... 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.
In some ways, The Compton Cowboys is a totally different take on the cowboy way of life, but at its heart is the recognizable hope that human goodness will triumph over inequality ... Thompson-Hernández’s integration of research into readable prose makes room for readers to grapple with the book’s toughest questions about bias, inequality and the future of the black cowboy tradition.
... a nice surprise. It’s also a source of disappointment ... For sure, readers will find themselves fascinated by a ranch in South Central, and itching to learn more about it, but facts here are frustratingly sparse. Yes, author Walter Thompson-Hernández follows the subtitled promise of focusing his book on the cowboys themselves, but a ranch in the middle of SoCal urbanity? It seems like a gift. Truly, more backstory on it would’ve been nice ... Instead, readers get a lot of throat-clearing and profile-rehashing that spins in place before it zooms off in a satisfying manner. Again, yes, that’s the focus but less here absolutely would have been more ... In the end, The Compton Cowboys is good, but it may leave a lingering feeling of Not Enough. For anyone needing a who-what-why, it requires a lot of fill-in-the-blanks and it saddles a reader with too many questions.
... thoughtful and compassionate ... Thompson-Hernandez never shies away from the cowboys’ trauma, and his respect for them is clear. This is an endearing tribute to them, Akbar, and the benefits of equine therapy.
... inspiring ... Thompson-Hernández weaves history lessons on Compton’s shifting demographics, Buffalo Soldiers, and famous black cowboys of the American West into his account of the ranch’s changing of the guard. Though some readers may grow weary of the book’s repetitions and meandering threads, Thompson-Hernández succeeds in capturing the redemptive powers of this unique community and the human-animal bonds it fosters. This feel-good profile shines a spotlight on a worthy cause.
In his intimate yet sober-eyed narrative, Thompson-Hernández never shies away from those realities ... The author’s fondness and respect for the CJP crew is consistently patent (only occasionally overly so), and he tells their story straight, no matter how much it hurts ... A gritty and somber chronicle of an often overlooked community.