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The book concentrates overwhelmingly on politics (especially for not including the word in its subtitle: Race, Power, and the Decline of Washington DC), and as any book that concentrates on DC politics, it cant help but to be almost entirely a biography of Marion Barry, our very own Mayor-for-Life. The book portrayed the DC reflected off of Barrys political career. People outside of Washington DC know Barry for his crack-smoking scandal, exclusively, and his addictions and corruptions are a major part of this book. But the book also understands that Barry was the shining hope of the civil-rights era, and was a controversially radical choice for mayor. Following the native elite mayorship of Walter Washington, Marion Barry was a bad-ass street dude who had assaulted police officers in his time, had experience in SNCC, and worked with the poorest population of the city during some of its most tense times (1968 riots, in particular) in an organization called Pride, Inc.Lighter-skinned DC natives are relieved to be rid of Barry, who they see as a clown and as a corrupt demogague. Most everybody else gets misty-eyed at the sight of the former mayor. It is true that Marion Barry was corrupt, but I would rather have his corrupt eyesore of a mayorship than anyone who followed in the mayoral position. Marion Barry knew how to talk with the poorest people in the city and make himself part of their lives. He even paid the scantest of attention to them, enough to buy him loyalty for life. Contrast this with lil Obama Adrian Fenty, whose corruption is more accepted (instead of smoking crack, he sells off libraries and homeless shelters to condo developers), who looks more like Ami from Miami Ink than how Barry looks like James Brown, and who doesnt give a single shit about the poorest residents in Washington. Outsiders who wonder how Marion Barry could still command such a presence in DC, despite the massive attention that his corruption brought to the city of DC, and despite the corrupt mess that his administration created of the city. The fact is that a large segment of the population was already in a mess, and Barry took some of his time to address some of their needs, something that the cleanest of politicians that followed have still neglected to do.At the weakest moments of the book, reading this book became a chore: there were too many characters, and the corruption of folks who used and misused government contracts was a laundry list of complaints, not an interesting read. The strongest part of the book was in its concentration on the sins of a disintegrating Marion Barry, and then revealing the complexity of the racial situation where real corruption was being targeted overwhelmingly by the white minority, and the wealthy black elite. The book creates a great character out of Marion Barry, and he is someone the reader loves, and at the same time loves to hate.The font chosen for the book was strange, and is not an inviting lettering to read for 300 pages. It is very sharp: thin with a small x-height, and stems thick enough to be bold weight.There is a dearth of radical history of Washington DC. In fact, there is a dearth of any writing about real DC at all. Most history books about DC focus overwhelmingly on the minutia of the deals occurring in the federal districts of the city (the Mall, the Monuments, the federal government buildings), ignoring the rest of the city, and creating a very uni-dimensional view. The occasional book (mostly fiction) will portray a second dimension: rich white federal employees, contrasted by black, poor, hellish urban wasteland. This two-dimensional view is as bizarre as the one-dimensional view. With this two dimensional DC, how do you explain Howard University students mugged regularly in their own neighborhood?This book does a great service to the District in its depiction of Washington DC as a city with a myriad of different people and a myriad of different experiences. The authors are clearly not radical, their liberalism shines through on a number of occasions. But it is clear that they love the city of Washington DC, as it really is, and have hopes that it will break out of the rut of colonization. The epilogue contains a thoughtful plea for DCs statehood.

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