NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, USA TODAY, AND CHICAGO TRIBUNE • A masterly work of literary journalism about a senseless murder, a relentless detective, and the great plague of homicide in America
NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD FINALIST • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times Book Review • The Washington Post • The Boston Globe • The Economist • The Globe and Mail • BookPage • Kirkus Reviews
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 for forgotten victims at all costs. 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 our cities—and how the epidemic of killings might yet be stopped.
Praise for Ghettoside
“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
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. Eighteen-year-old Bryant Tennelle was "just another black man down." His shooting death inspired neither press attention nor vigorous police action until, that is, his case was handed to Police Detective John Skaggs, the central figure in Leovy's narrative. By following the relentless Skaggs, fleshing out all his quirks, and rendering the perpetrators, survivors, and witnesses of the murder vividly, Leovy spins a good yarn and illustrates how, by her lights, black-on-black homicide should be dealt with (but too seldom is). The state fails "to catch and punish even a bare majority of murderers" in urban black enclaves, and the result is "street justice" informal legal systems, replete with their own laws and codes and punishments. Gang violence, in Leovy's account, is thus not a cause of lawlessness; rather, it is "a whole system of interactions determined by the absence of law." Like most ghettoside cases, the Tennelle case was eminently solvable merely awaiting a determined investigator to whom the lives of black men were valuable, their murders something to be answered for. Readers may come for Leovy's detective story; they will stay for her lucid social critique.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Excellent research and storytelling. Personal perspective and up close observations changed my mindset in specific ways.
President Obama needs to read this book
Maybe then Mr. President might understand that controlling guns isn't the answer to fighting the epidemic of gun violence, but that an overhaul of the justice system - starting with the way police deal with people and crime in the black community - is the solution he seeks. This books speaks to it all, the indifference with which law enforcement views African Americans, and the lack of value they place on their lives in general - the "NHI" scenario. Very informative and eye opening read. The correlations the author laid out in this book are not specific to just L.A. - it's anywhere there is predominately a black, urban population. Fix it, Mr. President.
Very good book. At times meanders a bit, which may be the author's style. I teach high school in a high crime high poverty area and this book gives insight into what some of my kids lives are likely to be like. And it makes me wonder as the months and years go by after a student is gunned down and the case goes un solved if she may have a very very valid point.