Reactions on Long Island

August 7, 2009 § Leave a comment

The book has prompted a strong response from readers in Long Island. Newsday, the Long Island daily, posted a review of Gangs today. Several local police detectives, including a Nassau County gang unit officer who resides in Garden City, have contacted me to praise the book’s depiction of the gang situation they see on the ground. The book’s title, and its suggestion that gangs are also the problem of wealthy areas such as Garden City, has rankled others. You can read a critique of the book in the Garden City News, a community weekly, here, and my response here.

Here’s an excerpt from the Newsday review:

This ambitious, sometimes unwieldy book focuses on the community of Hempstead and two Latino gangs: the notorious Mara Salvatrucha, widely known as MS-13, and subsets of the lesser-known 18th Street gang. Originating in Los Angeles, both groups consist largely of immigrants from war-ravaged, poverty-stricken Central American countries.

Garland weaves her impressive research on immigration, education and criminal justice into the narrative stories of three young gang members. Jessica, the American-born daughter of a Honduran immigrant, grows up in an abusive family filled with MS-13 members. She joins a rival gang, Salvadorans with Pride, at the age of 13. Julio, a former Salvadoran soldier, joins MS-13 in Los Angeles before moving to Hempstead, where he’s eventually deported.

Perhaps most compelling is the story of Daniel, a Salvadoran boy who illegally crosses the U.S.-Mexican border at the age of 12 to reunite with his mother in Hempstead. There he meets Jaime, another recent transplant. The two become best friends until Daniel joins Salvadorans with Pride, while Jaime gravitates to MS-13. Jaime ends up dead, the first of several friends killed by gang violence.

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