The Contested Murder of Latasha Harlins: Justice, Gender, and the Origins of the LA Riots

Brenda Stevenson

Oxford University Press, 2013

Agent: Sandra Dijkstra


"Contested Murder makes it clear the tragedy inside the Empire Market and the violence that followed in South L.A. and Koreatown should be remembered by all Angelenos as a turning point in their history."--Los Angeles Times

"A child's murder, a judicial outrage, and a city on fire: Brenda Stevenson unlocks the secret history of the 1992 Los Angeles riots in this meticulously fair but disturbing account of the Latasha Harlins case."--Mike Davis, author of City of Quartz

"As an element of the Los Angeles Riots, the shooting of Latasha Harlins finally gets the attention it deserves from renowned historian Brenda Stevenson. Stevenson gives us fascinating and full portraits of each of the three women involved: the teenage African-American victim, the Korean immigrant shooter, and the Jewish American judge. She traces all three lives deep into the past and forward to that fateful moment in the South Central convenience store in March 1991. A gripping read and a revealing perspective on the varied and intersecting lives of American women at century's end."--Ellen Carol DuBois, author of Through Women's Eyes: An American History

"Not since J. Anthony Lukas's Common Ground has a book so sympathetically and powerfully traced personal and group histories to recover the roots of an American tragedy. To Lukas's elucidation of race, ethnicity, religion, and class, Stevenson's excavation of the lives of three women-the decedent, the defendant, and the judge-adds a gendered understanding that explains anew the eruption of violence in Los Angeles in the spring of 1992 and the traumas of inequality in the modern United States."--Stephen Aron, Chair, Autry Institute for the Study of the American West

"The Contested Murder of Latasha Harlins is a deeply moving account of the shooting death of a Black female teenager at the hands of a Korean female shopkeeper. With an elegant and elegiac tone, Stevenson charts the biographies of those involved in the outcome of the case-including the presiding Jewish female judge. Stevenson also plumbs the cultural and historical contexts of race, class, and gender in the lives of the women and men who were brought together by the caprice of history as well as its seemingly inevitable designations. She has encompassed all of our histories in an epic manner and written about an episode in our national history to which we should all pay attention."--Lois W. Banner, University of Southern California