Gorgeously drawn and recounted, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is one of the most astonishing graphic novels that I have ever read. (I don't read all tGorgeously drawn and recounted, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is one of the most astonishing graphic novels that I have ever read. (I don't read all that many of them, but I am passionately acquainted with some of the greats, including Lynda Barry, Roz Chast, Alison Bechdel, and Chris Ward.) Emil Ferris is definitely in their company. When I showed my husband the book, he said, "Wow. It reminds me of R. Crumb, if R. Crumb were an even better artist." This is no knock on R. Crumb, who has a very distinctive style of his own. But where Crumb gravitates to the grotesque, obscene, and corny-surreal, Ferris occupies a luminous realm that's part nightmare, part fantasy. She takes on some heavy topics--child sex trafficking, the Holocaust, rape and murder--but traces of beauty and compassion abound. I loved this novel and will probably buy a copy (I checked this out from my public library and had to return it by the due date because so many people were in the queue, but I could easily spend hours on each page, simply because the illustrations are so intricate and evocative.)...more
Four-and-a-half stars. Although Jill Leovy's tone occasionally verges on the fawning when she's describing the work of the outstanding LAPD detectivesFour-and-a-half stars. Although Jill Leovy's tone occasionally verges on the fawning when she's describing the work of the outstanding LAPD detectives with whom she was embedded, she is a very gifted longform journalist. Ghettoside, a project on which Leovy spent well over a decade, reflects the longtime journalist's careful research and sensitive intelligence. I admired her devotion to nuance and detail, as well as her meticulous and insightful historical overview of the ways in which the systemic oppression of African-Americans has led to the current crisis in homicide rates among African-Americans. She doesn't shy away from the difficult topic of "black-on-black" crime, which is, as she acknowledges, a somewhat misleading term, insofar as most murder happens within communities (e.g., white people are more often killed by other white people; Latinx by Latinx, etc.). Instead of accepting the racist canard that black people are uniquely predisposed to violent crime, she argues persuasively (using examples ranging from the Old West to the Jim Crow South) that homicide rates always go up in conditions of lawlessness. Black residents of L.A., Leovy submits, are at once both overpoliced and underserved. For a number of reasons that Leovy enumerates, black people are far more likely to be prosecuted for nonviolent crimes than their white counterparts, but they are far less likely receive justice when their loved ones are murdered. Because of the abysmal rates of successful murder prosecutions, violence increases; communities find it necessary to enforce their own codes of rough justice when failed by the legal system.
Leovy builds her case convincingly, with the circumstantial evidence of the primary homicide building up in the way her law-enforcement subjects, particularly Detective Skaggs, collect and assemble evidence sufficient for a successful prosecution. The book concludes with an almost anti-climactic trial scene, but that's not Leovy's fault. It's inevitably a let-down, a disappointment, because no matter what happens, a beautiful murdered boy will not be restored to his grieving parents. The shooter, a developmentally delayed teenager with an undiagnosed mood disorder, is too pathetic to hate. Ridiculed for his awkward body and perceived idiocy, this kid never had a chance. His odds of winding up either dead or in prison were almost insurmountable. But prosecuting him, along with his older, far more culpable cohort, doesn't deliver smug platitudes or convey the sense of justice righteously applied. By the time I got to the trial section of the book, I had experienced so many sides of the crime, including the larger crime that implicates the U.S. justice system, that I couldn't feel glad about the outcome. I mean this as a compliment: I am always suspicious of books that pit villains against heroes, evil against good. Leovy might sometimes be accused of a little hero-worship when it comes to certain cops on the force, but she is critical of the department as a whole and always aware of its racist history. For the purpose of her narrative (and also, possibly, a hazard of embedding herself with her sources), she prefers to focus on exceptional cops who resist the culture of cynicism and complacency, cops who believe that black victims of crimes deserve the same vigilant investigations that their white counterparts routinely receive. These detectives also understand all too well why so many witnesses remain silent for fear of reprisal. Most of them aren't inured to violence; they're terrified, and for good reason.
doesn't end on a completely depressing note, believe it or not. Several people we grow to care about, thanks to Leovy's perceptive characterizations, end up in a better place than they began. In her epilogue Leovy argues that improvements in the enforcement and prosecution of murder in African-American neighborhoods can reduce violence, and that federal and state income subsidies such as SSI also make measurable differences in people's lives. Racial and class inequities poison nearly every appendage of the criminal justice system. Only comprehensive policy changes can address the underlying causes of the violence, no matter how dazzling the detective skills of Skaggs, Corey, Tennelle, et al. In other words, this isn't a typical police procedural, with the satisfying smack of a Law and Order resolution. Justice is aspirational; punishment is certain....more
A very well-written and perceptive multi-generational memoir, especially impressive considering that Spiegelman wasn't even 30 when she wrote it. If yA very well-written and perceptive multi-generational memoir, especially impressive considering that Spiegelman wasn't even 30 when she wrote it. If you listen to the audiobook, you also get to admire Spiegelman's perfect French accent. The stories of four generations of women--Spiegelman's maternal great-grandmother, grandmother, mother, and herself--are expertly woven together, and although the book isn't even remotely chronological, it hangs together thematically and structurally. I particularly enjoyed the ways in which Spiegelman deals with the fallibility of memory and the limits of subjectivity. This is at once a memoir and a meta-memoir, in the tradition of Nabokov's Speak, Memory and Mary McCarthy's Memories of a Catholic Girlhood. Spiegelman's life history couldn't be more different than my own, but it resonated deeply with me on an emotional level. It made me wish that I had undertaken a similar project when my grandmother was still alive....more