The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts: Murder and Memory in an American City

The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts Murder and Memory in an American City In Cold Blood meets Adrian Nicole LeBlanc s Random Family A harrowing profoundly personal investigation of the causes effects and communal toll of a deeply troubling crime the brutal murder of thre

  • Title: The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts: Murder and Memory in an American City
  • Author: Laura Tillman
  • ISBN: 9781501104251
  • Page: 273
  • Format: Hardcover
  • In Cold Blood meets Adrian Nicole LeBlanc s Random Family A harrowing, profoundly personal investigation of the causes, effects, and communal toll of a deeply troubling crime the brutal murder of three young children by their parents in the border city of Brownsville, Texas.On March 11, 2003, in Brownsville, Texas one of America s poorest cities John Allen Rubio and AngelIn Cold Blood meets Adrian Nicole LeBlanc s Random Family A harrowing, profoundly personal investigation of the causes, effects, and communal toll of a deeply troubling crime the brutal murder of three young children by their parents in the border city of Brownsville, Texas.On March 11, 2003, in Brownsville, Texas one of America s poorest cities John Allen Rubio and Angela Camacho murdered their three young children The apartment building in which the brutal crimes took place was already rundown, and in their aftermath a consensus developed in the community that it should be destroyed It was a place, neighbors felt, that was plagued by spiritual cancer In 2008, journalist Laura Tillman covered the story for The Brownsville Herald The questions it raised haunted her, particularly one asked by the sole member of the city s Heritage Council to oppose demolition is there any such thing as an evil building Her investigation took her far beyond that question, revealing the nature of the toll that the crime exacted on a city already wracked with poverty It sprawled into a six year inquiry into the larger significance of such acts, ones so difficult to imagine or explain that their perpetrators are often dismissed as monsters alien to humanity With meticulous attention and stunning compassion, Tillman surveyed those surrounding the crimes, speaking with the lawyers who tried the case, the family s neighbors and relatives and teachers, even one of the murderers John Allen Rubio himself, whom she corresponded with for years and ultimately met in person The result is a brilliant exploration of some of our age s most important social issues, from poverty to mental illness to the death penalty, and a beautiful, profound meditation on the truly human forces that drive them It is disturbing, insightful, and mesmerizing in equal measure.

    One thought on “The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts: Murder and Memory in an American City”

    1. When I described The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts to my husband, he said "I didn't know that you read true crime". I hadn't thought of it as true crime. I requested it on Netgalley because it sounded interesting, and I like to read pretty much anything that will teach me something about a part of the world or events I don't know; this sounded like that kind of book, granted with a pretty gruesome triple infanticide at the centre. In one of the poorest parts of the US -- Brownsville, Texas, on the [...]

    2. My review is live today at Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud.I give the book 4 stars, as a first book it's very good but has some structural infelicities.#ReadingIsResistance to the invisible poverty, drug abuse, and mental illness that we'd rather not think about. The infanticides that this book details are proof that only a callous, uncaring, selfish people would not fight for better and more complete services to help prevent this happening again.I refuse to believe Americans are callous, uncaring, [...]

    3. This is a very sad story written by a brave woman. John Allen Rubio and Angela Camacho murdered their three young children. "Chapter 9""Don't Read This Chapter Before Going To Bed"."I would do anything for them"----John Allen Rubio*noteChapter 9 won't be easy to read before - during - or after lunch either.So, I'm not even going to talk about it here either. Laura Tillman, ( bless her skill, commitment, and the personal grief she must have experienced to follow this project through). She did the [...]

    4. This book is terrible. This book is, hands down, the worst I've read all year. It ranks right up there with The Wilderness of Ruin: A Tale of Madness, Fire, and the Hunt for America's Youngest Serial Killer. The biggest difference is that, while Wilderness diverts into all this aimless, boring stuff that has nothing to do with the crime, Tillman manages to make everything about herself.The book is completely aimless. It is written as a journalist would when taking on an undefined topic. That is, [...]

    5. Tillman started out as a journalist writing an article about the proposed fate of a building in Texas where a horrific crime took place. Some of the town’s residents wanted the building demolished, while other people in the neighborhood thought it should stay. While investigating her article, Tillman ended up with an amazing work of nonfiction, not just about the building, but about poverty, mental health issues, superstition, ghosts, crime, the death penalty, and more. This is not an easy boo [...]

    6. 3.5 StarsI think readers going into this with a perception of it being "True Crime" might be disappointed. I've read a few books in that genre, and this one doesn't seem to fit. There is no in depth analysis of the crime, or even many details. The author discusses the murders directly in just one chapter, and seems to try to maintain a certain distance even then.This book is more about the issues and factors that played a part in creating circumstances ripe for this kind of tragedy. Tillman look [...]

    7. This is a true crime book for people who don't read true crime. If you go in expecting a lot of details about the murder of three children by their parents or the court case, you're going to be disappointed. Rather, this is an unflinching look at class and poverty in America, and some of its subsequent effects on communities. It's like classy true crime with a social justice bent. But there is totally a chapter titled "Don't Read This Chapter before Going to Bed."Tillman's journey started as she [...]

    8. I don't know how familiar you guys are with the concept of journo-procedurals, but I had never heard of it until I was reading up on THE LONG SHADOW OF SMALL GHOSTS by Laura Tillman. Essentially, what an author of this genre does is writes about the process of writing a story, and instead of focusing on the story at hand they more focus on the process of getting the story. It's a way of personalizing an event that may not otherwise be personal. I think that the closest that I have come to readin [...]

    9. I have known Laura Tillman since she was a little girl through my friendship with her parents. I knew I would like this book because Laura has proved to be an excellent writer in her many journalism pieces I have read and enjoyed. However, I did not expect to read a book that I think is extraordinary in every way. I did not know that the author is such a deep thinker and has the capacity to raise, explore and write about virtually all of our most important social policy issues in America. I am t [...]

    10. I don't know how to explain my feelings toward this book. It is an extremely compelling story, but the writing quality is poor. There seemed to be no real outline or backbone to it. The purple prose only highlighted this flaw, as did the repetition of unimportant things and the lack of refreshers given for details that seemed more important. If all you knew about the case was the manner in which Julissa, John Stephon, and Mary Jane died, then it would seem impossible to feel bad for John Allen R [...]

    11. Wow. I am so glad that Tillman ended up where she did with this! Interconnectivity. That is what we humans so often seem to overlook, ignore, or simply never realize! See my full review @ Smoke & Mirrors: books-n-music/201. (Warning: it's a rather long one!) Though I don't personally believe in the concept of "God," neither do I believe that we as human beings have any business acting as "God" (at least that concept as defined by many Christians) by deciding who should live or die. What give [...]

    12. There is a chapter in this book, about half way through, titled, "Don't Read This Chapter before Going to Bed." Normally I would have stubbornly disregarded that instruction but in this case it was circumstance that stepped in for me. I read a good amount of this book in Pittsburgh in a hotel lobby that was simultaneously hosting a library conference and a very loud Halloween dance party. I didn't have much else to do and I was really invested in the story so far, so it was there that I read the [...]

    13. IN COLD BLOOD is one of my favorite books, in part because it's a story about true crime and also because it's a book about journalism and the process of figuring out the story.Tillman's book does something similar. This is a compelling read about a journalist being pulled to a story of three children being brutally murdered by their parents and the legacy such a crime leaves on a small patch of the world. It's an uneven read, in that it doesn't delve enough into the story itself and focuses far [...]

    14. This is undeniably a tragic, heartbreaking story – in 2003, three small children murdered by their (step)parents in Brownsville, TX, because of demons. And this is nonfiction. Real people killing real, innocent children. The parents were poor, not well educated, and the mother had a very low IQ. Still, can you murder your children, and horrifically at that, because you believe they are possessed by demons? Sadly, you can. They did.Despite the very touching story, the telling of it did not impr [...]

    15. I first heard of this book after reading about it in the Times, in what was very likely the most savage book review I've ever read in the genteel NYT. It ventured somewhere past negative into the personal, made all the more shocking because every other review I've come across has been no less than effusive in its praise.Thing is, personal or not, I don't think the reviewer was too far off.This is a shockingly listless examination of a gruesome triple murder involving very young children, a rote [...]

    16. Thoughtful and compassionate, this sad but lovely book considers the big questions of humanity, questions of moral responsibility, the existence of evil, self-perception and the meaning of community, and does so with an almost lyrical command of language.

    17. In The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts, author and journalist, Laura Tillman, writes of the murder of three children in Brownsville, Texas in 2003. The unthinkable aspect of the crime is that the murders were committed by the children's parents, John Allen Rubio and Angela Camacho. Tillman began writing about the crime in 2008 when she was a journalist for the Brownsville Herald. Five years after the murder was committed, the building where the children were killed was still standing and many reside [...]

    18. This book had a lot of potential, particularly regarding the analysis of the M'naghten rule in British and American law. Unfortunately, not from any error of the author, although harder work or at least speculation would have deepened this subject, the book is largely about a horrendous murder of three very young children by their father (with assistance from their extremely low IQ mother) in Brownsville, Texas.The legal question in play is the "insanity" defense. The father had been diagnosed a [...]

    19. “The Long Shadow of Small Things”, by Laura Tillman, published by Scribner.Category – Crime Publication Date – April, 2016This is a wonderful book for those interested in crime, especially those seeking to determine the reasons why certain crimes are committed. This is an excellent study of conditions that could cause criminal behavior. The reader should first realize that this is a story of horrific murders, the beheading of three small children by their parents, a murder that most of u [...]

    20. What's with the weird descriptions?! This is true crime, not Dean Koontz fiction. Takes 38 pages to get to the point and there's only just over 100 pages.

    21. The book is subtitled "Murder and Memory in an American City," but a better subtitle would have been "Various Musings of a Journalist about One Building and Evil." Tillman's slim volume - no index, bilbliography / further reading, or further notes on the people interviewed -- shouldn't be described as an "inquiry" into the murders of three children in Brownsville, TX in 2008 as it is on the flap, because only about 20% of the book covers the murders, the people involved, or the two trials that e [...]

    22. In a nutshell: I think Tillman has written a thoughtful and worthwhile book, though not a super cohesive one.In a big boat: In the first third of the book, I often felt disoriented - Tillman seemed to assume the reader had some prior knowledge of the crime. At least a few times, she would name people, and I had to think, "Who is this person? Were they mentioned before?" Her chapters also roam pretty far. We're on her train of thoughts, and that's fine, but it's not always easy to predict where t [...]

    23. Full disclosure: Laura is the friend of a good friend of mine. But I think I'm being pretty unbiased when I say Laura is an excellent writer. She effortlessly weaves in personal reflection and poetic descriptions, without losing the no-nonsense tone of serious reporting. Her writing and her message do not fall victim to sentimentality or overanalysis. The book is also well-paced, with an even voice throughout. I think to get the most out of it, you need to have lived in or at least visited Brown [...]

    24. This book tore my heart apart. Having grown up in Texas and with family down in the valley, I'd never heard of this case. Granted, it happened when I was ten and my family wouldn't have wanted to tell me about it, but I was surprised. I heard Tillman's interview on Sword and Scale when I still listened to the show and was so intrigued by the case and by how all of these factors converged on one event, one place, and one tragedy. I went out and bought the book the next week. Sadly it's taken me t [...]

    25. I couldn't connect with this book or the author at all. The writing was disjointed and unfocused. It read more like a diary of the author's thoughts and musings about an old building where a murder happened. I'm not even really sure what this book was supposed to be about.Perhaps I'm jaded, (well no, I Know I'm jaded), but the author also appeared very innocent and sheltered. People are mentally ill. People have terrible childhoods. People take drugs and prostitute themselves. People have been k [...]

    26. What can be learned from two parents in 2003 in Brownsville, Texas acting horribly ?John Allen Rubio and Angela Camacho brutally severed heads from their three young children. Laura Tillman explores the architecture of building on East Tyler Street, history of city, curanderos, schizophrenia, death penalty, community attempting to heal and other subjects. She makes a case that people are quick to separate themselves from "evil" and make it something alien and different rather than understand how [...]

    27. A beautiful exploration of a disturbing crime. The author goes far beyond the scope of the typical true-crime story. She talks about not only a hideous multiple murder and the consequences faced by the killers, but examines the scene of the crime (amazingly intact 9 years after the evidence-collection techs walked away from it), talks to the neighbors, the relatives, the police, and everyone else she can find. Her focus is not merely to tell the story, but to understand how it changed the neighb [...]

    28. I am a true crime junkie. Helter Skelter had me checking under my bed 20 years ago! After so many seasons of 48 Hours, I didn't think I could be shaken to the core. I had seen/read it all. Until Chapter 9. Don't Read This Chapter before Going to Bed. I put THE LONG SHADOW OF SMALL GHOSTS down & had to take a break.From the beginning of the book, Laura Tillman slowly builds a story about Brownsville and its reaction to the murders of three children. Should the building be destroyed? Does an e [...]

    29. The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts looks at our relationship with crime and the places crimes have been committed. Tillman explores the dark shadow cast the by the building where three young children were murdered, and how its continued existence permeates the way a neighborhood is perceived and how neighbors perceive themselves. She also examines how, culturally, we perceive the heinousness of a crime and the perpetrators of those crimes. This book would be a great choice for listeners of Audible' [...]

    30. Brownsville, TX“If the building stays behind, it will always be a landmark of three children who were never given an opportunity to live, to see the sun rise one more time, to see the moon.”The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts dives into the city of Brownsville, Texas and the repercussions of a horrendous murder of three children and what happens to the building where a crime of such nature is committed. This true crime novel is written in a unique way that focuses outside the murder itself and s [...]

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