Back to All Events

S Street Rising Book Event


During the height of the crack epidemic that decimated the streets of D.C., Ruben Castaneda covered the crime beat for the Washington Post. The first in his family to graduate from college, he had landed a job at one of the country’s premier newspapers. But his apparent success masked a devastating secret: he was a crack addict. Even as he covered the drug-fueled violence that was destroying the city, he was prowling S Street, a 24/7 open-air crack market, during his off hours, looking for his next fix.

S Street Rising is more than a memoir; it’s a portrait of a city in crisis. It’s the adrenalin-infused story of the street where Castaneda quickly became a regular, and where a fledgling church led by a charismatic and streetwise pastor was protected by the local drug kingpin, a dangerous man who followed an old-school code of honor. It’s the story of Castaneda’s friendship with an exceptional police homicide commander whose career was derailed when he ran afoul of Mayor Marion Barry and his political cronies. And it’s a study of the city itself as it tried to rise above the bloody crack epidemic and the corrosive politics of the Barry era. S Street Rising is The Wire meets the Oscar-winning movie Crash. And it’s all true.

Ruben was born and raised in Los Angeles, the son of a gas company worker and a homemaker. He is the oldest of five kids. When Ruben was a young boy, he and his family lived in an East Los Angeles neighborhood dominated by Latino gangs. Before Ruben began the second grade, the family moved to a suburb 10 miles east, where the Latino gangs were not as dominant. As an adolescent, Ruben would fire baskets at his middle school until a finger on his shooting hand bled. He dreamed of playing guard for the UCLA Bruins and then the Los Angeles Lakers. When he realized he didn't have the size, athleticism, or skill to be more than a high school bench player, Ruben turned to journalism. After graduating from college he worked for the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, where he helped cover earthquakes, gang shootings, and a papal visit.

Earlier Event: June 9
What Fanon Said Book Event
Later Event: July 14
Prison Ecology Project