PositiveThe Los Angeles Times... ambitious ... the raw quality of a hand-held documentary ... structured as a loose collage of portraits rather than a taut, linear narrative ... This desire to control one’s story and one’s destiny is at the heart of the story and Thompson-Hernández’s storytelling. With the eye of a photographer, he captures the minute ways a community cedes power to another. Zooming in on granular detail, he fleshes out a neighborhood in all its colors, scents and conversational rhythms. This means there are numerous threads and names to follow, and at times some repetition disrupts the narrative’s flow and urgency. Nonetheless, this is a rare, un-sensationalized portrait of a community fighting to reclaim its turf ... In the end, the author doesn’t deliver certainty but rather something more fundamental. Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, the official news of South L.A. was often controlled by reporters who parachuted in to grab sensationalistic segments before moving on. This book is the antithesis: In words and photographs, Thompson-Hernández reveals a three-dimensionality of people and place that can result only from time, trust and compassion.
RaveLos Angeles TimesTaylor assiduously retraces the Green Book’s history ... This was a grueling, faith-testing journey of loss and heartbreak that enlarges and shapes her book’s vision ... In scope and tone, Overground Railroad recalls Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns ... Taylor creates a vivid, multi-voiced travelogue, drawing on interviews, archival documents and newspaper accounts. Historic photographs provide context. Her contemporary images drawn from her travels...also play a dynamic, before-and-after role in storytelling. At its center, the book is a nuanced commentary of how black bodies have been monitored, censured or violated, and it compellingly pulls readers into the current news cycle.
PositiveAltaBrother & Sister ruminates on the mysteries that shape us—nurture or nature, volition or destiny. Disassembling the family narrative, Keaton asks big questions, bracing for the discomfort they provoke ... Randy seems to be forever after a glimmer. \'You know what I want?\' he asks. \'I want to be part of the unexpected surprise. If I were to take a photograph of a person, I’d want to catch that person out of character.… I’d like to be witness to their unseen beauty.\' In Brother & Sister, this is what Keaton so poignantly achieves.
Joan Didion, Ed. by David L. Ulin
RaveThe Los Angeles Times... captures and revisits Didion’s seminal work ... readers can feel the prickly heat, smell the approaching catastrophe. Within her clean crisp sentences, this mirage of a destination shimmers up: the soil, the light, a tangle of deeply imperfect humans, all trying their luck, and then gone in a moment ... Weaving together intimate autobiographical elements, keen sensory observation, topical themes and major cultural shifts (or rifts), Didion arrives as a distinct voice in the era of New Journalism ... a defining compilation of her early writing ... When Didion addresses the reader in that confiding second person, those eyes peer, unblinking, at you. It is a writer’s seduction, a reporter working the moment to get at the most uncomfortable truth ... n the page her presence is striking and indelible, and it has been scrutinized and critiqued. Didion is indeed her own atmosphere and terrain ... For a region that to the outside world remains gauzy or improbable — still in many ways a mirage — Didion has worked to pin the complexity of Los Angeles, and by extension the West, on the page.
RaveThe Los Angeles TimesWith Erasure, he has produced a multilayered, tightly written novel that refuses to equivocate. It’s a funhouse of manipulated reflections, lives viewed through screens and lenses. The story winds through cutaways and short stories, pieces of Greek chorus conversations between philosophers and artists, world leaders--all alternate prisms glimpsing family, academia, identity and pop culture ... While much is played for laughs, Erasure is a trenchant examination of the labels and assumptions that the outside affixes on others, and that many, in turn, unquestioningly affix on themselves ... It’s a fluid, unwieldy world Everett chooses to embrace and ultimately reconstruct on a page, one dominated, finally, by complex themes.
Sarah M. Broom
RaveThe Los Angeles Times... both personal and sharply political; it’s an attempt to redraw not just the map of New Orleans but also the city’s narrative — to reset it on its foundation ... Meticulously observed and expansively researched ... These elder voices, thick with the rhythm and texture of time and place, are a chorus of narrators, the forebears who navigated a stratified, racially segregated map. They weigh in, testify, spin tangents. It’s the book’s music. Broom transports readers to postwar, Jim Crow-circumscribed black New Orleans, Uptown, to the Washington Avenue night spots where singer Ernie K. Doe performed ... luminous ... Broom’s work is a shoring-up, a strengthening. It’s the result of tenacious naming and claiming, revisiting all the histories — formal and informal, polished and rough. She worked with great care, and with a resolute honesty leavened with grace. Readers may hear echoes of James Baldwin in the relentlessness of her inquiry, and in the sinewy cadences of her sentences.
RaveThe Los Angeles Times... [a] lush, expansive and harrowing history ... a formal distillation of that protracted chapter when black people in the South disappeared, often under the cover of night, frequently leaving their sharecropper\'s tools in the fields, their future plans and whereabouts a mystery to those they left behind ... epic in its reach and in its structure ... Told in a voice that echoes the magic cadences of Toni Morrison or the folk wisdom of Zora Neale Hurston\'s collected oral histories, Wilkerson\'s book pulls not just the expanse of the migration into focus but its overall impact on politics, literature, music, sports — in the nation and the world ... Wilkerson has rendered the Great Migration through a trio of voices —symbolic portraits as intricately etched as heirloom cameos ... For many this book will flesh out an under-reported chapter of American history, which was Wilkerson\'s goal. However, for a certain generation of African Americans, this book will stir a sense of relief — that these stories and rituals that so many migrants attempted to hand-carry in the hopes that they might take root — have now been set down between two covers and in such dignified fashion. Wilkerson has logged not just the dates and figures that make these stories fact and thus formal history, she\'s made indelible the fading music of these voices, the dance of their speech patterns, the intricate chemistry of folk cures and cornbread rendered from scratch ... What she\'s done with these oral histories is stow memory in amber.
PositiveThe Los Angeles TimesJosh Levin’s The Queen isn’t what it first presents itself to be. Fitting because the \'Queen,\' the title references, wasn’t either ... Levin demonstrates that Taylor’s infamous — and distorted — public reputation was the least of her infractions. He spent six years tailing ghosts, chasing thin leads, researching and interviewing sources who’d encountered Taylor and those who were left behind in her wreckage. Much of it is horrifying ... Levin’s reporting is exhaustive — a study of welfare reform, a deep dive into FBI files and old court transcripts. It’s here that the book begins to take an unexpected series of turns — both opening up and stepping back. Levin shows his meticulous backstory work, and sometimes those extended contextual passages take us out of the spell he’s cast; that taut narrative becomes, in places, overwhelmed with backstory. But Levin keeps trained on Taylor — even in the most uncomfortable, reprehensible moments of her story. Know this: The Queen is not a tale of redemption.