With the assistance of Spagnola, police-brutality victim and racial lightning rod King reflects on his 1991 beating by Los Angeles police officers and the riots and courtroom drama that followed.
In his debut nonfiction book, King—a name which by his own admission has become “synonymous with drinking, DUIs, domestic violence, reckless driving, civil rights violations, police brutality [and] hate crimes”—provides a simply told tale of his experiences with racism and alcoholism and the night that would forever mar his life. While the title implies a psychological journey, most of King’s revelations offer little more than surface-level reporting. The majority of the factual information can be read in any newspaper or on Wikipedia; the author is at his best when he shares the personal details of his story. In a particularly revealing moment, King describes disguising himself in a Bob Marley wig in an attempt to observe the riots spurred by the acquittal of the police officers. Watching from a few blocks away, he describes feeling “that terrible presence of hatred that I felt the night of the beating, that palpable wall of loathing that was absolutely suffocating.” Unfortunately, these insights are rare, and King’s play-by-play recounting of the courtroom drama is not nearly as interesting as his own thoughts on racial violence. Early on he writes, “I have been asked countless times if I’ve forgiven those officers for beating me. The short answer is yes.” However, the long answer is far more complicated, and King's dry, spare reportage continually overwhelms personal reflection.
Rarely plumbs new depths of insight on America’s struggles with racial violence.