New York City's Lower East Side was a well-known landing strip for recent arrivals in the United States. For more than a century it was home to thriving communities of artists, radicals and working class families. In a gripping series of fictionalized accounts, political artist Seth Tobocman illustrates the L.E.S. of the late 80san era of homelessness and gentrification, ACT UP and the AIDS epidemic, tent cities and squatted apartment buildings, street brawls between punks and skinheads and, above all, an emerging gulf between rich and poor.
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Seth Tobocman is an author/illustrator and one of the founding editors of World War 3 Illustrated. His other books include You Don't Have to Fuck People Over To Survive, Understanding the Crash, and most recently Len, A Lawyer in History.From Publishers Weekly:
A squatter, former anarchist punk, social activist and underground cartoonist, Tobocman lived on Manhattan's Lower East Side and participated in and recorded grassroots efforts to take over abandoned tenements in the late '80s and early '90s. Along with a ragtag neighborhood collection of working-class blacks, Puerto Ricans and whites, as well as artists and homeless people from all backgrounds, Tobocman broke into abandoned, crumbing tenements in hopes of securing affordable housing. As the neighborhood gentrified in the late 1980s, the squats became the center of a housing movement that eventually collapsed under the weight of its diverse membership and from the unrelenting opposition of real estate developers, the police and the city government. This book offers a creative and highly subjective documentation of those years. Although names have been changed and fantasized elements have been added, Tobocman revisits the violent battles with the police, the local characters who organized and rehabbed the squats and the slow disintegration of the movement. He also presents the complex infighting among the squatters, who not only were fighting a prevaricating city hall but confronting poverty, paranoia, drug addiction and class conflicts within their own membership. Tobocman's storytelling is not always consistent; the book would be better told if a third of the it had been cut. In addition, his radical, anarcho-left-wing politics often turn this fascinating social history into a stilted tale of heroic but doomed socialist class conflict. However, the combination of the stark black-and-white woodcut-style of his drawings and the passion and the brutal honesty of his narration ultimately produces an amazingly compelling story of urban housing policy that will appeal to readers no matter their politics. (Mar.)
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