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Ghetto Dogs is a biracial love story seen through the violent prism of dogfighting and drug dealing. While on his way to apply for a teaching job in Harlem, Vincent DeRosa saves a young boy from being mauled by a runaway pit bull. Looking on in horror, the boy's mother watches as the white man is in turn attacked and nearly killed. It is only later, under very different circumstances that Vincent and Desiree meet again and fall in love. But their love is challenged from a number of angles, not least of which is Desiree's ex boyfriend, Rosco, a notorious drug dealer and dogfighter who has decided to re-enter the life of his young son.
"Ambitious and sprawling, this compelling book delivers critiques of American institutions, from family and education to law enforcement and criminal organizations. Romagnoli is adept at dislocating the reader within a real-but-unfamiliar world, as in the tale's opening scene: a tree full of hanging dogs, some living and some dead. He has an ear for dialogue and a gift for establishing character with a few short clauses (one character, Ivory White, is introduced as a former 'member of Rosco's high school basketball team until he got expelled for pimp-slapping a referee')."--- Kirkus Reviews
Kate Christensen, winner of the 2008 PEN/Faulkner Award:
"The opening scene of Ghetto Dogs is so riveting and surreal it launches the story right off the runway. The story sails airborne straight to the weird, poetic end, and the characters crackle with appetites and opinions, the dialogue is masterly. The book's density is vertical rather than horizontal, so that each page is spare and understated, but it all stacks up into something rich and full of soul, sad, funny, intelligent, and streetwise. Romagnoli is the Lester Young of writers; his virtuosity feels effortless."
Mark Caldwell, author of New York Night: The Mystique and Its History:
"Steve Romagnoli's Ghetto Dogs is both a terrific read and a literary achievement, moving with ease and authenticity through the chronic clash and sudden concords of white and African-American culture in New York from the1970s to the 1990s. Ghetto Dogs has the suspense (and violence) of a thriller---but with a precision of detail, a surreal moral seriousness, and large cast of fully imagined characters almost unknown to the genre. In its mastery of dog-fighting culture and intensity Ghetto Dogs recalls Jesmyn Ward's Salvage the Bones, but Romagnoli's canvas is larger, with a Brueghelesque mastery and a wider social sweep."
Francis Levy, author of Erotomania: A Romance and Seven Days in Rio:
"Steve Romagnoli's Ghetto Dogs has the ambition and scope of a nineteenth century Russian novel, only it's situated in twentieth century Harlem. Instead of Pierre and Andrey, Natasha, Sofia, Vronsky, Levin and Anna, Romagnoli's characters are named Antoine, Tyrone, Rosco, Ivory, Desiree and Marisol. In place of duels there are dogfights and basketball and the most spiritual characters are now a recovering addict who teaches in a tough public school and the ghost of a three legged fighting pit bull, Redrum, whose name recalls The Shining. Scarface and Nietzsche's 'will to power' fight for the souls of Romagnoli's characters. His gritty realistic style does for millennial novel writing about the 'hood' what the Ashcan school of painting contributed in its portrayal of an earlier era of New York street life."