This historical retelling of the vicious killing of Vincent Chin is incredibly rich, deep, and detailed. The amount of work and research put into From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry: The Killing of Vincent Chin and the Trial that Galvanized the Asian American Movement is inescapably on full display, but thankfully none of it is dry or boring. Author Paula Yoo wisely chooses to move the narrative along through different voices, characters, and perspectives. At the beginning, there's biograhical information and context about Vincent Chin and his mother, Lily Chin, but soon each chapter takes up the day in the life of another character in the story, eventually getting to about Chin's killers, the lawyers representing them, and the first judge to sentence them so leniently. This approach also provides some much needed humanity to the whole presentation, and not only because the heavy subject matter, but also because it also reminds us that everyone involved have families, jobs, and lives, and are, after all, human. Nevertheless, there is only so much you can do in a story about an unjust, probably racially motivated killing of a person of color by two White men who looked for their victim after their initial encounter, stalked, and surprised him, and finally beat him to death with a baseball bat.
This book does great justice to Chin's story without being overly dramatic, one-sided, or preachy. Dozens and dozens of conversations, interviews, and courtroom dialogue are recreated, and the facts, opinions, and statements from all the different characters involved really help make this book feel accurate. While it often reads like journalism going through its paces, the content is all there, no matter how you shake it, and this sheer amount of information, context, and perspective is well worth the read. This book could work quite well in classrooms, as Chin's story is tragically similar to many current and recent stories about people of color, and especially Black people, unfairly treated, harmed, beaten, and killed. White killers are given such lenience and benefit of the doubt, and can "fail up" in all kinds of ways. Yet, Black men are sentenced to years of prison for nonviolent crimes like weed possession, do not tend to get lenience or benefit of the doubt. The judge who originally let off Chin's killers so leniently perhaps said it best when he was defending his sentencing ruling: "These weren't the kind of men you send to jail. You don't make the punishment fit the crime; you make the punishment fit the criminal."