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Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  16,573 ratings  ·  1,897 reviews
On a warm spring evening in South Los Angeles, a young man was shot and killed on a sidewalk minutes away from his home, one of hundreds of young men slain in LA every year. His assailant ran down the street, jumped into an SUV, and vanished, hoping to join the vast majority of killers in American cities who are never arrested for their crimes. But as soon as the case was ...more
Hardcover, 366 pages
Published January 27th 2015 by Spiegel & Grau
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Popular Answered Questions
Carolyn Yes- I even hated rating it as a book I really liked. How can I like a book so much that is so horribly sad and true. It made a huge impact on me.
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Tory From my perspective, he is and also isn't at the same time. He compromised witness' identities and he manipulated suspects to giving in to confess. Th…moreFrom my perspective, he is and also isn't at the same time. He compromised witness' identities and he manipulated suspects to giving in to confess. There's no doubt that he did some shady stuff. But also, I think most of those acts were in for justice and finding a murderer and providing closure to a family that lost their kid. It really depends on if you think what he did was justified or not. (less)

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Will Byrnes
Like the schoolyard bully, our criminal justice system harasses people on small pretexts but is exposed as a coward before murder. It hauls masses of black men through its machinery but fails to protect them from both bodily injury and death. It is at once oppressive and inadequate… This is a book about a very simple idea where the criminal justice system fails to respond vigorously to violent injury and death, homicide becomes endemic.
There is a plague loose in the land. A dark, long-time
Oct 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
i grew up in a tiny village located in the smallest state in the u.s. whose residents were mostly elderly transplanted french canadians. it was a very docile environment. from there, i went directly to nyc for college, and despite what the warriors

or west side story may have taught you

we don't have a lot of gang activity around here. not like in l.a., anyway. no one here hails cabs to perform drive-bys.

the bulk of my knowledge of west coast gang culture comes from rap music, the shield, and my
Feb 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Kemper by: Trudi
We love murder.

Let me clarify that statement. We love murder as entertainment when the victim is some poor innocent blonde woman that our hero detectives avenge with a little help from the geeks in the crime lab, and the whole thing is wrapped up in an hour. Or about 45 minutes with commercials if it’s on network television.

This book is non-fiction so it certainly doesn’t have the appeal of a tidy TV solution, and it digs into the whole sociology of a community where murder is common and the pol
Good reason to read it: superb writing.

The characters though are so hackneyed. There is Supercop, the ordinary, world-weary father of teenagers who just wants to do his best. The police team who mostly don't care at all, it's only one Black shootin' another. The forensics guy who thinks he can do better than computers (he can). The victim - a boy with a shining face full of the possibilities of life, bleeding to death on the pavement from a bullet in his head, "I'm so tired, " he says, and dies
Jan 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is an important book.

Despite overall crime rates falling nationally, black homicide rates remain stubbornly high. And this is only the most lethal of problems facing inner-city neighborhoods. Failing schools. Concentrated poverty. Mass incarceration. All these things work together to create a world apart, known colloquially as the ghetto.

It’s a touchy subject that touches on just about every third rail in American life. To even begin a discussion you have to avoid getting tripped up on ra
Paul Bryant
Feb 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: true-crime

If it’s sadness you’re after, we have it right here by the bucketful One 16 year old kid named Devin Davis on May 11 2007 walked round the corner from St Andrews Place onto 80th Street, Los Angeles, and closed his eyes and pointed a gun towards two other black kids. One of the shots hit one of them in the head, an 18 year old named Bryant Tennelle, who was the son of an LA detective, and he died.

(Bryant Tennelle)

Some time later Devin was questioned and confessed pretty quickly. It turned out th
Wow. This is an incredible book about murder in South Los Angeles. Jill Leovy was on the police beat for the LA Times, and she spent 10 years following homicide detectives and reporting on different murder cases.

Ghettoside goes in-depth into one case in particular, the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Bryant Tennelle, who was the son of an LA police detective. You could say Bryant was killed because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, or that he was killed because he was wearing the wrong
Patrick Brown
Jan 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a masterpiece. If this doesn't win the National Book Award and a ton of other awards, then literary awards are really and truly bankrupt. I was a fan of Leovy's Homicide Blog (the original name for The Homicide Report), in so far as someone can be a "fan" of a project to catalog every homicide in LA county. Still, it felt like important work, and this book continues in its steps.

The point of the Homicide Report was to bring attention -- in whatever way possible -- to every homicide, reg

This is not a perfect book. In her passion for the subject and her glowing respect for LA Homicide Detective John Skaggs, Leovy's effusive praise can feel overstated, venturing into fangirl territory -- as if she were writing up an application essay to have Skaggs knighted or appointed to sainthood. But I'm going to cut her some slack since this book is extremely well researched, and powerfully presented. Leovy has been embedded for years in the crime area she is writing about -- the infamous So
Sep 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audio
Important. Devastating. Brilliant. Compelling. This book educates on the literal lack of reporting of murders occurring in South Central Los Angeles (what?!...not on the news at all?) and then brings every aspect of the neighborhoods, the police, the families, the victims, and the life cycle into the reporting to form a cohesive, well-written book that asks the right questions and glimpses the possible answers. The author shows compassion to the plight of the community and the dire need to break ...more
Apr 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"This book is about a very simple idea: where the criminal justice system fails to respond vigorously to violent injury and death, homicide becomes endemic . . . To [veteran police investigator] John Skaggs, the nation's collective shrug toward homicide was incomprehensible. He sensed also that public indifference made his job more difficult." -- the author, on pages 8 and 11

Ghettoside deserves to share shelf space with A Good Month for Murder by Del Quentin Wilber and (one of my all-time favori
Jun 21, 2015 rated it it was ok
I struggled a lot with this one. I went into it very interested in the subject and was excited, and it just did not live up to my expectations. First, the same message is sent about 10 million times, in the same format every time. With that, the author mentions many cases that follow the same pattern. I think it would have been more effective to stick with the Tennelle case while focusing on the human interest element of the story. I felt bombarded with cases and could not keep them straight and ...more
Richard Derus
Feb 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rating: 4* of five

It took me, the guy who reads a book in a day, quite a while to finish this one. GHETTOSIDE is a vivid, eye-opening, matter-of-fact indictment of generations worth of neglect, oppression, and indifference on the part of the larger republic towards African-Americans, and men in particular.

My review isn't a sweet little nosegay. It's a jeremiad.
Feb 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Snotchocheez by: Julie Ehlers
When I saw that my friend Julie was reading this 2015 ARC with an iconic aerial view of a LAPD patrol car on the cover, it made me wonder, yet again, what the heck was going on back in the 'hood. All reports I'd heard regarding violent crime in the City of Angels since I left it a decade ago seemed to indicate that violent crime was on the rapid decline. I pretty much had to see if Ms. Leovy could provide added insight to refute what I'd heard about the decline of murder and other violent crime ...more
Feb 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Leovy's thesis is powerful: We owe inner city African-Americans better crime solving - the victims of black on black violence (particularly murder) deserve to have perpetrators caught. In contrast to much received wisdom, Leovy - who was "embedded" with an LAPD homicide squad - makes a passionate (and often convincing) case that what black inner city neighborhoods need most from the police is more policing: for murderers to be caught, for victims not to be written off as somehow less than innoce ...more
Mikey B.
Jan 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a superb journalistic work on detective investigations of homicide in Los Angeles in the Watts (South Central) area. It gives an intensely human angle. It is centred on the streets and its’ people.

We see how hard the detectives can pursue a case and the years it can take to train and make a good detective. They have to be on the streets and understand the lingo and the code of the inhabitants. They must probe and interview potential witnesses, family members, accomplices over and over ag
Jan 08, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: kindle, true-crime
In Ghettoside, the author asserts that black on black murder among young men, is so rampant in areas like South LA because the justice system has failed the people in these communities by under-enforcing the law. This creates a lack of trust in police, contributes to vigilante style justice, and subsequently discourages witnesses from coming forward, etc.

Besides being a broad narrative that focuses on the police and murder investigations in marginalized black communities, Ghettoside also focuse
New review - Just re-read this. Still a great book that reveals even more on a second reading. In particular read with (before, after or during) Between the World and Me. Note while the first time I read this was a Netgalley ARC, my re-read was of my personal (brought) hardcover edition.

Older review:
Disclaimer: ARC read courtesy of Netgalley.

This book will undoubtedly be compared to David Simon’s Homicide. This is a good and a bad thing. A good thing because if the comparison might get more pe
Apr 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is not the easiest book to read, but it was very engaging from start to finish. It shed light on how and why black men are killed in America (she focuses on LA, where they are killed in hugely disproportionate numbers) and how the police confronts the crimes. I found it to be really interesting and very sad as well. The author has done meticulous research and it is well worth reading if you want to understand better the side of the victims, the police and the flaws inherent in the system. R ...more
Kristy K
Jan 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
3.5 Stars

A look into murder and policing in LA’s roughest areas. It’s written by a journalist who spent years sharing an office with some LAPD homicide detectives. She focuses on one particular murder case using it as a jumping point to discuss the other issues at large such as gangs, black on black violence, inadequate policing, and overworked homicide detectives. A great book focusing on the sociological aspects of crime.
Feb 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fairly recently, I recall reading, “Another Day in the Death of America,” by Gary Younge, about the deaths of ten young men, and children, killed by guns during twenty four hours. Like the young men in this book, the majority of those victims, and those doing the killing, were black. ‘Black on black’ crime, as author Jill Leovy terms this murder epidemic, is something which is dangerously accepted by both those who live in the areas of such high crime rates, where guns, feuds, and gangs, prolife ...more
Jan 17, 2016 rated it it was ok
So in the minority on this one. (Should note, I finally abandoned at about page 170 to pursue other reading material.)

Unfortunately, I did not like Leovy's style of story telling. She took way too long to get into the main story and much of the initial 100 pages is repetitive. I found the biographical chapters of the various detectives involved to be trite and overly scripted.

The underlying premise, that in various black communities, an ineffective policing leads to a vigilante style of justice
Many years in the making, this recounting of the deaths of young black men in the neighborhood of South Los Angeles has the intellectual and emotional impact of a rubber mallet struck hard against the head. It is sickening, anger-inducing, and confounding, like listening to the litany of femicides in Book Four of Roberto Bolaño’s masterpiece, 2666 . Only the facts elicit this reaction, for Leovy’s writing is dispassionate, cool and clear, which is the only way we could get through this horrif ...more
Nancy Oakes
a much longer version of what I think about this book can be found here. Here's the uber-short version:

Ms. Leovy reveals in her book that African-American men have been "the nation's number one crime victims," only six percent of the population, but a staggering "40 percent of those murdered." Her book focuses on the area of Los Angeles formerly known as South Central; more specifically, she zooms in on the Watts area, and part of her thesis is that more often than not, "the idea that murders o
May 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a masterpiece. Informative, nuanced, compassionate, efficiently told, entertaining, heartbreaking. Every American should read this book.
Judith E
Oct 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A sad sociological study of the Watts neighborhood in southeastern Los Angeles in the early 21st century, and the disproportionate murder rate of black men (aka “The Monster”). The attitude that black men’s lives did not deserve the time and work it took to get justice was embraced by many law enforcement personnel and the public’s perception of the Watt’s neighborhood was simplistic and inaccurate.

Ms. Leovy chooses to focus on a few extremely dedicated, savvy, smart, and compassionate homicide
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
This is an interesting and informative book about a serious problem that goes ignored by most of American society: the extraordinary number of young black men who are murdered every year, most often by other young black men. (Despite the title – the book is set in Los Angeles – this isn’t just a big-city or inner-city problem; the same thing happens even in rural areas.) The author embedded in a “ghettoside” investigative division for several years, and the book focuses primarily on the murder o ...more
Darcia Helle
Sometimes I read a book full of alarming statistics, but it fails to move me. Then other times I read a book like this one, when the author weaves statistics and research into a story, when the writing is vivid and the details compelling, when I feel like I've learned something in a way that matters, and when that knowledge has, on some level, changed how I think.

Jill Leovy is a gifted writer. She puts words together in a way that paints a portrait of images and emotion. I didn't just read the
Feb 22, 2016 rated it did not like it
"By the late twentieth century, the criminal justice system was no longer very corrupt. Many police and prosecutors were sincere and professional, and legal outcomes were relatively color-blind." And 40 pages later, Leovy's hero cop is interrogating a black juvenile with no parent, lawyer, or Miranda rights.

This book drove me to near madness.

If you are looking for a book about how well-intentioned, earnest, (mostly) white police detectives struggle to help the "desperate" black residents of Sout
Julie Ehlers
The thesis of this book is simple: the reason areas like south Los Angeles have so much gang-related violence is that law enforcement doesn't place a high priority on solving the murders that do occur. The city therefore sends the message that murder in these areas will go unpunished and, by extension, that the lives of those murdered, be they gang members or others, don't matter. This lack of justice creates a vacuum that the residents then fill with their own form of justice.

Leovy restates th
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Jill Leovy is an award-winning reporter for the Los Angeles Times. She lives in Los Angeles with her family.

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202 likes · 63 comments
“This is a book about a very simple idea: where the criminal justice system fails to respond vigorously to violent injury and death, homicide becomes endemic. African Americans have suffered from just such a lack of effective criminal justice, and this, more than anything, is the reason for the nation’s long-standing plague of black homicides.” 13 likes
“Fundamentally gangs are a consequence of lawlessness, not a cause.” 8 likes
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