Tag: Los Angeles


Ghettoside: A true story of murder in America by Jill Leovy

October 10th, 2017 — 8:26pm

Ghettoside by Jill Leovy

This is a very sad book. It is a story of homicide in the so-called Ghetto area of Los Angeles. Most of the victims and perpetrators are young black men and boys. Not surprisingly, these murders are often gang related, sometimes revenge for previous murder or because somebody is believed to be a “snitch”. Other times the victim was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Many of these murders don’t even get mentioned in the newspapers or on TV. It’s not unusual for there to be a couple of murders per night in each police district. These crimes may occur in a family where there is a tradition of crime and violence. But on the other hand, sometimes the victim is a high school kid who seemed to be on verge of breaking out of this cycle of crime. Countless families become devastated by this epidemic of murder as the author skillfully and vividly described in so many cases. At times the reader just wants to say, “Enough!” as it it is quite painful to read this book.

The book is also about the Los Angeles homicide detectives and their dedication and professionalism. We see countless examples of how these detectives deal with the horror and indescribable painful situations that they have to view every day. We see their patience and empathy as they speak to family members of murder victims and often making a death notification. This reader was blown away by their ability to do this type of work on a day-to-day basis and treat each murder with care and individuality. We follow some very skillful, dedicated detectives who do their jobs with great respect for the victims and their families.

The juxtaposition of getting insight into the impact of these murders on the families and the professionalism and dedication of the police homicide detectives was quite interesting. However, nothing was more dramatic and eye-opening then when one of the homicide detectives’ sons was murdered and we follow another detective as he applies his intellectual and emotional skills to follow and solve this case through the court room and final verdict. It was clear that this LAPD homicide detective did his best to bring justice to this case in the same manner that he handled all his other cases.

This book really gives a wonderful window and insight to how the police, despite difficult circumstances and at times limited resources, do a job about which they and all of us should be very proud. Reading this book is as engrossing as any TV show about crime and it probably brings the reader closer to the real thing than any movie or novel could do. It is all true and happening every day in Los Angeles and in many other cities throughout the country

Comment » | Social

Southland by Nina Revoyr

August 8th, 2014 — 4:47pm

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 4.16.25 PMSouthland by Nina Revoyr– Having recently read and reviewed a great book mostly about social justice in Los Angeles ( see previously reviewed book in this blog) which included some insight into the history of racial conflicts and violence in this city, I was very receptive to picking up this novel. In fact, it did deal with these subjects with a compelling storyline which focused on the struggles of Japanese-Americans including their relationships with African Americans in Los Angeles over the past 50 plus years.

The opening setting is the 1990s and Jackie Ishida is a Japanese-American young woman, preparing to enter law school and who also happens to be a lesbian whose grandfather Frank Sakari suddenly passes away. She comes into possession of a forgotten old box in his closet, that had a few clippings, some pictures and a great deal of cash with a note that it should be given to Curtis, a young teenager who worked in his old grocery store that was destroyed in Watts riots. It is well known to the family that those difficult times were very traumatic for many people including Frank not only because of the destruction brought about by riots but because in midst of them, Curtis and 3 younger boys were found locked in the grocery store freezer, having frozen to death. It was thought by some that this murder was the work of an unpopular white police officer who was known for mistreating kids in the neighborhood and was reportedly seen talking to them at the store on day of the tragedy. Jackie is moved to try to find more details. She connects with James Lanier, an African American who was Curtis’cousin. Once she talks to him, they team up to try to find out what really happened, in order to try to bring about some kind of long delayed justice. They embark upon a road trip (mostly limited to the Los Angeles area) where they interview several people who could shed light on this dastardly crime.

As the author follows this duo, she also provides flashbacks to earlier times to allow us to understand not only the characters in some depth but also the social climate of Southland, American, also known as Los Angeles. This includes the history of the Japanese who settled in this area and were sent to internment camps during World War II. We also learn about those young men who enlisted and fought in the War including some of the famed accomplishments of the Japanese American 442 regiment. The story that Jackie and James uncover is more than a study of how race relations played out during the past 50 years but it is also is a very personal moving story about her grandfather. She also finds meaningful insight into herself.

This 2003 novel deservedly won several awards. However, it did not hold me on edge of my seat or qualify as a page turner despite it being a great example of a “cold case being brought to life.” Some of the flashbacks, while necessary for insight into the characters, did seem to slow the flow of the book. A good part of the theme of this book also qualifies as an example of the search for biological roots which I have found in many true life clinical cases as well as a major storyline numerous motion pictures. See my blog about this subject.

 

Comment » | FG - Fiction General, FH - Fiction Historical, FM - Fiction Mystery

Power Concedes Nothing by Connie RIce

July 20th, 2014 — 12:58am

Power Concedes Nothing: One Woman’s Quest for Social Justice in American, from the Courtroom to the Kill Zones by Connie RiceScreen Shot 2014-07-19 at 6.40.49 PM

I seldom go around telling certain people that they must read a particular book. I did find myself dong just that in regard to this book. If you have been interested in the battle for social justice, especially in regard to Los Angeles, you will definitely find this book quite fascinating.

Connie Rice (who by the way is a distant cousin of former Secretary of State Condolezza Rice) grew up as the daughter of Air Force officer who was the great grandson of a slave and a mother who was a high school teacher who happened to be the great granddaughter of a slave owner. Her family moved several times before she completed high school. Her parents valued education and she also was quite bright and ended up attending college at Radcliff/Harvard and then going to N.Y.U. Law School. After clerking for some important judges, she could have worked in a prestigious law firm and have a very respectable corporate or white-collar law career. She certainly went on to achieve an extremely respectable career but she chose to do it confronting civil rights and gang violence. The journey that she has taken, the fights that she has undertaken, the forces that she has confronted, the allies that she has worked with and the accomplishments that she has achieved thus far in her still vibrant career are remarkable and are chronicled in this memoir.

Early in her career, she became a part of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (known as the LDF). It was originally pioneered by Thurgood Marshall, before he became the first black Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. I thought I knew something about justice, particularly how capital punishment, was unfairly administered in the U.S. “I didn’t know jack.” The inside stories Ms. Rice reveals in this fight for justice, were eye opening. However, this phase of her career was tame compared to what was to come next when circumstances brought her out to the West Coast to open the Los Angeles branch of the LDF.

Ms. Rice became squarely involved in the battles for social justice in Los Anglees. She takes us through the Rodney King incident where a black construction worker was stopped by the police and  beaten for no cause. Subsequently there were riots in Los Angeles when the police involved in these beatings were exonerated by a trial, which had been moved to Simi Valley, which was a known area where many police families live. Ms. Rice was in many subsequent legal cases where she sued the police and represented victims of police violence. She also tells about the almost impossible to describe gang violence that existed in certain areas of Los Angeles that became known as the “kill zones.” She was known as the “ lady lawyer” as she was introduced to gang activities by a few former gang member who were trying (with mostly futile attempts) to make changes and were trusted within the gangs. Ms. Rice captures the horrible circumstances inside the gangs where there existed a culture dominated by frequent murder of opposing gang members. Two vignettes that she told will illustrate how bad things were and how vividly she was able to describe them.

#1 A teenage boy was approached by the leader of one gang and asked to become a gang member The boy stated that that his family didn’t want him to join and he was involved in schoolwork. After he politely declined a second time, he was asked to view a DVD. In it was shown his younger sister being brutally raped by gang members. He was then told if he didn’t join the gang, his sister would be raped again and murdered. He joined the gang.

#2 A ten-year-old boy was introduced to Ms. Rice by some gang members. She asked the child how he was involved in the gang. He proudly told her that he “shoots people.” When the gang wanted to murder someone, they lured this person to a street where the young boy was unobtrusively stationed. He pulled out the gun that he was trained to use and shot the victim and ran way.

These were just two of the many stories of how the gangs had taken away the lives of young people in more than one way.

The murder rate in Los Angeles was very high and the philosophy of the Los Angeles Police Department at this time was to “contain” the violence rather than try to eliminate it. There was also a certain amount of violence and corruption coming from the police department itself. Connie Rice was one of the soldiers in the battle to change this situation. She used her legal skills as well as her interpersonal ability to begin a sea change that is still going on in Los Angeles. She worked side by side with gang members, gang interventionists, enlightened members of the police department, politicians and other dedicated lawyers. She told of her experience with people from the gangs to others in the trenches with her. She names names, good and bad, from Mayors, police officers and attorneys. Among others, she developed a close alliance with Police Chief Bratton and up and coming Charlie Beck who subsequently became Police Chief when Bratton retired. One of the heroes of the book was Harry Bellafonte and it wasn’t for his singing. Rather it was for the emotional support he played as a father figure for many gang members as well as for his financial support for various programs. Ms. Rice has been an ongoing witness and a participant to bringing about changes in the kill zones that actually significantly reduced the murder rate there. She documented how each murder that did not occur saved close to a million dollars for society as well as the human savings.

Ms. Rice feels that the battle is not over yet. She champions the ideology of Martin Luther King who predicted that significant change wouldn’t occur until there was a “ radical restructuring of society itself and revolution of values.” If you care about the changes that have occurred in Los Angeles in the past few decades and those that need to occur in the future, I suggest that you should read this book.

 

 

 

Comment » | AM - Autobiography or Memoir, P - Political

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