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Jill Leovy

Author of the New York Times-bestselling book, Ghettoside

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  • About Jill Leovy

    In Ghettoside, author and journalist Jill Leovy explores race and murder in America through immersive reporting in the streets and police stations of South Los Angeles. Centered around the senseless murder of a young man named Bryant Tennelle and the heroically dogged detective who takes on the case, Leovy’s story is both a fast-paced crime narrative and a measured study into gang-related violence. In her telling of this quintessential “ghettoside” killing, Leovy crafts a complex portrait of the forces that work to keep murder rates high in neighborhoods like these, from the understandable fear that keeps witnesses silent to the lack of funding for effective investigation. Her comprehensive lectures posit a groundbreaking thesis: that high crime rates are better explained by inadequate legal development than by social pathology. At a time when there is a tremendous emphasis on preventing crime before it happens, she reminds audiences that our modern system of policing often fails a basic duty—to catch killers, no matter who the victim may be.

    As the crime correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, Leovy put faces to the city’s homicide statistics in her online “Homicide Report,” an ambitious project in which she identified every murder victim in the city, recorded details about their death, and tracked follow-up stories. This proved to be an almost impossible task, but determined to give every victim their due, she documented over 1100 murders. Through this project, she developed an intimate understanding of both the battle-scarred neighborhoods most affected by the violence and the detectives battling the odds to solve crimes. The Homicide Report caught national attention with features on NPR, NBC Nightly News, and CNN, and inspired newspapers across the nation to create their own reports.

    Leovy worked for over two decades as a reporter and editor at the Los Angeles Times, covering business and the environment in addition to crime. She worked briefly as a national correspondent covering Ground Zero after September 11, 2001, as a foreign correspondent in Mexico City, and as a higher education reporter. Her work has appeared in the Atlantic, the Wall Street Journal, the London Telegraph, Slate, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the American Scholar. Her book, Ghettoside, was a New York Times bestseller, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the winner of the California Book Award for nonfiction. She received a bachelors in history from the University of Washington before working at the Seattle Times and the News Tribune in Tacoma, Washington.

  • Speaking Topics

    Ghettoside

    In this talk based on her bestselling book, Leovy brings audiences into the vivid world of her reporting, from the terrorized communities reeling from gang violence to the police forces crippled by bureaucracy and administrative apathy. She challenges the prevalent views of policing in America today, arguing that we have the police we’ve asked to have and that the problem begins with public perception. Instead of barring police from at-risk communities, she shows why making policing more effective, as well as less harmful, is a necessity for neighborhoods desperate for peace and safety.

    Capturing Violence on the Page

    How do we describe the indescribable? Violence is anti-language – so how do we write about it? Jill Leovy discusses how she tackles converting stories of unspeakable violence into writing that does justice to victims and survivors. This sensitive but practical presentation covers the nuts and bolts of reporting while balancing accuracy and consideration for your subject and your readers.

    The Central Role of Violence in America and Beyond

    No human community is immune to violence. That’s because, under the right conditions, violence seems to make sense. The effectiveness of violence – even violence we view as deranged – makes it difficult to contain. Jill Leovy argues that in order to combat murder and assault, we must penetrate its logic. We must ask hard questions about what violence achieves and how it works: why are lynchings nearly universal? Why do drunken brawls, drug killings and ordinary domestic murders matter? What do street-fighters in Jamaica have in common with the nobles of tenth-century France? In this presentation, Leovy brings audiences on a tour of the universal dynamics lurking beneath current problems of violence, from homicide outbreaks to gang warfare.

  • Video

  • Praise for Jill Leovy

    Praise for Ghettoside

    Masterful . . . gritty reporting that matches the police work behind it.

    Los Angeles Times

    Moving and engrossing.

    San Francisco Chronicle

    Penetrating and heartbreaking . . . Ghettoside points out how relatively little America has cared even as recently as the last decade about the value of young black men’s lives.

    USA Today

    Functions both as a snappy police procedural and—more significantly—as a searing indictment of legal neglect . . . Leovy’s powerful testimony demands respectful attention.

    The Boston Globe
  • Books by Jill Leovy

  • Media About Jill Leovy

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  • 212 572-2013

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