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Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in…

Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America (2015)

by Jill Leovy

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    The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander (RidgewayGirl)
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This work of narrative journalism explores the complex issues contributing to the homicide rate in Los Angeles, focusing on the black-on-black homicide rate in South Central LA. The book is informed and inspired by Leovy’s experiences reporting on homicide for The Los Angeles Times, during which time she was an embedded reporter in the Seventy-seventh Division of the Los Angeles Police Department for two extended periods of time. The investigation into the murder of eighteen-year-old Bryant Tennelle, the son of a cop who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, provides the backbone for the narrative, which includes the perspectives of homicide detectives, victims, victims’ families, and the accused/convicted, and reveals the humanity behind the high homicide rate and the considerable effort required to investigate and prosecute homicide cases in the area known as Ghettoside. Insightful, gripping, and searing in its implications, this book combines compelling personal stories with thoughtful sociological analysis of homicide in the inner city. Issues explored will be familiar to fans of the HBO series The Wire, and this book will be of interest to readers of The New Jim Crow and true crime.

Rachel H. / Marathon County Public Library
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  mcpl.wausau | Sep 25, 2017 |
This book is important because it attempts to tackle the much too marginalized topic of black-on-black murder. Levoy looks at possible causes, and what works and doesn't in regards to how to end the violence. Levoy doesn't just give us numbers. She gives us human faces forever affected by the violence.

The book focuses on two murders in L.A. Using these two threads, Levoy fleshes out the problem, and gives names to the nameless and stories to the forgotten. At one point, Levoy uses up several pages to name victims shot and killed within a very small time frame. These were regular days. Most of these people were just doing regular things. But just like that, they are gone forever. I think the fact that Levoy manages to breathe humanity and life into many of these victims that have all been but thrown into the trash bin of history, makes this a must read. It is all quite sad.

This book as a whole is a solid journalistic piece. There are some narrative bits to it to spice up the story, but for the most part it's just good old fashion journalism. Along the way, Levoy introduces the reader to some of the men and women on the front lines that attempt to solve many of these crimes, and how in turn their lives are forever changed. In the course of this, one realizes that there are many courageous, caring, dedicated individuals doing police work. Some of these stories may get lost with the recent police brutality cases.

What I did take from this book is that many of the major players involved in these tragedies, from the police, to the community at large, play a role in keeping this monster alive. Some officials believe there aren't any true victims (just gang-bangers killing gang-bangers), and the community at large is reluctant to turn in the perpetrators of these crimes for fear of retribution. The culmination of all of that, plus public apathy in general, and distrust of the police by members of the communities hardest hit, has fostered the brutal environment we see in many of the poor, desolute areas of inner cities today.

Read this book. It's an important book to start understanding a very relevant, but sadly, under-reported problem in America. ( )
  Mitchell_Bergeson_Jr | Aug 6, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Leovy has written a compelling, eye-opening and thoroughly researched work that weaves modern day events with a historical look at the root causes of the violence she so adeptly examines. The story and the figures are heartbreaking, and she has created that rare work that adds an important voice for those begging to be heard. ( )
  JOlson724 | Jul 9, 2017 |
In which Los Angeles Times reporter Jill Leovy embeds herself with the Homicide Squad in South Central LA and this book is the culmination of her time spent there. Although focused on one particular homicide - the seemingly random shooting of Bryant Tennelle, who at worst was wearing the "wrong hat" - the book is really about the epidemic of homicide in areas like Watts and how and why this homicide is massively and disproportionately young black male on young black male.

Leovy does a very good job at humanising the LA Police, and exploring some of the reasons why so many of these cases go unresolved or unprosecuted, when in the words of one of the witnesses to the Tennelle killing, everyone knows! Everyone knows! Part of this must be a subconscious belief that young black lives are less important, but there are other reasons too. Leovy explains very clearly why its so difficult to get witnesses to come forward or testify, why a grieving parent can't really ask her friends or neighbours to testify in case they put their own children''s lives at risk, why so many gang members would like to leave "the life" but can't find a way to do it and how trapped into repeating the same cycle so many young people are.

The Tennelle case gets more focus because his father is a serving Homicide Detective. And in the end, its not difficult to solve; the difficult part is getting a conviction, and its only due to the courage of one witness, a young prostitute, that the case gets to court at all. If there is any note of hope at all in this book, it is how she seems to be on a path to a more stable lifestyle when the book closes.

Leovy is very good on the internal migration of African American people from the South that led to the creation of the LA communities and doggedly gives witness to many lost lives that are not part of the main narrative of the book. You can see why families were prepared to trust her. I was less impressed by the cod psychology of the motivations of homicide, which might have been better left to a sociologist than a crime reporter

Its an important and worthwhile, if depressing, piece of work ( )
  Opinionated | Jun 6, 2017 |
Not only is the a true crime page turner, it also makes a powerful argument for how Black on Black homicide developed and how it can be cured. Essentially it comes down to a long history of law enforcement either ignoring Black homicides or spending very little effort trying to solve them and bring the perpetrators to justice. So, although Black communities have long been heavily and aggressively policed, the emphasis has been on the more petty crimes to the neglect of doing much about homicides. Following the work of some of the dedicated, yest understaffed and underfunded, detectives in South LA as they make a difference in those communities. An inspiring, yet also exasperating, read, well worth the time spent. We could do better for these communities if there was more of a will to do so. ( )
  bness2 | May 23, 2017 |
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When you see the suffering and pain that it brings, you'd have to be blind, mad, or a coward to resign yourself to the plague--ALBERT CAMUS, The Plague
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Los Angeles Police Det. John Skaggs carried the shoebox aloft like a waiter bearing a platter.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385529988, Hardcover)

A masterly work of literary journalism about a senseless murder, a relentless detective, and the great plague of homicide in America
On a warm spring evening in South Los Angeles, a young man is shot and killed on a sidewalk minutes away from his home, one of the thousands of black Americans murdered that year. His assailant runs down the street, jumps into an SUV, and vanishes, hoping to join the scores of killers in American cities who are never arrested for their crimes.
But as soon as the case is assigned to Detective John Skaggs, the odds shift.
Here is the kaleidoscopic story of the quintessential, but mostly ignored, American murder—a “ghettoside” killing, one young black man slaying another—and a brilliant and driven cadre of detectives whose creed is to pursue justice at all costs for forgotten victims. Ghettoside is a fast-paced narrative of a devastating crime, an intimate portrait of detectives and a community bonded in tragedy, and a surprising new lens into the great subject of why murder happens in America—and how the epidemic of killings might yet be stopped.
Praise for Ghettoside
“Jill Leovy has written a gripping and powerful account of urban homicide investigation in the United States. Ghettoside is a provocative examination of how and why murder happens and a fast-paced crime narrative in the vein of David Simon’s Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets.”—Gilbert King, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Devil in the Grove       
Ghettoside is a brilliant taxonomic investigation into the American violence epidemic disguised as a highly entertaining true crime book. In this account of the senseless shooting death of Bryant Tennelle, Jill Levoy has used the vehicle of a page-turning police procedural to force Americans to face some ugly truths about the root causes of urban violence. She makes a convincing argument that inner-city lawlessness is the legacy of our long history of legal apartheid, where whites ‘have the law’ and black people do not—and does so in the form of a compelling mystery story.”—Matt Taibbi, author of The Divide
“This absorbing first book from journalist Leovy traces the investigation and prosecution of a 2007 murder in South Los Angeles, registering along the way a powerful argument about race and our criminal justice system. . . . . Readers may come for Leovy’s detective story; they will stay for her lucid social critique.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:53 -0400)

On a warm spring evening in South Los Angeles, a young man was shot and killed on a sidewalk minutes away from his home, one of hundreds of young men slain in Los Angeles every year. His assailant ran down the street, jumped into an SUV, and vanished, hoping to join the vast majority of killers in American cities who are never arrested for their crimes. But as soon as the case was assigned to Detective John Skaggs, the odds shifted. Here is the kaleidoscopic story of the quintessential American murder -- one young black man slaying another -- and a determined crew of detectives whose creed was to pursue justice at all costs for its forgotten victims. Ghettoside is a fast-paced narrative of a devastating crime, an intimate portrait of detectives and a community bonded in tragedy, and a new lens into the great subject of murder in America -- why it happens and how the plague of killings might yet be stopped.… (more)

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