Book Review: Thirty-Eight Witnesses: The Kitty Genovese Case by A. M. Rosenthal

8:45 PM Sarah Koves 3 Comments

 I have received a complimentary copy of this book to review from Open Road Media.
 The opinions here are 100% mine!  This post contains affiliate links.

So much more than a journalist's account of a horrific crime silently witnessed by thirty-seven bystanders.  This 100-page account from New York Times editor and reporter A.M. Rosenthal is an gut-wrenching account of society standing by as a horrific crime is committed.  Rosenthal was the editor of the original reporting on Kitty Genovese's murder outside her apartment building in New York City, and this book is his account of the events.  Not only does Rosenthal use the court and police documents, but he was fortunate to have a meeting with the police commissioner.

Not only does Rosenthal recount the events of the murder of Kitty Genovese, he also probes into the lack of motivation in the thirty-eight people who witnessed her murder.  Rosenthal seeks to answer the question: Why and how could thirty-eight people do nothing as this young woman was murdered?  He also projects the witnesses behavior onto himself and society at large.

My favorite parts of this text are where Rosenthal discusses his lack of social action while traveling the world.  He also makes the reader question why incidents across the ocean drive more public action then events in their own backyard.  His ability to take the reaction of the thirty-eight and subtly imply that most people would react the same way is thought-provoking.

This short yet gripping text pushes the reader to think introspectively.

Every spring when I am covering social psychology in my AP psychology course, my students discuss the Kitty Genovese case when studying the bystander effect.  This text is such a quick and easy read that having my students study this text prior to the discussion could easily be accomplished.  Secondary and collegiate students are sure to be intrigued by Rosenthal's account, introspection, and societal observations.  This text is going on my AP psychology reading list for spring.

Tweet: So much more than a journalist's account of a horrific crime silently witnessed by thirty-seven bystanders. @cera0316

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