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The Red Parts: Autobiography of a Trial by…
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The Red Parts: Autobiography of a Trial

by Maggie Nelson

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Maggie Nelson's Aunt Jane was murdered in 1969, 4 years before Nelson was born. She grew up knowing about the murder, and as an adult wrote a book about it, "Jane." Over the years it was presumed that Jane was murdered by a serial killer who was convicted for murdering other women. Then, in 2004 just "Jane" was about to be published, new DNA evidence identified Jane's actual murderer. Over the next months, Nelson attended the trial with her mother.

Despite its subtitle, this is not a true crime book, nor is it really an account of a murder trial, which is what I was expecting. Instead, it was more about Nelson's life, loves, and thoughts, which I really wasn't interested in. The New York Times asked, "{D}oes she want Jane's life to matter...or her own?" Exactly.

2 stars ( )
  arubabookwoman | Jul 14, 2017 |
In 2004, as Maggie Nelson is preparing to release her poetry collection JANE: A MURDER, she receives word that police believe they have found the man responsible for her aunt Jane's death decades before. In THE RED PARTS: AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A TRIAL, the author explores her involvement in the investigation of the killer, primarily through research for her poetry collection, and her experiences as the investigation moves to arrest of the suspect and eventually the trial itself. Through this, the reader is taken, ultimately, on a journey to come to terms with whose life really matters in society.

This is not a "true crime" story or a courtroom transcript. Instead, Maggie Nelson weaves a thoughtful and emotionally expressive narrative of the grief her family endured during the initial investigation in 1969, and the new grief that she and the remaining family members experience through the current proceedings. You learn about the lasting impacts of the tragedy on Maggie's loved ones, and how those effects seeped into other relationships. She so masterfully and gracefully incorporates her memoir into the framework of the trial that the reader is left feeling the full breadth of emotions along with the author.

There are also deep-dives into aspects of criminal investigation that you don't often find in memoirs. The author writes in depth about the role of DNA analysis in modern investigations, and the analysis of the findings, since that technology wasn't available at the time of her aunt's initial murder trial. It is staggering to understand just how much can be known about a crime from the DNA that is left behind. You also find out how news programs and true-crime TV shows interact with victims and their families during these proceedings, the interactions of which are about as uncompassionate and exploitative as you would expect.

While the climax of THE RED PARTS is the jury's verdict in the trial, there is no grand expression of devastation or jubilance on either side. There is still an uneasiness for the author, because what good does this trial ultimately achieve? Her aunt is still dead, and an old man's life has been irrevocably changed. There are many questions probed in this autobiography of a trial, with few answers...much like life (and death) itself. It is the journey of Maggie Nelson's writing that makes this a gripping and emotional book - putting context to a life cut short. ( )
  BooksForYears | Nov 4, 2016 |
Maggie Nelson has written a powerful and deeply personal memoir that explores the world of quiet, enduring grief that settles on a family after suffering a horrific act of violence. Nelson doesn't seek easy answers or sentimental comforts, but rather delves unflinchingly into her own complicated life and the lives of her family as they revisit a tragedy that has left its stamp on them all for over three decades. One of the most haunting and original works I have had the pleasure of reading. ( )
  rumhud | May 8, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 141653203X, Hardcover)

One day in March 1969, twenty-three- year-old Jane Mixer was on her way home to tell her parents she was getting married. She had arranged for a ride through the campus bulletin board at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where she was one of a handful of pioneering women students at the law school. Her body was found the following morning just inside the gates of a small cemetery fourteen miles away, shot twice in the head and strangled. Six other young women were murdered around the same time, and it was assumed they had all been victims of alleged serial killer John Collins, who was convicted of one of these crimes not long after. Jane Mixer's death was long considered to be one of the infamous Michigan Murders, as they had come to be known. But officially, Jane's murder remained unsolved, and Maggie Nelson grew up haunted by the possibility that the killer of her mother's sister was still at large. In an instance of remarkable serendipity, more than three decades later, a 2004 DNA match led to the arrest of a new suspect for Jane's murder at precisely the same time that Nelson was set to publish a book of poetry about her aunt's life and death - a book she had been working on for years, and which assumed her aunt's case to be closed forever. The Red Parts chronicles the uncanny series of events that led to Nelson's interest in her aunt's death, the reopening of the case, the bizarre and brutal trial that ensued, and the effects these events had on the disparate group of people they brought together. But The Red Parts is much more than a "true crime" record of a murder, investigation, and trial. For into this story Nelson has woven a spare, poetic account of a girlhood and early adulthood haunted by loss, mortality, mystery, and betrayal, as well as a subtle but blistering look at the personal and political consequences of our cultural fixation on dead (white) women. The result is a stark, fiercely intell

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:49 -0400)

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