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There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in the Other America | [Alex Kotlowitz]

There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in the Other America

This national best-seller chronicles the true story of two brothers coming of age in the Henry Horner public housing complex in Chicago. Lafeyette and Pharoah Rivers are 11 and nine years old when the story begins in the summer of 1987. Living with their mother and six siblings, they struggle against grinding poverty, gun violence, gang influences, overzealous police officers, and overburdened and neglectful bureaucracies. Immersed in their lives for two years, Kotlowitz brings us this classic rendering of growing up poor in America’s cities.
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Publisher's Summary

This New York Public Library selection, as one of the 150 most important books of the 20th century, is a true-life portrait of growing up in the Chicago projects.

This national best-seller chronicles the true story of two brothers coming of age in the Henry Horner public housing complex in Chicago. Lafeyette and Pharoah Rivers are 11 and nine years old when the story begins in the summer of 1987. Living with their mother and six siblings, they struggle against grinding poverty, gun violence, gang influences, overzealous police officers, and overburdened and neglectful bureaucracies. Immersed in their lives for two years, Kotlowitz brings us this classic rendering of growing up poor in America’s cities.

©1991 Alex Kotlowitz (P)2010 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What the Critics Say

“A triumph of empathy as well as a significant feat of reporting.” (Los Angeles Times)

“Alex Kotlowitz’s story informs the heart. His meticulous portrait of the two boys in a Chicago Housing project shows how much heroism is required to survive, let alone escape.” (New York Times)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.3 (246 )
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4.5 (198 )
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Performance
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  •  
    SarahG Chicago, IL, United States 08-27-12
    SarahG Chicago, IL, United States 08-27-12 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "My life was changed by reading this book."
    If you could sum up There Are No Children Here in three words, what would they be?

    Shocking, angering, hopeful


    What about Dion Graham’s performance did you like?

    Dion did an excellent job for the most part... a little slow at times. There were only a few times when his annunciation knocked me out of my listening dream.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Every moment! This was a roller coaster ride of a book.


    Any additional comments?

    This book is so powerful, so well researched, so intimate while paying attention to the broader picture... I told my husband that if I wrote something this meaningful and essential to understanding life in America and race relations today, I would die a happy woman. Bravo a million times over.

    23 of 24 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Caro 05-24-13
    Caro 05-24-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Six stars"

    Don't know why I had not read this before. This book went on to become a nonfiction classic, often assigned in sociology classes. Written in the 1980s, it is -- sadly -- all still true. Not an easy reality. Told thru the eyes of children. Complicated. Unbiased. There is no better narrator than Dion Graham, who was especially able in bringing this story home.

    Recommended for the same people who appreciate Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow. You might also like Gangleader for a Day.


    21 of 22 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dempsey Paraparaumu, New Zealand 02-13-12
    Dempsey Paraparaumu, New Zealand 02-13-12

    47 year old woman

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Sad disturbing tale of life in the projects."
    Would you consider the audio edition of There Are No Children Here to be better than the print version?

    It 's hard to say. I would imagine they would be much the same.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No. Pretty desperate and sad. Like watching a train wreck. disturbing.


    Any additional comments?

    The language is embarrassingly flowery. So many clichés and trite descriptions. Yet despite this the story is fantastic. So glad I perservered despite the terrible writing style. This true story of a family growing up in the projects: It's like watching a train wreck in slow motion. How can the brothers survive? and if they do survive will they ever get out of that place? Or are they doomed to be like everyone else?
    How could this happen in America and who's responsible?

    13 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    mc192 United States 01-30-12
    mc192 United States 01-30-12
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    "Heart wrenching!"
    Where does There Are No Children Here rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Excellent book, realistic account, one of my top picks!


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Lafeyette


    What does Dion Graham bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    He has one of those classic voices that just brings the story alive!


    If you could give There Are No Children Here a new subtitle, what would it be?

    A realistic account of childhood or a lack of; in a ghetto of Chicago


    Any additional comments?

    This is a very realistic account of a problem many weren't aware of and everyone should read this at least once! We all here about gang activities, but this book brings that to life and gives an up close perspective.

    13 of 17 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Linda Lou Cave Creek, AZ USA 03-04-15
    Linda Lou Cave Creek, AZ USA 03-04-15 Member Since 2014

    Obsessive reader, 6-10 books a week, chosen from Member reviews. Fact & fiction, subjects from the Tudors to Tookie, Harlem to Hiroshima, Huey Long to Huey Newton.  In-depth fair reviews - from front to BLACK!!! 

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A DEPRESSING ACCOUNT OF REAL LIFE IN THE U.S."

    Here is yet another really depressing story about black people in this country who are doomed from birth. Alex Kotlowitz tells a compelling tale of 2 young children, Lafayette and Pharoah Rivers, trying to survive with their parents, siblings and peers in one of the worse project in the country - Chicago's Henry Horner public housing.

    My parents also moved into the projects in Washington DC in the 1950s, the same time as the family of the mother of these boys. LaJoe Rivers and I are about the same age. However, I wasn't subjected to becoming the second generation of my family living in the projects after the country stopped caring about the inner city war zones created by the government. At the age of 8, my mother and father were able to move us into a single-family home in an upper middle class neighborhood, where I went to school with the children of DC's "black aristocracy" such as the late Dr. Earle Matory, high profile criminal defense attorney Theodore V. Wells, and Dr. Drew Tuckson. As a result, I went on to college and law school. But my parents were in a city where black people could find work - my mother as a civil servant in the federal government and my father in maintenance at Howard University. We weren't well off but we had food, clothing, and a clean home owned by my parents. My father's tenure at Howard enabled me to get a first class education, tuition free.

    However, the young children in this book didn't have a chance, growing up in a complex controlled by rival gangs and abandoned by the city. Children were subjected to seeing their young friends shot down during open air gun fights in the wretched playground or killed in cold blood by over-zealous police officers. By the age of 14, the children of the Henry Horner projects had been to more funerals than weddings. Narrator Dion Graham is his usual magnificent self, giving us a great sense of the hopelessness and helplessness felt by young Lafayette and Pharoah, both really bright young children.

    This book was made into a film in 1993 by Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Studios. While I appreciate Ms. Winfrey's short-term interest in the appalling living conditions in her home town of Chicago, I'm question her motivation since she took the role of LaJoe Rivers, the boys' extremely beautiful and tiny but overwhelmed mother. With Winfrey looking just like a stereotypical "Madea" welfare mother with 8 children, I didn't really get LaJoe's frustration in having to raise her kids in such an awful environment. With her looks, in another situation, she might have been able to break the cycle of poverty. Unfortunately, like the critically acclaimed HBO series "The Wire" (which depicted a drug infested project in Baltimore MD - just 45 minutes away from the nation's capital - in which young black children were just thrown away like garbage, neither this book nor the film got much exposure. They are just too real and too embarrassing. These stories make white people uncomfortable. Accordingly, they would rather watch fantasy Mafia shows like "The Sopranos" rather than accept that our children are being raised in war conditions similar Iraq or Afghanistan.

    Anyway, this book ends like all such stories of this kind. It is sad and disheartening to know that the most wealthy country in the world created, cultivated and perpetuated an environment where politicians made it impossible for these people to break free of a condition which is the same as slavery. Only now, black people are not making this country rich with the exportation of cotton, picked and baled on with the blood, sweat and tears of an enslaved, oppressed, raped, and murdered race. Even after freedom, blacks were denied the same rights as other citizens who came here more than 200 years after us. Now the United States has no use for us. Yet it refuses to accept the fact that it has bred a generation after generation of black men who either die before age 21 or who are incarcerated for life. This is a journey into the abyss for Lafayette and Pharoah.

    I'm confident that many people won't like my review. But I always tell it like it is - from front to BLACK. However, as negative as my review may sound to the readers with selective liberalism, with intentional blinders on their eyes, and who want to hide with from the truth with their heads in the sand when it comes to what American is REALLY about, the end result is that this book is a keeper. Read it and weep....... I know I did.......

    15 of 21 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David 03-12-15
    David 03-12-15 Member Since 2013
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    "Great Narration!"

    Narrator brought the story to life for me. l have to imagine it was better than actually reading it myself.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    RianT 03-08-15
    RianT 03-08-15 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "The narration was weird sometimes"

    Sometimes the narrator's voice sounded very different. It was annoying. The story was good and I gave it 4 stars overall.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    samaber 04-21-15
    samaber 04-21-15 Member Since 2013
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    "Must-read for Chicagoans!"

    I experienced so many feelings listening to this book, and I learned so much about the failings of public housing and law enforcement. Do you like The Wire? Read this now.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer State College, PA USA 04-05-15
    Amazon Customer State College, PA USA 04-05-15 Member Since 2005
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    "Excellent"

    Moving portrayal of life in the projects. Strength and character of the children and their Mom shine through the violence and seeming hopelessness

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amber Hays 03-26-15
    Amber Hays 03-26-15 Member Since 2014
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    7
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    "Riveting"

    I loved it and loved them. I wish we new were Lafayette and Farrow are now. This was a reminder that there is still in 2015 a lot of work to do.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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