In 2009, Isaiah Kalebu broke into a home in the South Park neighborhood of Seattle, and brutally raped and attempted to kill two women, Teresa Butz and Jennifer Hopper. While the women were able to escape, Teresa’s injuries were fatal, and Jennifer survived as the only witness.
This is a true crime story, but journalist Eli Sanders does something more than report the horrific facts. He investigates the backstory of Teresa and Jennifer’s lives, tells how they met and fell in love, and details the planning of their upcoming nuptials.
Sanders then delves into Isaiah’s story. He recounts how his parents’ turbulent and violent marriage dissolved. He talks of family members increased concern over Isaiah’s welfare and ability to deal with reality. Throughout the years there were many attempts at intervention to get Isaiah help for mental instability. As Isaiah grows into a young adult, he is plagued by delusions, possibly inherited from his mother’s side, where many struggled with schizophrenia and other afflictions. He never receives any formal psychiatric intervention.
What Sanders tries to do is to rationalize how Isaiah may have ended up in Teresa and Jennifer’s house. And look at what resources may have been able to prevent such a violent and terrible act.
With reduced budgets, and strained workloads, it’s utterly disturbing to realize the inadequacies of our mental health and court systems. Sanders eloquently blasts the systems that failed to prevent Isaiah from his crimes, and ultimately failed to protect Teresa and Jennifer.
This book is deemed to be an unfortunate new classic in true crime writing, with an overpowering sense of love between two women, and a rational voice for change.
Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa
This book is set against the backdrop of the World Trade Organization protests in Seattle, back in 1999. Sunil Yapa invokes empathy and consideration for all sides involved. Victor, a young nomad, is back in Seattle, after traveling the world and objecting to injustice. He’s at the protests to make a statement and sell as much weed as possible. A young anarchist couple, dedicated to treating pepper spray victims, are on the scene to help the wounded. The police chief is in over his head, and two of his on-duty officers interpret the protesters in extremely contrasting ways. One of the WTO delegates, a representative from Sri Lanka, paints a sobering picture of his country’s peril, and of his overwhelming desire to help his constituency.
Yapa’s plot builds substantially, as the violence in the protests escalates. His character’s flaws are revealed with superb timing, and he does a great job of describing Seattle’s downtown core.
Everyone involved in the protests had a valid reason for their participation. Seeing the other point of view is not a simple task, but one he does with grace among a day filled with angst.