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In the age of commissioned wall murals and trendy street art, it’s easy to forget graffiti’s complicated and often violent past in the United States. Though graffiti has become one of the most influential art forms of the twenty-first century, cities across the United States waged a war against it from the late 1970s to the early 2000s, complete with brutal police task forces. Who were the vilified taggers they targeted? Teenagers, usually, from low-income neighborhoods with little to their names except a few spray cans and a desperate need to be seen—to mark their presence on city walls and buildings even as their cities turned a blind eye to them.
Going All City is the mesmerizing and painful story of these young graffiti writers, told by one of their own. Prolific LA writer Stefano Bloch came of age in the late 1990s amid constant violence, poverty, and vulnerability. He recounts vicious interactions with police; debating whether to take friends with gunshot wounds to the hospital; coping with his mother’s heroin addiction; instability and homelessness; and his dread that his stepfather would get out of jail and tip his unstable life into full-blown chaos. But he also recalls moments of peace and exhilaration: marking a fresh tag; the thrill of running with his crew at night; exploring the secret landscape of LA; the dream and success of going all city.
Bloch holds nothing back in this fierce, poignant memoir. Going All City is an unflinching portrait of a deeply maligned subculture and an unforgettable account of what writing on city walls means to the most vulnerable people living within them.
“This vivid autoethnography provides a shattering account of life in the LA ‘gang hoods’, as experienced by one of the graffiti artists who enrich their lives by marking territories while experiencing violence and brutality and the ‘the subtle, daily viciousness’ that hurts even more—and the warmth and companionship that somehow survives the horrors. A remarkable picture, presented with insight and sympathetic understanding.”
Alex S. Vitale, author of 'The End of Policing':
“Bloch unflinchingly peels back all the layers of artifice, hype, and sensationalism to reveal a stark portrait of struggling to survive and make meaning in a landscape of disorder and deprivation.”
Susan Phillips, author of 'Wallbangin’: Gangs and Graffiti in L.A':
“Going All City is an amazing read that is impossible to put down. Depicting the pain of a childhood spent in poverty, the ambiguity of race, and the subjective experience of policing and gangs, this is the remarkable story of just one of thousands of young people who have found power in the clandestine practice of graffiti.”