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An impassioned, disturbing and not-terribly-optimistic account of a continuing American crisis.

Synthesis of memoir and polemical narrative from an expert on gangs, based on her research in the bloody trenches of Los Angeles.

Leap (UCLA Department of Social Welfare) has spent years evaluating the various gang-prevention and -intervention programs that have evolved in California since the 1980s. She notes that her credibility among gang members, academics and law enforcement developed because “I am willing to go anywhere and talk to anyone to learn about gangs…I am doing something beyond conventional research.” Yet her personal life became even more fraught when she married Mark Leap, a LAPD commander who initially epitomized the straight-arrow, anti-gangster police archetype. While Leap questions the tumultuous nature of their relationship and her own motivations, she is compelled by a passion derived from sheer grief at the waste and violence inherent in gang life. These complexities frame the discussion of the myths and labyrinthine realities of black and Latino gangs in California. She notes that while popular culture has simplified the topic to “Crips and Bloods,” the pervasive violence associated with gang culture remains prominent, as do persistent social pathologies such as drug abuse and domestic violence. Yet Leap views the young “homies” she encounters as lost souls fleeing impoverished childhoods, noting that “there is no typical gang member.” Meanwhile, “the LAPD has combined suppression with street intervention,” and both approaches remain controversial, with ambiguous results. Leap relies on her intellectual open-heartedness and her personal connections to see her through the many dangerous situations she encounters. Like the documentary The Interrupters, she focuses on the “interventionists”—reformed gangsters who attempt to curtail street violence. Leap’s writing is vibrant and approachable; although her personalized approach at times causes a loss of focus regarding her broader sociological narrative of urban gangs, the narrative is suffused with the authenticity of hard-won expertise. 

An impassioned, disturbing and not-terribly-optimistic account of a continuing American crisis.

Pub Date: March 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8070-4456-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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