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Brothers: Black and Poor -- A True Story of Courage and Survival Mass Market Paperback – September 13, 1989

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Twelve men who grew up in a black South Chicago housing project participated in this portrait-study by a Newsweek team headed by Monroe, a former resident of the same ghetto and now the magazine's Washington correspondent, and editor Goldman, coauthor of Charlie Company, etc. Despite the lack of a male role model in their families, which were headed by single mothers in a racially isolated, impoverished enclave, most of the then teenagers had dreams, the usually futile pursuit of which and resulting anger they discuss here with a singular lack of self-pity. Some of them sought quick rewards as hustlers and outlaws, and others found transient glory in basketball, gang warfare and the military. Several "brothers" aspired to the American Dream of job, home, wife and perhaps a luxury car, or settled for waiting for the state lottery big hit. Under affirmative action, a select few obtained a good education and succeeded in the mainstream world, leaving behind those who failed to break out of the "cycle of despair." Photos not seen by PW. BOMC and QPBC selections.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

An expansion of a 1986 special issue of Newsweek , this work is a collective biography of 12 black men who grew up together in a Chicago housing project in the 1960s. As seen through the eyes and words of Monroe, one of the group and now a successful journalist who works for Newsweek , it is both depressing and exhilarating. All of the main characters, in some sense, wanted a piece of the American Dreamupward mobility. Although only three have achieved "middle-class status," most have at least "survived"in Monroe's view, a major accomplishment in light of the obstacles they faced. Marred only by some poor organization of material, this glimpse at contemporary lives is highly recommended. Anthony O. Edmonds, Ball State Univ., Muncie, Ind.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (September 13, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345361563
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345361561
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 4.2 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #918,344 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By K.A.Goldberg on June 21, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is a realistic, depressing, yet partly inspiring story of 12 young men that grew up in Chicago's notorious Robert Taylor public housing projects during the 1960's-70. Growing up in that isolated underclass atmosphere amid drugs and violence and far from middle class comforts, these young men learned the rough realities of the streets. Yet they were not without dreams, and a couple even achieved them. Author Sylvester "Vest" Monroe was the most successful, attending an elite boarding school that left him culture shocked and homesick, yet he persevered, eventually graduating from Harvard and joining Newsweek as a correspondent. A couple of his buddies did OK, but most stayed in that tragic cycle of near-despair. Just as sadly, effective solutions beyond platitudes are in short supply, athough teen pregnancy prevention programs, early childhood education, and social workers help somewhat.

This book is quite valuable for students, sociologists, former residents, and anybody with an interest in project life. As many know, Chicago has now dismantled the Robert Taylor Homes and other high-rise public housing, scattering residents into privately-owned Section 8 apartments in various neighborhoods and poorer suburbs. One hopes this will prove beneficial.
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By A Customer on February 2, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Brothers by Sylvester Monroe and Peter Goldman is a nonfiction story about twelve African American men growing up in the Taylor projects on Chicago's South Side. Each chapter is about different characters and events. I found the book to be very interesting. Before I read this book, I didn't know very much about what it was like to be an African American and live in poverty. After finishing the novel, I learned an abundance of information about the African American culture and what their typical life was like. Very few of the characters were able to journey out of the city into a better life. To be successful, black people had to work twice as hard at everything they did because of the racial discrimination. The majority of the men stayed in the projects their entire life.
Some African Americans such as Honk Johnson made a living by selling drugs, stealing, and pimping. People like Honk usually made a decent living by taking chances with the law hoping not to get caught. This may have worked for a while, but eventually you're luck would run out. For Honk, this day came when he stole from a store and faced ten years behind bars.
Other individuals believed that you could be anything you wanted if you worked hard enough. Sylvester Monroe, the author of the book is a perfect example of this. He grew up in The Taylor projects, and was lucky enough to receive a scholarship because of his hard work to a prestigious private school called St.Georges in Rhode Island. His teacher in Chicago at Wendell Phillip's High School, Mr. Lovelace, truly valued learning. After his first year of teaching, he became very harsh on his students failing those who didn't do their homework only because he wanted them to succeed.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 4, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Brothers, a true story by Sylvester Monroe and Peter Goldman, takes you into the lives of Sylvester and 11 of his friends from the south side of Chicago. You learn about the pressures they face growing up in poverty....the questions that enter their mind, questions we never have to worry about. Will they, like so many others, turn to drugs and crime or will they in some way succeed and get out of the harsh lives they live? Many have no father to support them instead they have brave mothers who try their best to create strong, intelligent children, but only some succeed. What will become of those who don't get out? Will the down hill spiral of drugs, gangs, pimping and crime catch them and bring them down like so many others? Will the white world outside exclude them and judge them because of their color? In this book is incredibly interesting to see how these 12 men can start from the same roots and be the best of friends, but in the end turn to completely different lifestyles. Monroe and Goldman truly catch the reader's interest by jumping from the story of one man to another, leaving you dyeing to know what happens to every one.
This book also serves as an eye opener. You see the lives of a black men through black men's eyes. It really puts into perspective the discriminations and poverty that faced black people in the past, and even today. Throughout the book each character has his own encounter with white people. Some don't get hired for jobs because of their race, others get onto an elevator to see a woman grasp her purse a little tighter because of their presence. It was truly embarrassing reading how these people were treated by the "master race" and it changed my own way of acting around people. Oprah Winfrey says, "I really wish America could read it" and I completely agree.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 2, 2003
Format: Hardcover
If you are looking for a good, enjoyable, and different than normal read, "Brothers" is the book for you. "Brothers" is a story of twelve black men from the Chicago projects, and a very good story too. "Brothers", which is written by one of the twelve, is one of the first books that gives an actual and honest look at black men in America. It truly defines the struggles and hardships of black men in the projects, and did a very good job showing the courage that was necessary to survive in life.
Sylvester Monroe, a Newsweek correspondent and one of the twelve "Brothers", teamed up with Peter Goldman to write this book. The book is broken up into six parts, each of which is a progression in time from the previous. The chapters in the book are, in a way, like short vignettes. Each chapter focuses on solely on one of the characters and an event in their life. Sometimes though, the chapter will cover a very large section of the persons life to show how they progressed.
The twelve "Brothers" were Sylvester Monroe, Honk Johnson, Billy Harris, Moose Harper, Greg Bronson, Ed Hamilton, Sonny Spruiell, Ray Stingley, Half Man Carter, James Bonner, Pee Wee Fisher, and Steve Steward. Each of these men are unique in their own way, and each chooses his own path through life. The twelve "Brothers" are not bound together by the blood running in their veins, as the title may suggest, but rather by the circumstances intertwined in their lives. According to the choices they make for themselves, each man will either find a way out of the ghetto and to a better life, or will fall into the trap of drugs, gangs, and stay in the ghetto for the rest of their lives.
Sylvester Monroe, for example, was one of the lucky few men of "Brothers" that made it.
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