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Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America Hardcover – January 27, 2015
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An Amazon Best Book of the Month for February 2015: There’s a statistic that surfaces early in Jill Leovy’s fundamentally important book Ghettoside that should catch your attention: black men compose about 6% of the country’s population, yet they are the victim in nearly 40% of homicides. And who’s killing those black men? The answer is most often other black men. Leovy, a writer for the Los Angeles Times, explores the culture of black violence, specifically in South Central LA, describing a world that seems to exist hermetically sealed off from the rest of the city. With nearly zero mobility and little policing, the people of South Central are left to fend for themselves—further amplifying the devastating drumbeat of gangs and violence. Leovy builds her book around one family’s story: Wally Tennelle, an LA cop, has refused to move his wife and kids out of his Watts neighborhood. Then his youngest son is murdered (unlike most murders in the area, this one was covered by the local media). Through the gathering of evidence, the roundup of suspects, and the trial that ultimately comes to be—all spearheaded by John Skaggs, a very dedicated and capable LA homicide detective—Leovy makes the argument that what places like South Central need is more policing, not less. They need more attention—not debate, finger pointing, and inaction. – Chris Schluep
“A serious and kaleidoscopic achievement . . . [Jill Leovy is] a crisp writer with a crisp mind and the ability to boil entire skies of information into hard journalistic rain.”—Dwight Garner, The New York Times
“Masterful . . . gritty reporting that matches the police work behind it.”—Los Angeles Times
“Moving and engrossing.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“Penetrating and heartbreaking . . . Ghettoside points out how relatively little America has cared even as recently as the last decade about the value of young black men’s lives.”—USA Today
“Functions both as a snappy police procedural and—more significantly—as a searing indictment of legal neglect . . . Leovy’s powerful testimony demands respectful attention.”—The Boston Globe
“Ghettoside is fantastic. It does what the best narrative nonfiction does: It transcends its subject by taking one person’s journey and making it all our journeys. That’s what makes this not just a gritty, heart-wrenching, and telling book, but an important one. From the patrol cop to the president, everyone needs to read this book.”—Michael Connelly
“Ghettoside is remarkable: a deep anatomy of lawlessness.”—Atul Gawande, author of Being Mortal
“[Leovy writes] with grace and artistry, and controlled—but bone-deep—outrage in her new book. . . . Ghettoside, if there’s any justice, will be the most important book about urban violence in a generation.”—David M. Kennedy, The Washington Post
“Riveting . . . This timely book could not be more important.”—Associated Press
“Told with the chilling detail and gripping pace of a prime-time drama.”—The Economist
“Leovy’s relentless reporting has produced a book packed with valuable, hard-won insights—and it serves as a crucial, 366-page reminder that ‘black lives matter.’ ”—The New York Times Book Review
“A compelling analysis of the factors behind the epidemic of black-on-black homicide, and the beginnings of a policy prescription for tackling it . . . an important book, which deserves a wide audience.”—Hari Kunzru, The Guardian
“Ghettoside has many successes: its complicated portrait of the LAPD, the humanity it lends to the families of murder victims, and its ability to engage readers from a historical and current-day context (the sundry facts Leovy provides throughout the book never overwhelm).”—Jason Parham, Gawker
“A brave book . . . It is not often that I pick up a work of non-fiction and picture the movie unfolding before my eyes. . . . [Ghettoside] offers a calm dissection of America’s oldest epidemic. . . . [Leovy’s] knowledge makes for lapidary prose that crackles with insight. It is also deeply humane.”—Financial Times
“Jill Leovy writes with exceptional sharpness and tautness, and her pages glow and glitter with the found poetry of the street. This book will take an honored place on the shelf that includes David Simon’s classic Homicide and Michelle Alexander’s explosive study of mass incarceration, The New Jim Crow.”—Martin Amis
“A gripping and powerful account of urban homicide investigation in the United States.”—Gilbert King, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Devil in the Grove
“Unmissable . . . I’m astonished by Jill Leovy’s forthcoming Ghettoside. Police and race in America are examined with forensic skill and furious, exceptional prose. Lucid, revelatory, superbly written, incredibly timely. A book of the year.”—Chris Cleave, author of Little Bee
“Ghettoside is a brilliant taxonomic investigation into the American violence epidemic disguised as a highly entertaining true crime book.”—Matt Taibbi, author of The Divide
“A thoroughly engrossing true-life policier full of vivid and sympathetic characters, but also the bravest book about race and crime I’ve ever read.”—Dan Baum, author of Nine Lives
“What an amazing book—a totally gripping piece of reporting.”—Paul French, author of Midnight in Peking
“Absorbing . . . Readers may come for Leovy’s detective story; they will stay for her lucid social critique.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
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By the time you finish this book you will know the heroes (detectives, including those whom the author calls ghettoside craftsmen whose involvement, dedication and self sacrifice is the stuff of which legends are made) and the victims (the focus here is on a good boy, the murdered 18 year old sheltered son of a homicide detective) and the addicts, the whores and the gangster-villains. You will better understand the police culture, and neighborhood culture and what they are all up against. You will understand why there are so many murders.
This is more than a story about heroic and tenacious homicide detectives' almost impossible task of identifying, tracking down, arresting and aiding in the prosecution of the drive by shooter of an 18 year old boy; it is an illuminating history and an exploration of a culture of lawlessness and violence and the multigenerational tragedies of its victims.
Author Jill Leovy, award winning reporter and editor for the Los Angeles gives startling and sickening statistics. She states that lawlessness is its own kind of order and where the criminal justice system fails to respond vigorously to violent injury and death, homicide becomes epidemic. "Wherever law is absent or undeveloped---wherever it is shabby, ineffective, or disputed---some form of self-policing or communal justice usually emerges." She says reformers focus on the rights of defendants while being blind to the under enforcement of violent crime. The author writes that police are preoccupied with nuisance crime and lax when it comes to answering for black lives. In poor urban centers those who live in minority enclaves settle their scores outside the law.
*During the 1960s the number of people sent to prison for criminal homicide was less than half the number of homicides. From 1994-2006 suspects were arrested in just 41% of the 3,300 killings involving black male victims in Los Angeles.*
The author does not preach. She shows. She explains. She tells true stories that will break your heart. Crime witnesses are terrified to testify because they and their families are threatened, beaten and often killed. Mothers weep over children who join gangs for protection or for the teenage allure of girls, guns and excitement.
According to the author, blacks who make up only 12 percent of the U.S. population, account for nearly half of all homicide victims.
The Southeast's per capita murder rate is eight to ten times the national average. The majority of the victims are black on black. So why was the budget for police overtime cut 57 percent? For detectives, working odd hours is essential. The author writes of budget cutbacks that eliminate necessary overtime and equipment. How can one do a job if the office phone don't work? Why would a detective have to live out of his sedan for two days when his unit lost the salvage cars they hoarded? When Detectives aren't issued departmental cell phones, they purchase their own. Detectives buy their own pads, pencils staplers, keyboards, calendars and binders. One detective purchases his own fax machine and printer for the office. Local appliance dealers provide video machines for interrogations.
This book is an eye opener and a heart breaker that will change the way you see black on black crime in America and the detectives who devote their lives to seeking justice for its victims.
Maybe the book should be titled, "Ghettocide" because it is about the physical, emotional and spiritual death that happens in pockets of cities all over America.