Cover: Urban Legends: The South Bronx in Representation and Ruin, from Harvard University PressCover: Urban Legends in HARDCOVER

Urban Legends

The South Bronx in Representation and Ruin

Product Details


$32.00 • £27.95 • €29.95

ISBN 9780674238077

Publication Date: 07/21/2020


320 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

32 Photos


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[L’Official] deliberately and skillfully reads the borough…through novels, movies, art, journalism, and municipal records, looking to both unpack and undo its mythology. The result is a vibrant cultural history that gestures beyond the tropes of the boogie down and the burning metropolis, those pervasive narratives of cultural renaissance and urban neglect that have dogged the area for half a century.—Emily Raboteau, New York Review of Books

This cultural history of the South Bronx weaves between artistic disciplines and political attitudes, landing on a compelling story of how lived experience is told from the outside. L’Official has an acute way of seeing others’ ways of seeing, and he shows, in a series of exacting analyses, how familiar shorthand about the area has obscured its reality.—Dan Adler, Vanity Fair

L’Official shows us, slowly and precisely, how novelists and artists and civil servants have deployed myths of the South Bronx as both backdrops and blank screens. Some of those myths have been canon for decades… Urban Legends is a parabolic dish microphone pointed at history, collecting the waves that outsiders have bounced off the South Bronx.—Sasha Frere-Jones, Bookforum

A vibrant cultural history of the South Bronx… L’Official summons photography, film, fiction, and music to bear witness to the multifaceted creativity and vitality of the South Bronx, and deftly reveals a place overflowing with myths, dreams, images, and visions that make us see it afresh. This delightfully innovative narrative is the perceptive look that the Bronx and New York City has long deserved.—Garnette Cadogan, Literary Hub

I happily devoured Peter L’Official’s terrific cultural narrative, which explores the creative renaissance of an inner city NYC borough, once a poster child for social turmoil, economic wreckage, and physical devastation… An important book that speaks with powerful relevance to the state of Black life in America today—and the demands of Black Lives Matter.—Mark Favermann, Arts Fuse

This is urban intellectual history at its best.Choice

L’Official is a careful, thorough, and inventive scholar, and the story he tells is utterly absorbing. Combining analyses of literature, the built environment, art, and municipal documents, Urban Legends is multidisciplinary work at its finest.—Hua Hsu, author of A Floating Chinaman: Fantasy and Failure across the Pacific

Urban Legends is cultural history at its very best. L’Official demonstrates beautifully how literature, photography, film, journalism, and other renderings of the South Bronx in the imaginations of both its detractors and its defenders powerfully shaped the community’s fate.—Lizabeth Cohen, author of Saving America’s Cities: Ed Logue and the Struggle to Renew Urban America in the Suburban Age

Well conceived, deeply argued, and consistently engaging, Urban Legends is a distinctive and highly original work of cultural history and interpretation that brings fresh insight to conversations about the city and the arts. A fine book.—Carlo Rotella, author of The World Is Always Coming to an End: Pulling Together and Apart in a Chicago Neighborhood

The great Bronx book we have needed for decades. L’Official cuts through the foliage of lazy journalism, unexamined assumptions, and political rhetoric and brings together the voices of writers, rappers, social scientists, and people on the street. The result is a nuanced picture of the South Bronx, which for almost a century has been mostly neglected, scorned, and viewed as expendable—perhaps one of New York City’s biggest crimes.—Luc Sante, author of Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York and The Other Paris

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