Throughout, Bloch proves himself a witness of extreme perceptivity, but he is more than that. He is also a tremendous writer of prose, clear-eyed in his intent to explain difficult circumstances, and he does so quickly and efficiently so that they might be understood by those who do not share the same background. His writing thrums with the keenness of earned insight on everything from the organized money-making schemes that fuel late-night bombing sessions to the realities of social structures in impoverished neighborhoods ... ultimately a memoir tempered by the disciplined lens of ethnographic study. The author describes this practice as 'mining memory to connect real-world experiences with scholarly insight.' And yet, rather than weighing the text down, or rendering it less readable, this added layer of insight is illuminating in its ability to connect the author’s experiences to historical and social forces around him. The applied critical lens allows its author a degree of detachment necessary to relate the frequently painful experiences of his youth. (In fact, it is only in the author’s note that Bloch briefly describes the emotional toll that this work took.) Clear and sharp, packed with facts and difficult-to-shake details, the work seeks not to push the reader into sympathy, but something much more important: to promote understanding, and even empathy ... it deserves direct admittance into the nonfiction canon of Los Angeles literature alongside such works as Jill Leovy’s Ghettoside (2015) and Luis J. Rodriguez’s Always Running (1993).
...a surprising and intimate look inside the life of a graffiti writer ... [Bloch's descriptions of how he created the graffiti — the way he controlled the paint spray, the little tilt and sway of his body as he wrote — are pure poetry ... Somehow, he came out of these dire circumstances to become an ethnographer, and he writes this memoir with the perspective of an academic, telling the story in a measured way, with context that gives it scope and meaning.
As much academic as artist, Bloch has written a memoir that reflects both his life on the streets and as a scholar ... Going All City is that rarest text, both a gripping memoir of life on the street, as well as an academic treatise, complete with scholarly endnotes. There’s no sleight of hand — the first endnote occurs on page one — and the casual reader and academic alike should enjoy the ride, and will likely learn a lot. Bloch’s story is personal, but also a primer on graffiti’s history and technique, as well as its artistic and social import. His descriptions of deploying spray paint are particularly poetic.
This autoethnography...takes readers for a tour of the 1990s graffiti scene in Los Angeles, sharing intensely personal memories of growing up destitute with a drug-addicted mother while also providing a wider analysis of the socioeconomic, legal, and spatial relationships at play ... Taking great pains to document and verify the veracity of his lived experience, Bloch blends resonant memoir, academic scholarship, and streetwise storytelling in a truly unique urban study.