The story of The Compton Cowboys, a group of African-American men and women who defy stereotypes and continue the proud, centuries-old tradition of black cowboys in the heart of one of America's most notorious cities.
... 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.