Allow Me to Retort

A Black Guy’s Guide to the Constitution

MSNBC legal commentator Elie Mystal thinks that Republicans are wrong about the law almost all of the time. Now, instead of talking about this on cable news, Mystal explains why in his first book.

“After reading Allow Me to Retort, I want Elie Mystal to explain everything I don’t understand—quantum astrophysics, the infield fly rule, why people think Bob Dylan is a good singer . . .” —Michael Harriot, The Root

Allow Me to Retort is an easily digestible argument about what rights we have, what rights Republicans are trying to take away, and how to stop them. Mystal explains how to protect the rights of women and people of color instead of cowering to the absolutism of gun owners and bigots. He explains the legal way to stop everything from police brutality to political gerrymandering, just by changing a few judges and justices. He strips out all of the fancy jargon conservatives like to hide behind and lays bare the truth of their project to keep America forever tethered to its slaveholding past.

Mystal brings his trademark humor, expertise, and rhetorical flair to explain concepts like substantive due process and the right for the LGBTQ community to buy a cake, and to arm readers with the knowledge to defend themselves against conservatives who want everybody to live under the yoke of eighteenth-century white men. The same tactics Mystal uses to defend the idea of a fair and equal society on MSNBC and CNN are in this book, for anybody who wants to deploy them on social media.

You don’t need to be a legal scholar to understand your own rights. You don’t need to accept the “whites only” theory of equality pushed by conservative judges. You can read this book to understand that the Constitution is trash, but doesn’t have to be.


“A pugnacious and entertaining critique of conservative interpretations of the Constitution. . . . Buttressed by Mystal’s caustic wit and accessible legal theories, this fiery takedown hits the mark.”
Publishers Weekly
“Essential reading for people who think that you need to go to law school to understand our founding documents, and the perfect guidebook for Americans who want to understand how our country is supposed to work.”
—Zerlina Maxwell, MSNBC analyst and author of The End of White Politics
“Elie Mystal is the funniest lawyer in America. Allow Me to Retort is brisk and brutal, sharply argued, full of both laugh-out-loud lines and righteous fury.”
—Matt Levine, “Money Stuff” columnist, Bloomberg Opinion
“A tour de force from the Explainer-in-Chief of American law! Mystal’s sharp wit entertains and educates about some of the greatest misconceptions of Constitutional scholarship and travesties in American justice.”
—Malcolm Nance, bestselling author of The Plot to Hack America
“It is impossible to enjoy reading the Constitution more than through the searing perspective of the brilliant Twainesque humor of Elie Mystal in Allow Me to Retort.”
New York Journal of Books
“There’s something to learn on every page. . . . A reading of the Constitution that all social justice advocates should study.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“I loved Allow Me to Retort. It’s a powerful and important book of brightly alive ideas. Mystal deconstructs tired arguments and failed positions with his signature intelligence, humor, grace, and extraordinary wit. His big brain, bright ideas and fierce advocacy for what is right are an antidote to the poison of our current political system.”
—Don Winslow, bestselling author of The Border
“In Elie Mystal, we, the people, have a smart and funny legal pugilist. Allow Me to Retort is the people’s guide to today’s battles over the use, misuse, and abuse of the Constitution, and how we can actually secure justice for all.”
—Dan Berger, professor of comparative ethnic studies, University of Washington, and author of Rethinking the American Prison movement
“This witty, profane, and well-argued book makes a strong case for recognizing the flaws in our founding document and doing what we can to fix it.”
Washington Lawyer

News and Reviews

The Nation

Read an excerpt from Allow Me to Retort in The Nation.

The View

Watch an interview with author Elie Mystal on The View.

Kirkus Reviews

Read a starred review of Elie Mystal’s Allow Me to Retort in Kirkus Reviews.

Goodreads Reviews