Review of Rising from the Ashes: Los Angeles, 1992. Edward Jae Song Lee, Latasha Harlins, Rodney King, and a City on Fire

Rising from the Ashes: Los Angeles, 1992. Edward Jae Song Lee, Latasha Harlins, Rodney King, and a City on Fire
by Paula Yoo
High School    Norton    368 pp.
5/24    9781324030904    $19.99

Yoo (From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry, rev. 5/21) provides a comprehensive, kaleidoscopic account of what happened before, during, and after the 1992 Los Angeles uprising from multiple points of view, with a strong focus on the ­disproportionally targeted Korean American community. The deadly violence and turmoil in South Los Angeles and Koreatown were sparked by outrage over not-guilty verdicts for four police officers who beat Black motorist Rodney King, and at the lenient punishment for the Korean store owner who killed teen Latasha Harlins in a dispute over a bottle of orange juice. Using extensive research and original reporting, Yoo creates deeply humanizing portraits of King; Harlins; Edward Jae Song Lee, a young man killed trying to protect a restaurant; and their families. Yoo’s account includes how police decisions and sensationalized news coverage escalated the civil unrest. She offers context for additional contributing ­factors—decades of systemic racism, police corruption, endemic poverty, gang and drug violence. Hopeful elements include stories of civilians saving and helping others, a massive peace rally that galvanized Korean Americans, and two more trials in King’s case. The text concludes with an update on the victims’ families and others and an analysis of changes within the neighborhoods. A powerful and compelling history book that shows how the past still affects the present. Extensive back matter includes an “in memoriam” to all victims; source notes; a bibliography, and an index (unseen).

From the May/June 2024 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Michelle Lee

Michelle Lee is a young adult librarian for the New York Public Library.

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