All Involved

All InvolvedAll Involved by Ryan Gattis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

don’t pick up this book until you have a stretch of time you can sacrifice to it, because once you read the first paragraph, you won’t be able to put it down.

but also don’t pick it up until you’ve steeled yourself some–or opened your heart some, whichever way works best for you–because this book is going to demand a great deal more from you than just a read by the firelight.

this is a fictionalization of life just outside the 1992 LA riot zone as seen by 17 narrators, each in his or her turn: a genuinely innocent victim; his revenge-seeking, gang-banging sister; their drug-dealing elder brother; and so on, each story handing off to the next as we travel through the six days of the riots. as we travel through the stories of various gang members, their relatives, friends, nurses, firefighters, and one scary dude working for an unnamed federal agency, the world reveals itself to be one in which choices are often limited to bad and worse, and nobody gets out unscathed. the scathed are still very, very much luckier than the dead.

and the book has a lot of those, the dead. i am very much reminded of the recent and thoroughly standout non-fiction book Ghettoside: A Story of Murder in America. the gist of this book is that when justice is absent from society, people will create their own systems of judgement, which may not be pretty at all, but which must still be understood as systems. it’s not random violence, and violence is certainly not perpetrated just because they’re all “evildoers”.

ya, i’d highly recommend reading Ghettoside before reading All Involved.

a lot of people are already grousing about how the author isn’t hispanic and isn’t a gangbanger and isn’t a blah blah blah so how could he write this book with any kind of understanding or verisimilitude. but you can safely ignore them, because the writer did a ton of research and interviews, and he creates characters who are so much more than one-dimensional cliches. i work with incarcerated youth, lots of whom are hispanic, and i could see echoes of their lives and circumstances all over this book. i think he nailed the verisimilitude.

besides, if one had to have the experience to write the book, that’d wipe out 100% of science fiction, mysteries, westerns, maybe even romance.

i listened to the audiobook, and the narrators all do a fabulous job of it.

highly recommended, after reading Ghettoside.

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