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Lonny Shavelson



Under the Dragon:
California’s New Culture

Click the link for photographs from Under the Dragon

by Lonny Shavelson and Fred Setterberg.

An exploration in images and writing of

California’s transition
to a “majority-minority” state

© Heydey Books, 2007

“Part historical, part anthropological, Under the Dragon is…a kind of tour guide to what the authors call ‘an unfamiliar country.’ The photos and accompanying stories capture much of the dynamic of the new millenium, where the experiment of pluralism is at full tilt… Diversity has gone into hyperspace in a region where multiculturalism is already considered passé.”–Andrew Lam, author of Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora. 

Under the Dragon documents the decreasing relevance of ‘race’ and the growing importance of community as we continue to mix, mingle, marry, and migrate.”–Kip Fulbeck, author of Part Asian, 100% Hapa.

“Ambitious and marvelously vibrant, Under the Dragon provides a captivating and astutely documented take on California’s changing cultural and ethnic intersections. It offers, by arresting photographic example, a fresh lesson in the things that divide and unite us all.”–Chandra Prasad, editor of Mixed: An anthology of short fiction on the multicultural experience

Under the Dragon is a joyful celebration of diversity and a compelling case for stretching our own assumptions about our differences.”–Janice Marikitani, San Francisco Poet Laureate, 2000 

A Chosen Death:
The Dying Confront Assisted Suicide

by Lonny Shavelson

©Simon & Schuster, 1995

Click the link for a selection of photographs from A Chosen Death

“Regardless of one’s opinion on assisted suicide, as a literary documentary A Chosen Death is almost perfect.  Shavelson writes with a combination of intelligence, simplicity and emotion  …(a) compassionate, brilliant book.”– Los Angeles Times Sunday Book Review, June 4, 1995

“The stories recounted by Shavelson…are told with compassion, drama and insight.  I find myself thinking about (them) over and over again…  Read Shavelson’s crucially important book…”–The Philadelphia Inquirer Book Review, Sunday, June 9, 1995, by Art Caplan, Director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania

 “The personality and varied talents of the author ‑‑ as journalist, photographer, and physician ‑‑ are evident in this remarkable book, which presents moving and thought‑provoking accounts of assisted death… Shavelson’s book challenges the simplistic thinking characteristic of much of the debate on this subject.”–The New England Journal of Medicine, May 2, 1996

A Chosen Death is unlike any other book on death, dying and assisted suicide. …superbly tackles this most difficult of ethical issues.”–San Francisco Chronicle Sunday Book Review, June 11, 1995

“…Shavelson does an excellent job of presenting the many faces of the issue.  It’s all there ‑‑ the joy and the sorrow… Highly recommended for all collections.”–Library Journal, starred review, June 15, 1995

“Extraordinary portraits of five dying people who contemplate ending their own lives, sensitively and movingly written by a physician who has thought long and hard about the issue of assisted suicide.”–Kirkus Reviews, starred review 

“…an engrossing and personal essay about the chronically or terminally ill person’s choice to die… A Chosen Death is highly recommended for those who contemplate these questions.”–      Journal of the American Medical Association, January, 19, 1996

Five Addicts Challenge Our Misguided Drug Rehab System

by Lonny Shavelson

The New Press, ©2001

Click the Link for Photographs from Hooked

Nominated for the 2001 Bay Area Book Reviewers’ Association award for Best Non-Fiction, Hooked is a gripping and unprecedented journey into the lives of five addicts struggling to get clean in a drug rehab system that is tragically flawed.  Hooked highlights the link between drug addiction, mental illness, and trauma, including child abuse—links too often overlooked by current treatment efforts—and argues for an integrated approach to treatment that addresses the root causes of drug abuse, not just its outward behaviors.  Shavelson’s in-depth and honest look at the struggles of five addicts as they travel through the seemingly Byzantine treatment maze makes a powerful and sensible case for reform.

“A landmark work on what the American Medical Association has identified as our nation’s most widespread public health problem. . . .An essential look at an all-too-real problem, with life-or-death consequences not only for those in this book, but for millions of people everywhere.”-San Francisco Chronicle

“A valuable service. . . .[Shavelson] has given those entrapped in a web of addiction, poverty, homelessness, mental illness, and uncoordinated care a face and a voice.”–Journal of American Medical Association

“A powerful new book on the drug war’s trenches. . . .[Shavelson] overturns our most cherished notions about addiction and recovery.”-Salon.com

“A wonderful and compelling volume. . . .Every single medical, mental health, and addiction professional, as well as funders, bureaucrats, and decision-makers, should make this book required reading.”-The American Journal of Psychiatry

“Through his five subjects, Shavelson puts heartbreakingly human faces on ‘the drug problem’ in America.  Deeply felt, deftly rendered, stunningly informative and often enraging, this powerful breakthrough book should be read by everyone interested in addiction treatment and public policy.” –Publishers Weekly

“Shavelson’s personalized account shows a human sensitivity and concern with drug abusers, who are often viewed as social outcasts.  Shavelson guides the reader through the various rehab programs with a sensitive reflection on the public and private impact of drug-abuse programs to address this vital social issue.” –Booklist

Toxic Nation:
The Fight to Save Our Communities from Chemical Contamination

by Fred Setterberg & Lonny Shavelson

©John Wiley and Sons, 1993

Click the link for photographs from Toxic Nation

In the small agricultural town of McFarland, California, children were dying from cancer at a rate more than four times the national average.  Their parents, mostly farmworkers, blamed pesticide exposure.  In this hard-hitting examination, reporters Fred Setterberg and Lonny Shavelson uncover an explosive mixture of personal histories; scientific, medical and economic consequences; social upheaval; and potent grassroots organization in McFarland and towns like it across the United States.  Toxic Nation is about the struggle of people who have faced the health effects of chemical contamination head-on, and the democratic uprising engendered by that confrontation.

Publisher’s Weekly: “This vivid reportage on ‘American democracy at its messy best,’ cries out for national attention.”

The St. Petersburg Times: “A valuable, compelling, eye-opening book.”

The San Francisco Chronicle: “Dramatic” and “Impassioned.”

The Texas Observer: “A gripping (yes, gripping) account… ingeniously crafted… reads more like a set of thematically linked short stories than as non-fiction.  Although it is impossible to emerge from Toxic Nation unstartled, it’s message is also one of optimism… a revival of popular democracy as it was once envisioned.”

I’m Not Crazy, I Just Lost My Glasses

Portraits and Oral Histories of People Who Have Been In and Out of Mental Institutions

by Lonny Shavelson

DeNovo Press, ©1986

Click the link for photographs from I’m Not Crazy, I Just Lost My Glasses

Jonathan Kirsch, Los Angles Times Book Review, February 22, 1987: “The ‘bag ladies’ and sidewalk derelicts are only the most dramatic examples of the inability of the psychological establishment to understand–much less ‘cure’–the varieties of behavior that are called mental illness. That’s the anguishing contradiction that informs and animates I’m Not Crazy, I Just Lost My Glasses by Lonny Shavelson. Shavelson, a photographer with a compassionate spirit and an acute sense of social observation, has attempted to go beyond the clinical euphemisms, to penetrate the abstract phenomenon of mental illness, and to look unflinchingly at the human face of madness… Shavelson has aspired to create a work of art and social science, and he succeeds at both enterprises.”

Personal Ads Portraits

by Lonny Shavelson

DeNovo Press ©1983

Dear Ad Placer,

I am a photojournalist and art photographer working on a book involving newspaper personal ads.

People have always been fascinated by reading these ads–wondering about the people who placed them and, if anything, the results. The desire to know more about this mysterious person whose one-person autobiography is presented in a newspaper ad is is a compelling one. My goal is to create a visual image of the person to complement the ad’s verbal image, forming a combination that provides more information, yet still leaves a strong element of mystery and intrigue. In the end, I hope to produce a book of portraits, each accompanied by the persons’s personal ad. The juxtaposed visual and verbal image should make a strong complementary statement.

You are receiving this because your ad appealed to me. I would like to meet or speak with you and, if we agree, to photograph you for my book. In exchange, you will receive a free portrait, and a chance for your photo and ad to appear in the book.

As was you ad, this letter is serious, not a prank. I am hoping you will consider becoming a part of this photojournalistic study.

Thanks very much, and good luck with your ad.


Lonny Shavelson
Berkeley, California