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All God's Children: The Bosket Family and the American Tradition of Violence Paperback – January 8, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Willie Bosket was charming, magnetic, and brilliant. He was also the most cold-blooded criminal the New York State penal system had ever seen. By the time he was in his teens, he had committed over two hundred armed robberies and twenty-five stabbings. Fox Butterfield examines the heritage of violence that followed Bosket's family from their days in slavery in South Carolina to the present. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Wide-ranging and somewhat unwieldy, this ambitious book tells a challenging, memorable story about race, violence and our American future. Investigating the case of Willie Bosket, whose crimes as a New York juvenile presaged a surge of youth violence and spurred much tougher prosecution of juveniles, New York Times correspondent Butterfield (China: Alive in the Bitter Sea) delved into the Bosket family background. He argues that the white Southern mentality of easily aggrieved honor has made its way through time and the descendants of slaves, transmuted into the similar hair-trigger ethos of inner-city streets. While Butterfield's thesis doesn't completely convince (what about the barrios or the wild west?), his reporting on the lives, crimes and prison experiences of Willie and his father, Butch, is painfully gripping. Finally released after reforming himself in prison, Butch couldn't handle freedom and killed himself as police pursued him. Willie, in prison for life, considers himself "a monster created by the system." In an epilogue, the author warns that building prisons won't solve our crime problem, and he proposes several policies?including intervention programs to help adolescent delinquents?to prevent future carnage. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 389 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (January 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307280330
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307280336
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #38,962 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 6, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I have had this book for over a year and never read it. Now that I have started I can't put it down. I am not a social scientist or an expert on crime, I am a southerner by birth with an interest and education in literature. I bought this book after I saw it reviewed on some morning show because I am from Aiken County, South Carolina (the next county over from Edgefield) I grew up in North Augusta (formerly Hamberg) and have always been baffled by the tendency to violence that prevealed my home county. I also went to school with many Basketts (new spelling I believe). So I bought this book because of a personal interest; it was obvioulsy close to home. I begin to read it with that "oh i know where that is" sort of interest. The skill with which this book was written has been a very pleasant surprise. The emotions it has evoked in me even more of a surprise. The insights it has given me I will always be thankful to Butterfield for. I have come away from this book saddened, enlightened, inspired, and most importantly a much better person. Everyone with a desire to understand our society and the people that make it up should read this book. Everyone with a desire to develop tolerance should read this book. Everyone who supports capital punishment should read this book. The author has put his finger on and lifted up for all to see, the common criminal of our time. It is a picture we as a society need to see.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 18, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Fox Butterfield did an excellent job of detailing the horrific impact that past cultural, racial, and economic deprivation and oppression has had upon the lives of Americans both black and white. The Bosket Family is a sociologists dream because they fit the mold of the theory of "the trickle down effects of hatred and violence. The author details to the reader the hard truth that America has not just become a violent country it has always been a violent country and this is a truth that we as readers and citizens must come to accept and learn from. Butterfields depiction of the terrible cycle of violence within this writing is prolific, it is well documented and well researched. Five stars is must. This should be required reading for every criminal justice student in this country. Great Book!! Loved the historical background information.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 20, 2000
Format: Paperback
Excellent depiction of what the juvenile justice system in this country can do to a child. The historical perspective of violence has many interesting ramifications. One can argue that we can go back even further, to a time when England conquered the Scots and the Irish. Fox Butterfield has a very clear writing style, and he is non-judgmental in his prose. I recommend this book to any student, or anyone involved professionally with violence-prevention or criminology.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By AMB on February 6, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I borrowed this book from the library several years ago and remain so moved by it that I just ordered a copy for myself. As soon as it arrives I am going to read it again and then I will encourage every adult I know to read it. The book is poignant, illuminating, and heartwrenching. The writer's style as I recall was superb as he wrote it objectively and in a manner that allows readers to come to their own conclusions. I have never written a review of a book, and doubt I will again, but I was affected so much by this book I feel I need to let everyone know what an excellent book it is.
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24 of 30 people found the following review helpful By "harlemgirl_lc" on July 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
During the time when i read this book I was not just learning about a stranger but and actually part of me. I found out after the completion of the book that this was a story about my family's history. I founded the book to interesting and helpful. I read the book last year when I was seventeen. After reading it I passed it all to my peers hoping that they could learn something about themselves as well. I feel that this is a great book not for just African- American teens but all growing up and struggling in the inner-city. Also, this book should be as a tool to use in a social sciences classes. Because it helps people understand the differences between different ethnic groups. It answers alot of the questions that people have today. There is always a debate about slavery and the effects it caused. People argued that its in the past and it time to move on, but fail to realize that it still affects those same people who have yet to even come close to understanding who they are and where their from. All Gods Children is one part of the bridge that is being built to understand our surroundings and I'll recommend this book to any person that is willing to grow.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By HDB III on June 6, 2013
Format: Paperback
Willie Bosket (born 1962) was murderously violent -- so murderous as a child that he was largely responsible for the state of new York's decision to allow children (in exceptional cases) to be tried as adults. Other states soon followed suit.
The book argues that Bosket's attitudes and his murders can be explained in large measure by the history of violence -- specifically the concern for honor/respect -- in the South in general and in rural South Carolina in particular. Thus it is that Butterfield spends a good deal of time on the history of Bosket's family and of the region in which they labored as slaves.
Then Butterfield goes on to write a remarkably detailed account of Willie's father, and Willie himself. We read, for example, that the father, after many lesser crimes, killed two men in a fit of rage. He was convicted and imprisoned. Then he worked so hard over two decades in the classes the prison offered that he earned first his GED and then a college degree from the University of Kansas; he did so well that he was the first (and perhaps still the only) inmate to be inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. With all of his professors and others lobbying for him, he was paroled. He immediately found a well paying job as a computer programmer and began upon graduate work. But within THREE MONTHS he was arrested for raping his girlfriend's 6-year-old child. Shortly thereafter he died in an escape attempt -- killing both himself and the girlfriend -- his rape victim's mother, remember -- who was helping him escape.
The account of Willie's life is even more jaw dropping. One of the other reviewers talks, predictably, about how "the system failed Willie." But this is nonsense.
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All God's Children: The Bosket Family and the American Tradition of Violence
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