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Ghettoside : A True Story of Murder in America
by Jill Leovy


Overview - 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.
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More About Ghettoside by Jill Leovy
 
 
 
Overview
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
"Gritty, heart-wrenching . . . 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. . . . The most important book about urban violence in a generation."--The Washington Post
"Riveting . . . This timely book could not be more important."--Associated Press

"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 . . . an important book, which deserves a wide audience."--Hari Kunzru, The Guardian

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780385529983
  • ISBN-10: 0385529988
  • Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
  • Publish Date: January 2015
  • Page Count: 384
  • Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds


Related Categories

Books > True Crime > Murder - General
Books > Social Science > Ethnic Studies - African American Studies - General
Books > Social Science > Criminology

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2014-09-15
  • Reviewer: Staff

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. (Jan.)

 
BookPage Reviews

Obstacles on the path to equality

The African-American struggle continues in every corner of the nation, from small towns like Ferguson, Missouri, to the boroughs of New York. Thus, Black History Month arrives at a critical time in America. The question is: Can we learn from history? These selections shed new light on the black experience and offer perspectives on the often painful evolution of race relations in America.

Journalist Jill Leovy’s Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America chillingly reflects the violence and racial tension that exists in many urban areas. It’s principally the story of Bryant Tennelle, a Los Angeles teenager who was shot and killed in 2007. At first blush, this might simply be viewed as another black-on-black murder, and something the Los Angeles Police Department would typically ignore. But Tennelle’s father was a police officer. An unlikely hero, police detective John Skaggs, emerges to doggedly work the case and solve the crime.

But Ghettoside is more than just the story of one murdered teen. Leovy broadens her focus to examine the cycle of violence among black men in America—a country in which nearly 40 percent of all murder victims are black. She also offers insight into how the killings can be stopped.

“[W]here the criminal justice system fails to respond vigorously to violent injury and death,” she writes, “homicide becomes endemic.” Leovy bolsters her argument with extensive research, which included embedding herself within an LAPD detective squad.

SPYING EYES
Sometimes the conflict between law enforcement and African Americans doesn’t play out through violence. F.B. Eyes: How J. Edgar Hoover’s Ghostreaders Framed African American Literature reveals the covert side of oppression. Scholar William J. Maxwell conducted an exhaustive records search to uncover files showing that the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover spied on African-American writers and silenced some of their work. Maxwell gained access to 51 files demonstrating that over five decades, Hoover was obsessed with black authors, fearing their work might inspire political unrest and violence. He assigned a team of FBI agents to carry out a series of assignments, some as benign as reading advance copies of books, others as serious as persuading publishers to halt the release of books. Targets included Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man and Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, as well as the work of Richard Wright, whose poem “The FB Eye Blues” inspired the book’s title.

Among the most stunning examples of the Bureau’s activity was a hate letter written to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1964. In it, a white FBI agent posing as a black man tells King he is a “complete fraud and a great liability to all us Negroes.” F.B. Eyes is a startling look at how racism has influenced the highest levels of authority.

THE FUGITIVE TRAIL
In Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad, noted historian Eric Foner gives a detailed and often stirring account of the antebellum network that transported escaped slaves from the South to Northern free states and Canada. Foner, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author who has written many fine books on the Civil War, slavery and Reconstruction, uncovers new evidence of just how extensive the secret path to freedom was for fugitive slaves.

His account centers on the Underground Railroad’s network in New York City, which had the North’s largest community of free blacks, as well as many ardent white abolitionists. Pre-eminent among them was newspaperman Sydney Howard Gay, who documented the activities of the Underground Railroad in a meticulous “Record of Fugitives,” which logged the arrival of fugitives in the city in 1855 and 1856 and related some of their horrifying personal stories. (In the book’s acknowledgements, Foner credits a former Columbia University student who found the document in the university archives.) Gay’s record details the step-by-step movements of escaped slaves through the city and the deeds of abolitionists who aided their flight. Among those recorded by Gay was Harriet Tubman, who reached New York in November 1856 with a group of runaway slaves from Maryland.

Gateway to Freedom is an important addition to the historical view of the Underground Railroad and a salute to the slaves who “faced daunting odds and demonstrated remarkable courage” in their journeys to freedom.

 

This article was originally published in the February 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 
BAM Customer Reviews