Eastside is a coming-of-age tale set among the backdrop of inner-city gang violence in the early '90s. Eastside is about mothers struggling and supporting one another as they match in a seemingly endless procession to the cemetary to bury their children.
Unrepentantly crooked police officers, violent gangland shoot-outs, blazing car chases, petty drug dealing, ruthless armed robberies, a psychotic seventeen year-old albino gang member, and the haunting legacy of a long dead brother, complete the complex panoply that is Eastside.
Alexander details the grim socioeconomic conditions that created the wave of violence that rocked San Antonio, Tex., in the early 1990s. When the novel begins, Travon Robinson is still mourning the murder of his brother, Davon, a member of the notorious Wheatley Court Gangsters. Despite Travon's objections, his friend Justin joins the gang, and their falling-out leads to the gang nearly murdering Travon. His mother Elmira, fearing for her son's life, sends him to live with her sister Vera and Vera's sons. As Travon spends more time with his cousins, he gets sucked up into a world of fast cash, fast women and senseless violence before his redemption through Islam and the birth of his twins. Though the action is unrelenting and Alexander is adept at evoking a terrifying time and place, the novel suffers from repetitive exposition, a discordant structure and a surfeit of two-dimensional characters.