ marchers from its St. Patrick's Day parade led to his arrest in New York City's procession. Journalist H ctor Tobar (Deep Down Dark) memorably credits Miranda v. Arizona (1966) for turning Fifth Amendment protections into "a civic poem in free verse," and poet Moriel Rothman-Zecher (Sadness Is a White Bird) skillfully traces the repercussions of a KKK leader's overturned conviction in Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969). Fittingly, the book's standout essay is also its most contrarian: novelist and lawyer Scott Turow (Testimony) delivers an impassioned takedown of the ACLU's long-standing position that political spending is protected under the First Amendment. Vigorous, informative, and well-organized, this outstanding collection befits the ACLU's substantial impact on American law and society.