Big praise in NYT for Jill Leovy's 'Ghettoside'

ghettoside-cover-nyt.jpgLos Angeles Times crime reporter Jill Leovy's new book about a murder case in South Los Angeles, "Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America," gets a pretty nice review in the New York Times. "The depth of the reporting and analysis in 'Ghettoside' makes 'Serial,' by comparison, resemble a book of poetry," writes Dwight Garner. "'Ghettoside' is old-school narrative journalism, told strictly in the third person. It’s as square as a card table. Yet the book is a serious and kaleidoscopic achievement, from a reporter for The Los Angeles Times who’s spent most of her career covering cops and thinking about what their work means."

jill-leovy-jill-connelly.jpgLeovy, now a features writer whose recent LAT clips are mostly obits, is the reporter who started the LAT's Homicide Report blog in 2007 in hopes that she could say at least something about every murder in LA, even the ones that don't usually make the news. She did it for about a year before burning out on the relentlessness of the task. The frequency of homicide on the streets of LA is much less now than it was then, of course, but the paper revived the Homicide Report in 2013.

More from Garner:

Nestled inside the story of one gang-related killing is a well-made and timely argument — especially in the wake of the protests in Ferguson, Mo., and over the death of Eric Garner — that transcends a single death. Ms. Leovy suggests, six decades after the start of the civil rights movement, that the “impunity for the murder of black men” remains America’s great and largely ignored race problem.

We’ve allowed black lives to become cheap. “This is a book about a very simple idea,” she declares. “Where the criminal justice system fails to respond vigorously to violent injury and death, homicide becomes endemic.”

Noted: A separate review of "Ghettoside" by Jennifer Gonnerman led the Book Review section in Sunday's New York Times.

The LA Times also has a review posted, by Sudhir Venkatesh, a professor of sociology at Columbia University and author of "Gang Leader for a Day." Excerpt:

Leovy is not a newcomer to crime reporting. In "Ghettoside," she adopts an anthropologist's gaze to unravel the workings of this tribe. She tracks the daily movements of homicide detectives working cases that rarely attract the media spotlight. Think "Boyz in the Hood," not "Chinatown" and "L.A. Confidential." This is gritty reporting that matches the police work behind it.

For three decades, we've been told that there is an epidemic of violence in urban black America — "plague" is Leovy's preferred term. Our jails and prisons are filled with minorities, police legitimacy remains low and inner-city families appear resigned to these conditions. Police seem as overwhelmed and frustrated as the minorities whom they must protect. Leovy underscores the urgency to respond but not in a predictable manner.

Photo of Leovy: Jill Connelly

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