In When Crack Was King: A People’s History of a Misunderstood Era, veteran journalist Donovan X. Ramsey shrewdly disrupts a harmful narrative surrounding the crack epidemic of the 1980s and ’90s. The book—which was longlisted for a 2023 National Book Award—is poignant and emotional, following four individuals who were harmed by the epidemic and telling those stories alongside the author’s own experiences growing up in that same time period in Columbus, Ohio. Ramsey parses how the media and the global campaign launched by the U.S. government, known as “the war on drugs,” only exacerbated the issue, in particular, for the Black community. A compassionate and urgent story that centers the victims of this superdrug, When Crack Was King is an illuminating look at the devastating, racialized impacts of the U.S. criminal justice system—and a warning for us to do better as more drug epidemics rear their ugly heads. —Rachel Sonis
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