Ghettoside, if there’s any justice, will be the most important book about urban violence in a generation. And in one of those rare moments of utter kismet, it has appeared just when we need it most ... Ghettoside should change our understanding of and the debate about what’s going on in our most troubled neighborhoods. They are not hopeless places filled with incurable problems. They are dealing as best they can with horrific conditions not of their making and mainly not under their control. The book should bring some much-needed balance to the current debate about what post-Ferguson policing should look like.
Ghettoside is old-school narrative journalism, told strictly in the third person. It’s as square as a card table. Yet the book is a serious and kaleidoscopic achievement ... Ms. Leovy’s greatest gift as a journalist [is] her ability to remain hard-headed while displaying an almost Tolstoyan level of human sympathy. Nearly every person in her story — killers and victims, hookers and soccer moms, good cops and bad — exists within a rich social context ... Ms. Leovy’s narrative has its share of clichés and mildly soggy moments, yet on the whole she’s a crisp writer with a crisp mind and the ability to boil entire skies of information into hard journalistic rain.
That Leovy is able to rely so heavily on external sources and perspectives is a testament to her journalistic experience and expertise. As I well know, oftentimes first-person meta-commentary is a cheap trick designed to gloss over inadequacies of research. Leovy, however, needs no such misdirection. She has done the work. She knows the neighborhoods and the people. She’s been to the hospitals, to the police stations, to the homes of the victims, to the scenes of the crime. In Ghettoside, you can practically smell the shoe leather. The reporting is so thorough, so detailed — the physical description at times verging on the photorealistic — that I found myself marveling, wondering, and even doubting. How the hell did she get all this?