Gattis presents, from the points of view of many residents of differing ethnic groups,the actions of gangs and individuals in the area which took advantage of the enraged riot in Los Angeles 1991, to battle as they fought to take revenge, or increase their territory. This new angle gives a gut-wrenching reveal of the gang mentality with its flimsy loyalty, arrogance, and intimidation of members and public alike.
The book comprises six sections – one for each day of the riots. Within each day, Gatttis lets us see the connections and interactions between seventeen individuals involved – gang members, their partners, wanna-bes, and fire fighters, nurses, law enforcers.
Each section allows the reader to feel the social pressure the individual is under – whether gang or relationship pressure – to conform, to meet demands, to follow the rules and expectations. Horrific consequences face those who go against a gang or gang leader (their own or another). Drugs and pimping are commonplace (though the latter is only briefly included).
We hear their street language. We sweat with the nervous. We tremble with rage at the atrocities. We gulp at the helplessness of those ensnared in this life style. We sympathise. We are in suspense awaiting foretold attacks.
We feel hope for Freer, who makes his escape from the city to try to be “freer”, elsewhere.
(For those of us who’s only knowledge of the Mexican/Hispanic LA community comes from TV shows, there is a Glossary of terms appended to the book.)
The factual background:
On 1991 Monday 29th April, four white officers were acquitted by an all-white jury of ten of all charges laid after they had (sixty-seven days earlier) been caught in an 89-second amateur video, beating the unarmed, intoxicated and uncooperative African-American Rodney King, following a car chase.
Within hours, South-Central Los Angeles exploded in riots, fighting, arson and looting, by folk enraged by the racially biased beating, trial and acquittals Six days of murder and mayhem followed.
(refer http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/riots-erupt-in-los-angeles for further details)
Evan Skrederstu’s realisation of Freer’s final LA tag, in memory of Ernie
© Even Skrederstu
(cropped by Red-Penn)
For an extensive examination of the novel’s back ground,
ISBN: 978-1-4472-8318-8 paperback