This book effectively combines the backdrop of policy and politics "the war on drugs" with stories of real people impacted by the crack epidemic. The war on drugs which targeted the black community specifically (and in parallel had lesser charges/ramifications for the white community using Cocaine), produced an incredible amount of stereotypes and myths. "Crack babies" was one of them - as stated in the book and I also independently researched this, babies were not born addicted to crack and longitudinal studies do not show evidence of long-term effects (although don't misunderstand me -- I am not condoning use of drugs, nicotine or alcohol during pregnancy). The myths were used to justify and pass legislation that impacted the black community, individuals and families which contributed to and compounded generational trauma. This book is structured around the stories of 4 individuals - from dealers, users and a mayor who sought to decriminalize drugs due to the mass incarceration epidemic. This book blends these stories so that we see both the political backdrop as well as the personal stories. A compelling and important book.
Thank you to Netgalley and Random House Publishing Group - Random House for an ARC and I voluntarily left this review.
I got this as a NetGalley ARC.
This took me a while to read because I wanted to give my full attention to the stories and research that the author compiled and wrote about in it. I'm glad I stuck with it because the author did a great job of using their own interviews and painstaking research to tell a new story of the Crack epidemic of the 1980s. Can't wait to see what this author writes about next.
This was TRULY an amazing book. It goes into great detail of how the crack epidemic kicked off and also on the current trends. I think the author did an amazing job on this book. Many families in the 1980s were affected by drugs so I truly think this book should be read by everyone!
This book is a great debut from this author. It is an in depth look at the toll of the crack epidemic upon society. It tells the background of the governments failed efforts in combatting this epidemic alongside the way in which peoples lives were shaped and impacted by their addition. Great research and clear, concise, emotional take on this serious issue.
I am so glad I read this book. It was Definitely eye opening and a peek into a world in which I am unfamiliar. Each personal account was detailed and touching. I also loved how the book was divided into acts for different time eras. It showed the progression of each personal experience and their outcome. The stories brought a lot of humanity to the forefront and how anybody from any walk of life can become a victim to the drug.
Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC: This is a brilliant book. The author chronicles the crack epidemic with a winning combination of personal stories, interspersed with important history, politics, and policies that resulted in mass incarceration and a failed "war on drugs". I was vaguely aware of the crack epidemic, but we all should be acutely aware of it. It rose and fell, but now half a million mostly Black Americans are incarcerated and countless more lives have been ruined. Punishing the way out of a substance abuse epidemic did not resolve it. The author wrote that writing this book, having lived through the crack epidemic, nearly killed him. Thankfully he prevailed and created this masterpiece of critically important history.
Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for the gifted copy!
This was a great read that provided critical insight into the crack epidemic in the U.S. I knew about it, but I didn't have a lot of the detailed information that the author provided. And it was explained in a way that was understandable to readers. The author also provided relevant social/cultural context, which was helpful as a reader.
I thought this was unique for including stories of a few individuals who were impacted by the crack epidemic and the war on drugs, in one way or another. It added more depth to the book.
When Crack Was King is reminiscent of Evicted by Matthew Desmond. It is a narrative nonfiction account of the 1980s and 90s crack epidemic in America. The author, Donovan X. Ramsey brings readers into the lives of 4 people whose lives were impacted by crack cocaine during this time period. Their stories were heartbreaking but insightful. Ramsey did an extraordinary amount of research on this topic and the personal stories really shine a light on the human and community-wide devastation caused by crack.
Thanks to Random House, One World, and NetGalley for a review copy of this book.
Well researched and good story telling. The people that the author used gave a compassionate and unique perspective to a misunderstood and little talked about topic in history.
I could not grasp the magnitude of America’s crack cocaine epidemic before reading this book. Ramsey’s research and writing is impeccable and the personal stories shared brought this from what I remember being a political war to a place where it felt like I was learning about the struggles of real people. I’d put this book right next to those of Matthew Desmond, another incredible nonfiction writer who takes real-world problems and tells the stories of those who are affected by them. I look forward to seeing what Ramsey does next. *Advance copy provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.
Special thanks to Donovan X. Ramsey, Random House Publishing Group - Random House, One World for this ARC
I think many of us are familiar with the Crack epidemic of the 1980s and how it rapidly tore through urban neighborhoods leaving destruction, pain and broken families in its wake. I loved the firsthand POVs from the survivors of this era that included Lennie, Elgin, Kurt and Shawn. This gave the novel so much personal insight. This paired with the political reforms of those times, systemic racism and the how the views of drug use impacted policies really aided in giving it. Ore personification. . The content touches on the stark differences in how cocaine and Crack users by the government and media.
There's a chapter that focuses on the Crack conspiracy that some have always felt the US governments implemented as a. attempt to dismantle communities of color,. As the epidemic grew, so did penalties, mass incarceration and the increasing presidential led war on drugs. Overtime, many communities rebuilt themselves and are flourishing yet others never recovered from damage inflicted 30 years ago.
Overall, I enjoyed this ARC. Rating 4.5/5
Incredibly well done. Riveting and held my attention the whole book. I liked the history told through stories and characters and not mundane, rote facts.
I absolutely loved this book!! I couldn’t put it down.
I just loved all the characters. I highly recommend this book.
cw: drug abuse, violence, rape, murder, child abandonment
this book is a masterpiece. you should absolutely read it. it is so important
Ramsey utilizes the personal, intimate life stories of 4 individuals to carve out the real implications of the crack epidemic. he describes political, historical components and then details each of those components through the real life stories of these 4 individuals. he takes such good care of each of the stories, making the reader see and value each person. it’s not conspiracy that the government orchestrated the crack epidemic as a tool to further white supremacy and imprison Black americans to further oppression and racism and Ramsey does a wonderful job providing information that seeks truth
A fascinating look at the rise of crack in disadvantaged neighborhoods. It saddens me to think how this drug ravaged whole communities and that we have yet to figure out a solution to such a devastating issue - from the societal affects to the criminialization of drug users. This is a great fiction/nonfictional pairing with Barbara Kinsolver's Demon Copperhead!
This was a fascinating way of looking at this slice of history, mixing a story-driven approach from actual people living at this time with some zoom-outs to cover broader events that would have an effect on their lives. There's great breadth here in showing what we got wrong at the time and have realized in hindsight, all braided in neatly with the lives of people who were there.
This book just blew me away. The amount of research that went into it is nothing short of amazing and I am in awe of the stories that Mr. Ramsey was able to tell. What is even more amazing to me is that this is Mr. Ramsey's first book; you absolutely do not get that sense when you are doing the deep dive into the drug world, the government that contributed to the drug culture and the people that lived it. In fact, about halfway through, I went looking for other books by Mr. Ramsey and was shocked to find that this was his first book as you do not get that sense from the breadth and compassion, but never pity or condemnation in the way he writes. I will go as far to as to say he writes better than some seasoned biographers I have read in the past.
Told through the eyes of 4 people and then also from the governments involvement [the "war" on drugs and the farce that was], the story begins in 1965 with Lennie and ends with all four in present day. And what a story it is. It is happy and sad and heartbreaking and joyous. It is heart-racing and resignation, and it is every-man. Anyone can relate to this book - we have all known someone [of the friend/family member of someone] who has struggled with drugs and addiction and this book will resonate with everyone who reads it. There is never any judgement here, resignation at times yes [the author talks about his own struggles in getting this book written and how it affected him], but always trying to find the hope and joy in the lives of the people he is writing about.
Told with feeling and caring, this book is a MUST READ for everyone. I cannot state that enough. We should ALL be reading this book. Absolutely brilliant. I will forever be changed by what I read.
Thank you to Donovan X Ramsey for writing the book we ALL need to be reading. I am so grateful for your ability to write about a subject that I thought I knew about, but found I was mostly [sadly] mistaken. I am grateful for the chance to read this and learn from it.
I was asked to read/review this book by Random House Publishing Group - Random House/One World and I thank them for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
“When Crack Was King” is the sociological, economic, and political account of the crack cocaine era. Ramsey combines historical facts with narratives of several people whose lives were ravaged by crack cocaine. Each one of these characters has different relationships with crack cocaine. There is the child of an addict, a dealer, an addict, and a politician, each of whom present a different perspective on this era and its aftermath. If you’ve read “The New Jim Crow” or similar works, many of the facts about how the war on drugs criminalized Black people are the same. What does stand out though is that Ramsey takes an in-depth look at how the United States government essentially supported the infiltration of cocaine, which is transformed into crack cocaine, to intentionally damage Black communities. This book is a solid addition to the rank of nonfiction books about social and racial justice.
An excellent read with a blend of personal stories and overall reporting of the crack epidemic. As a rural Canadian child during the height of the epidemic, I have no personal memories of the depth of the crisis during this era - however, I think the book is accessible for people coming to the subject like myself. The different perspectives of the personal story portion is excellent and gives a visceral, well-rounded view of the crisis.
A fascinating look at addiction and the failed "war on drugs".
Thank you to the publisher, via NetGalley, for providing me with an arc for review.
Very interesting literary non fiction book about the crack epidemic. Reminded me of "Warmth of Other Suns" in that it follows a set amount of people and gives their life stories over the years. I like how the time is set for each section of the book with what is happening politically about "the war on drugs", it really helps fully understand the times. Would definitely recommend this book to others.