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Publisher's Summary

A work of riveting literary journalism that explores the roots and repercussions of the infamous killing of Eric Garner by the New York City police—from the bestselling author of The Divide

NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POST

On July 17, 2014, a forty-three-year-old black man named Eric Garner died on a Staten Island sidewalk after a police officer put him in what has been described as an illegal chokehold during an arrest for selling bootleg cigarettes. The final moments of Garner’s life were captured on video and seen by millions. His agonized last words, “I can’t breathe,” became a rallying cry for the nascent Black Lives Matter protest movement. A grand jury ultimately declined to indict the officer who wrestled Garner to the pavement.

Matt Taibbi’s deeply reported retelling of these events liberates Eric Garner from the abstractions of newspaper accounts and lets us see the man in full—with all his flaws and contradictions intact. A husband and father with a complicated personal history, Garner was neither villain nor victim, but a fiercely proud individual determined to do the best he could for his family, bedeviled by bad luck, and ultimately subdued by forces beyond his control.

In America, no miscarriage of justice exists in isolation, of course, and in I Can’t Breathe, Taibbi also examines the conditions that made this tragedy possible. Featuring vivid vignettes of life on the street and inside our Kafkaesque court system, Taibbi’s kaleidoscopic account illuminates issues around policing, mass incarceration, the underground economy, and racial disparity in law enforcement. No one emerges unsullied, from the conservative district attorney who half-heartedly prosecutes the case to the progressive mayor caught between the demands of outraged activists and the foot-dragging of recalcitrant police officials.

A masterly narrative of urban America and a scathing indictment of the perverse incentives built into our penal system, I Can’t Breathe drills down into the particulars of one case to confront us with the human cost of our broken approach to dispensing criminal justice.

©2017 Matt Taibbi (P)2017 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"Narrator Dominic Hoffman's gravelly timbre and tough tone are an ideal fit for this outstanding piece of journalism. There is a lot of dialogue here - a testament to Taibbi's outstanding reporting - and Hoffman expertly characterizes New York and African-American speech without slipping into caricature. He also manages to capture Taibbi's dark and occasionally sarcastic humor when recounting the injustice of the Garner case and others like it." (AudioFile)

What members say

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  • connie
  • anchorage, ak, United States
  • 11-01-17

I had no idea!

This book provided perspective that helps me begin to get a glimpse - to understand that I had absolutely no clue about how ugly life can be. I thought this insidious evil was behind us. Time after time I couldn't believe what I was hearing and was brought to tears. The injustices that I've witnessed here-to-fore seem paltry compared to what my fellow Americans are subjected to.

I confess that I did not understand the black lives matter movement. I was one of those folks that said "all lives matter". My child is biracial and I've always considered myself colorblind. Instead I was blind to what men and women, mothers and fathers and families of color face. I'm sickened by this horror.

I wish I knew a way to let this man's daughter, Erica Garner know how incredibly impressed I am with her tenacity and courage. I never want sweetness my father be disrespected or treated poorly by anyone. My heart would be destroyed had this happen to my father.

To every man that is been humiliated my heart breaks for you and I'm ashamed.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • John E
  • Clinton, CT, United States
  • 01-05-18

A VERY important book.

This book takes you right into the life of Eric Gardner and the people of Bay Street. You be the judge. This is Matt Taibbi's best book. It blew me away.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Good read from past to current times

Good story and true to this day. Demands the readers full attention to get the oh so true meaning. Sad ending

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Excellent big picture

Great big picture of the broken criminal justice system, the society, the policies and the incentives. Great way to illustrate and connect the dots though history and with specific examples.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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terrific

powerful. uses the case to explore different aspects of racial policing and race. taibi writes with heart, soul and mind

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Eric Garner the man brought to life

This book brings to life Eric Garner. Taibbi shows you Eric in his totality, good and bad, just like he would have wanted. His story is one of struggle and perseverance. He did his best to provide for his family and was murdered by a broken system. This book will make you cry and laugh. I'm left wondering what comes next for Erica,Orta, and America?

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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A must read that explores our racist society

Taibbi does a great job of exploring the life and death of Eric Garner, the man murdered by the NYPD. This was a more complex story that I'd thought. He then goes on to illustrate how Garner's death is emblematic of our society and how it actively marginalizes black and brown people. He adds historical context to his argument later in the book in what is a compelling and ultimately disturbing story. A must read for anyone interested in what "Black Lives Matter" really means.

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Powerfully written, story of injustice, MUST READ!

Matt Taibbi has outdone himself after his fantastic book The Divide exposed the profound Injustice of the two tiered justice system in America. I Can't Breathe is a specific look into the heart of policing in America through the abusive racist practices inherent in New York cities criminal justice system. His writing style is unflinching and honest regarding the personal life of Eric Garner and those that knew him, providing heartwarming and tragic details to the larger narrative of historic import.
I would ask every school assign this to students so they understand the society they live in, that our laws do not apply equally, our rights still subject to violation based on race, that the segregation and inequity of the past has very much reemerged with devastating consequences.
Matt Taibbi makes clear the prolonged ignorance, wilful or not, of white America to the extreme injustice, structural racism, and systemic oppression faced by intentionally segregated communities and exposes the history of official misconduct, policing quotas, broken windows, and other misguided policies that led to the criminalization of communities of color. Well researched, fast paced and unsparing in its assessment of NYC's political class, it honors the life of Eric Garner and his daughter's struggle for justice. In light of her untimely death, this book has even more resonance, as it tells the true nature of the system she was still fighting against through her last years of life. Rest in peace Erica.

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This book changed my life.

I can't even put into words how this book has changed my life and my view of America a country that I thought was free and desegregated but in truth is not behind the never ending rich white bureaucracy of our political figures and corrupt police. It has opened my eyes as sadden me.

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  • EC
  • Asheville, NC, United States
  • 02-02-18

Another Great Taibbi book

Taibbi tells us a tale that we kinda already know. He makes Eric Garner more than a street hustler but a real man trying to provide for his family the best way that he can. Tragic story. Well told.