Laurence Ralph at Harvard Book Store


Sito: An American Teenager
and the City that Failed Him

In conversation with IBRAM X. KENDI


February 21, 2024
7:00 PM ET


Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138


This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store welcomes LAURENCE RALPH—professor of anthropology at Princeton University and author of The Torture Letters: Reckoning with Police Violence—for a discussion of his new book Sito: An American Teenager and the City that Failed Him. He will be joined in conversation by IBRAM X. KENDI—author of the National Book Award winner Stamped from the Beginning.

About Sito

In September of 2019, Luis Alberto Quiñonez—known as Sito— was shot to death as he sat in his car in the Mission District of San Francisco. He was nineteen. His killer, Julius Williams, was seventeen. It was the second time the teens had encountered one another. The first, five years before, also ended in tragedy, when Julius watched as his brother was stabbed to death by an acquaintance of Sito’s. The two murders merited a few local news stories, and then the rest of the world moved on.

But for the families of the slain teenagers, it was impossible to move on. And for Laurence Ralph, the stepfather of Sito’s half-brother who had dedicated much of his academic career to studying gang-affiliated youth, Sito’s murder forced him to revisit a subject of scholarly inquiry in a profoundly different, deeply personal way.

Written from Ralph's perspective as both a person enmeshed in Sito's family and as an Ivy League professor and expert on the entanglement of class and violence, Sito is an intimate story with an message about the lived experience of urban danger, and about anger, fear, grief, vengeance, and ultimately grace.

Praise for Sito

"Sito is Laurence Ralph's most intimate, most searching, and most liberated work yet. Following the murder of a teenage family member, Ralph explores this gutting loss through the eyes of fathers and mothers, brothers and friends. Moving seamlessly from living rooms to court rooms, he forces us to recognize that there are no easy answers when it comes to vengeance, healing, and justice. With depths beyond depths, this profound book is a memoir and a sociological analysis; it is a critique, a confession, and a prayer." —Matthew Desmond, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Evicted

“With great care, skill, and nuance, acclaimed anthropologist Laurence Ralph tells the tragic story of nineteen-year-old Luis Alberto Quiñonez. Drawing on his pioneering research on race, policing, and violence, Ralph takes the reader on a powerful and moving journey that unveils the failures of the criminal justice system in the United States. While there is much to despair, Ralph leaves readers with a deep sense of hope—that the failures of the past can be corrected and that we can build a more just and equitable society where young people like Sito can survive and thrive.” —Keisha N. Blain, coeditor of the #1 New York Times bestseller Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619–2019

"Laurence Ralph ruminates on gang violence and our decadent criminal legal system through the life and tragic murder of his 19-year-old loved one, Sito. The blend of intimacy and authority, of self-and-structural reflection, of despair and expectation make for a profoundly affecting and edifying book. Sito is a triumph." —Ibram X. Kendi, National Book award-winner and New York Times bestselling author

Mask Policy

Masks are encouraged but not required for this event.

Ibram X. Kendi
Ibram X. Kendi

Ibram X. Kendi

Dr. Ibram X. Kendi is a National Book Award-winning author of fifteen books for adults and children, including nine New York Times bestsellers—five of which were #1 New York Times bestsellers. Dr. Kendi is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University, and the director of the BU Center for Antiracist Research. He is a contributing writer at The Atlantic and a CBS News racial justice contributor.

Photo Credit: Stephen Voss

Laurence Ralph
Laurence Ralph

Laurence Ralph

Laurence Ralph is a professor, writer and filmmaker. His first book, Renegade Dreams, received the C. Wright Mills Award and the J.I. Staley Prize. His second book, The Torture Letters, explores a decades-long scandal in which hundreds of Black men were tortured in police custody. The Torture Letters is also the name of his award-winning, animated short film, which is featured in The New York Times Op-Doc series. Laurence’s work has been featured in The Paris Review, The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, The Nation, The Chicago Review of Books, Boston Review and Literary Hub. Ralph is currently a professor of anthropology at Princeton University. He has been awarded many fellowships for his work, including the Guggenheim and Carnegie Fellowships. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey, with his family.

Photo Credit: Laurence Ralph

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