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review 2018-03-21 00:04
Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America - Jill Leovy

There are two competing, rather than complimentary stories in this book. Part of the blurb:


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.


The problem is that the "quintessential" American murder she picks is the son of an LAPD detective. Of course they solve that murder. It's absurd that they have to work around their own department to solve this or any crime, but they do it. If it's possible to be more disgusted by the LAPD as an institution, reading this book may have done it for me.


It's clear that Leovy has been charmed by the men with whom she's been "embedded" for a year. At times it reads like glorification of the hardworking, put-upon detectives with complete disregard for the murder victims they are supposed to be serving. The only thing that saves it is the detectives themselves and her increasingly critical eye toward the middle and end of the book.


It's very slow to start as she introduces us to every detective mentioned with a long character study, and only around the middle does "action" happen, but even that action is fairly muted. The personalities are interesting, but I thought of putting it down once or twice. The climax comes with an interview of the suspect in the "featured murder." There are a lot of murders, a lot of statistics, a lot of complaints about the LAPD brass, a lot of passing judgement on the people they police and a lot of surprising love for those very same people.


The sheer frustration of being anyone who isn't related to the police wasn't presented. There are mountains of problems quickly tossed out, some of which could be cleared up fairly quickly if anyone cared to do so (ie, stop melting down guns that are possibly evidence.) Many of the problems are much more intractable though, and like all police departments, the LAPD has a culture that gets in its way more often than not. I wish the urgency had been imparted. I wish the case chosen wasn't the only one solved that month. I wish the problems in getting even the police department to take these homicides seriously had been the entire book. Instead Leovy covers a huge mountain of issues and offers no solutions.

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review 2018-03-20 23:48
Dear Martin -- my best YA read in recent memory
Dear Martin - Nic Stone





This is what I imagine Justyce, the MC, would do if asked to hold a sign about race early on.


There has been a stream of books about race and police brutality in the last few years. One could read nothing but books on the topic and still not keep up with the books available. What a great problem to have: too many books on important topics. Now if only these books were useless because the problem had been solved.


If one can "enjoy" a book like this, then I enjoyed Nic Stone's telling of tragedy story more than I've enjoyed almost any other. There are obvious comparisons both in other recent books but also to real cases in real America. Nic Stone writes for the young reader in a simple way that never is dumbed down or too basic. She has all the nuances and difficulties of her subject matter under command as she writes the story of Justyce and his friend Manny, two black kids at a liberal, elite school and the ways they handle casual, subtle, daily racialization, microaggressions, as well as the more obvious and deadly type.


The POV shifts between third person storytelling to Justyce's interior life to second-person letters/journaling to "Dear Martin" (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) Nic Stone makes excellent use of the "safe place" classroom, where the white students do all the talking on race while the black students sit uncomfortably or angrily by, but certainly don't feel "safe" on the topic of race, despite having a black teacher. There is confusion by the bundle for our protagonist, in the way his friends behave, the racial issues involved in dating, the always-difficult world of being a teenager. He takes refuge in writing honest letters to MLK, and it's here that he feels safe enough to say what he thinks. But can even Dr. King help Justyce when the world caves in?


This is, ultimately, an uplifting story with characters who grow in the face of extreme circumstances and stereotypes that threaten to keep them stuck. Well worth anyone's time.


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review 2018-03-14 02:11
Sometimes I Lie - The movie should be OK
Sometimes I Lie - Alice Feeney

My opinion of SOMETIMES I LIE changed constantly. Honestly, it's a one or two star book for most of it that moves into the four-star area in plot only at the very end. I nearly stopped a few times, but I got it after a wait list, and I couldn't just get it back, so I plodded on. Plus it was audio (a well-done audio!) and that made it easier to just keep listening while I worked.


Yet another present-past-present-past formula. It's about a woman in a coma. Exciting! Also, do they not have catheters in the UK?


Once I got past the irritation of some incorrect medical possibilities, the silly format, play-by-play of every single moment of the coma, and multiple long slow sections of childhood diaries, there was a decent book hiding somewhere inside. Actually, I think there's a decent *movie* hiding inside. I don't know that this could be a great book without a whole new writer. It felt very much like a screenplay to me.


I did get to a point where I wanted to know what happened. We go a very long time with nothing happening. It's all foreshadowing. Then in the final fifth(?) of the book, about a thousand twists all just start coming one after the other. I knew a few things would happen. I'd also guessed one of the biggest in a way. I wasn't exactly correct, but I was not entirely off. I just had the reason for the "reveal" down to something slightly different than it was. Outcome was the same.


So this book felt to me like a screenplay for a rollercoaster that starts off going straight for about four painstaking miles, then in the last mile it not only has steep drops, but also loops and upside-down twirls and adds water and some poodles and there's a clown under your seat. It was a lot. It was overkill. It will be a fun movie though.

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review 2018-03-14 01:00
This is a DENSE book, ya'll
The Portable Nineteenth-Century African American Women Writers (Penguin Classics) - Hollis Robbins,Hollis Robbins,Henry Louis Gates Jr.,Henry Louis Gates Jr.,Various

If you're looking for a book that you can dip in and out of over the course of several days (or weeks if you're me) then I recommend you check out The Portable Nineteenth-Century African American Women Writers. Organized by theme, this book features many writers of different genres. There are poets, essayists, lecturers, novelists, ministers, and teachers to name just a few. The common theme (besides their gender and race) is that they are advocates for equality of the races and sexes. I found that this book was an excellent conversation starter especially if you want to talk about tough topics like economic and social equality coupled with the history of the Americas. It's also an excellent way to discover writers that you may have never heard of as many of them are quite niche. As you might surmise, the topics covered in this collection are quite deep and therefore as a whole it's an emotionally and mentally exhausting enterprise. It's well worth the effort though. It's astonishing to me just how many of these women I had never heard of but when they were originally writing their voices were strong, no-holds-barred, and topical (most are relevant even today). The truths spoken are hard to accept because the topics are still so ingrained and fresh in the memory of our country. It's another reminder that we should continually be expanding our minds and looking beyond what we already 'know'. Embrace learning about new things! 9/10 and only lost that point because by 1/2 way through I was having to hype myself up to pick it back up again.


What's Up Next: Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything by Lydia Kang


What I'm Currently Reading: Fly on the Wall: How One Girl Saw Everything by E. Lockhart

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2018-03-12 22:30
bell hooks is more optimistic than me
Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics - Bell Hooks

A decent primer on feminism, with the goal of explaining why feminism actually benefits everyone. hooks defines feminism as "a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression." I wish she'd included a statement about equality of opportunity, since we're still working toward that in so many ways.


hooks agrees, I think, with my concern about opportunity, but she states early and often that feminism is not "always and only about women seeking to be equal to men." Of course we're not "equal to" men (in many ways, beyond the obvious, we're superior ;) I just want equal opportunity. However, I witness men and women disregarding the distinction between "equal to" and "equality of opportunity." It's subtle, but meaningful.


hooks says that by naming "sexism" the enemy, she shows how feminists aren't against men. We aren't, not that I'm aware of (my husband never thought so.) She does rail against the patriarchy, and I worry that many men will simply read this as "men." hooks puts these failures of vocabulary and understanding a product of "patriarchal mass media." I'd agree in some ways. Certainly since very early days, there has existed a vision of crazy, nearly hysterically loud women demanding inane "benefits" like the vote. [snipped long diatribe about equal pay, laws and the (still-only-a-dream-in-the-US) ERA.]


hooks has an excellent point that most of the feminists portrayed in mass media are still white, educated and very privileged. Despite the many changes since the 1960s, most of today's world still divides itself down lines enshrined during the tumult of the 60s and 70s. This makes feminism (or any -ism) seem like something bored housewives and students do to find meaning or something. While definitely filtered through the media, it's also a product of reality. Many women of color and women from different socioeconomic stratas simply feel they aren't welcome in the "feminist movement." These are the women who say they "don't have time for" or "can't afford" to be feminists. If you need your job/paycheck/home/whatever, how likely are you to put up a fight about anything? Sadly these are the women who most need the benefits a feminist reality would bring.


This book covers the basics of feminism and goes further, providing a chapter on many facets of the feminist movement. hooks offers prescriptions for how we can structure the mass education of everyone in these important areas. It's a nice dream, but I have zero belief it will actually happen. Again, how many people can afford the luxury of even purchasing this slim but expensive book, let alone taking the time to read it, then to organize, sign up, show up and participate in feminist consciousness raising? How many men would actually do that? Yeah, my thought too. hooks has been living feminism, and all that entails, for many decades. I don't disagree with many of her premises in chapters on everything from violence to class struggle to sexual politics to actual equality in the home (read any number of 2018 news articles on this one.) I might simply have different expectations of what is actually possible. Maybe I'm just a pessimist. Maybe hooks and I just use different words for much of it.


This basic primer on feminism actually may be too advanced for some. It may feel too "radical" or go too far for some. Some chapters may be offensive to some women while the same chapter may be a lifeline to others. I fear that these very minute differences all given equal weight may cause some who otherwise agree with the larger goals to turn and run from feminism as a whole, rather than agree with much and simply disagree with other parts. Surely every woman of every race, creed, nationality, religion, etc cannot agree on every single thing.


So while this is meant to be a welcoming book that explains there is nothing to fear of the F word, more and more I wished for an even more simple book. When I imagined what that might look like, I decided something very akin to an intro chapter and a glossary or dictionary on all of these words that have been loaded and warped through the years. I may find some things more important than hooks does and vice versa. This is to be expected, because while we're all women, all feminists, we're all still human and seeing through our own individual lenses.

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