The Torture Letters
Reckoning with Police Violence
by Laurence Ralph

When approaching a nonfiction book about such a heavy topic written by a Princeton University professor, it's normal to assume that it's going to be a slow and difficult read. But in this case, you would be wrong.

Written as a series of open letters to victims, witnesses, and past and future leaders of Chicago, the book focuses on the (unfortunately radical) premise that torture is ALWAYS wrong, whether the victim is a wrongly accused innocent or a "bad guy." It is an engrossing page turner, and not at all what I was expecting.

It serves as a shocking indictment of the Chicago political system and CPD, which had for decades protected torturers and silenced victims. As someone who had grown up in the Chicago area, I was disgusted to read familiar names and hear of their roles in cover ups; some of these people are still in power.

However, there were still stories of hope in darkness, highlighting the work done recently by young activists in bringing light to crimes, and small steps towards reform in the Chicago Police Department.

It certainly challenged me to open and soften my heart towards perceived threats and not to buy into a societal fear that expects crime around every corner. Fear, the book reasons, leads to violence and torture, and we must be brave enough to say enough.

Also, it was not a religious book by any means, but it still spoke to me as a Christian in its assertion that inside all of us is a basic and inalienable holiness in our humanity, wherein no one should be subject to torture, whether you are an unrepentant killer or simply someone in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Recommended for: students/scholars in social sciences, community activists, people from the Chicago area, human beings in general.

arc received from the publisher