The Red Parts: Autobiography of a Trial
Months before Maggie Nelson’s first book about the 35-year-long unsolved murder of her aunt is about to be published, she learns that her aunt’s case is in fact open and that detectives are close to solving it. The Red Parts is Nelson’s frenzied attempt to record the subsequent trial of her aunt’s suspected murderer and the emotional impact the case’s reopening had on her family.
Written in the form of an extended essay, The Red Parts makes for quick and compulsive reading. Nelson honestly details how her aunt’s murder has shadowed so much of her family’s past and present, and also offers a deft critique of society’s fascination with sexualized crimes against women. Her critique of the gratuitous nature of true crime TV shows and of the media’s coverage of violent crime extends to the “maleness” of her aunt’s investigation and trial, and she wonders to what extent the investigating and trying of crimes against women by men are subject to male exploitation. Within Nelson’s analysis is a model for how victim’s families can reject the true crime genre’s need for anger and grief by bearing witness to how their loved ones are being portrayed in courts and in the media instead of focusing their grief on retribution.