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Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; Reprint edition (May 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671004646
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671004644
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,723 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

This heartbreaking and inspiring book goes a long way toward fulfilling the wish one of its authors, LeAlan Jones, makes in his epigraph: "You must learn our America as we must learn your America, so that, maybe, someday, we can become one." Based on hours and hours of taped interviews that Jones and Lloyd Newman, two high school students, conducted for two National Public Radio documentaries they prepared in 1993 and 1995, Our America is a no-holds-barred look at the devastatingly poor Chicago neighborhood in which they live. It's a world where elementary school students learn about sex and drugs before they learn how to read, and where many boys do not expect to live to be 20. You finish the book marveling not that so many of those who people it are trapped, but wondering that anyone survives at all. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

When they were 13, Jones and Newman gained notoriety by telling personal stories of life in the poor, violent, and desolate world of Chicago's Ida B. Wells Homes in the award-winning National Public Radio (NPR) documentaries "Ghetto Life 101" and "Remorse: The 14 Stories of Eric Morse." Drawing from more than 100 hours of tapes unused in the original broadcasts, the now 17-year-old authors, with assistance from NPR producer Isay, have created a frank and provocative view of America's minorities from the inside out and bottom up. Scrutinizing life in their poor South Side neighborhood through the experiences of friends, families, and teachers, the authors reveal how disenfranchised from mainstream America the ghetto has become. Jones poignantly states in the opening, "We live in a second America where the laws of the land don't apply and the laws of the street do." A powerful, rousing message for all concerned readers.?Michael A. Lutes, Univ. of Notre Dame Lib., Ind.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Took me only 3 evenings after work to finish reading.
Cicely Miranda
Our America, will change the way you look at life, and make you appreciate the little things in life that we sometimes take for granted.
JacobSan
If you are looking for riveting, real-life drama, read this book.
S. Maae

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By L. S. Muscato on February 14, 2006
Format: Paperback
Our America, a book by two young boys from a housing project on the South Side of Chicago, is raw and beautiful all at once. It tells the story of the authors, LeAlan Jones and Lloyd Newman, as they make their way in the Ida B. Well's housing project and tell the story of a five year-old's death from one of the buildings. The book, which was written by the boys in collaboration with author David Isay, is part journalism, part activism and part reflection. It takes a very factual look at the events of the child's death, there are transcriptions from interviews, and there are their own ramblings and editorializing about what's going on in their part of the country.

The boys become involved simply by bringing their notebooks, pens, tape recorders, cameras (and their instincts) to their own neighborhood. Interview subjects include teachers, young children, cousins, neighbors, the chairman of the Chicago Housing Authority, police officers and lawyers. Their approach is direct and simple - they ask the tough questions of the people in charge. For example, Lloyd asks the CHA chairman, "Would you want your kids growing up in these public houses?" With the help of David Isay, LeAlan and Lloyd become the chroniclers of their particular time and place.

The book's readability level is low - at maximum, it's on a fifth grade level in terms of vocabulary and sentence structure. However, the themes and issues developed in the book are far more advanced. Students of any age level in high school should be able to grasp the content and then think critically about the issues it presents around racism, poverty, gang violence, family structure and public housing. It is a book aimed not only at young people but also the adults in power, the people who make the decisions that affect the poor.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By S. Maae on July 30, 2004
Format: Paperback
If you are looking for a literary masterpiece, then this is not the book for you. If you are looking for riveting, real-life drama, read this book. LeAlan Jones and Lloyd Newman live in the Ida B. Wells project of Chicago. At 13 and 14 they were offered the opportunity to be journalists and to tell their stories. The book chronicles three years of their lives. They have a mission in writing this book. They want us to learn about their America, "Where we live is a second America where the laws of the land don't apply and the laws of the street do. You must learn Our America as we must learn your America, so that maybe, someday we can become one." They are pleading for those of us who don't live in the projects to find out about those who do.

Because the book is written as a script of the interviews they did, we get a sense of the real lives of the people in the projects. Alcoholism, drug addiction, violence are all a part of the everyday struggle. There are elements of hope too, found in teachers who care and a grandmother and sisters who are there for these kids.

The boys become investigative reporters as they try to find out the truth behind the murder of a 5-year-old child who was dropped from the 14th floor window of the projects by two other kids over a dispute about candy. They even talk to the attorneys and the police.

I'm glad I read Our America. I needed to hear these stories from those who rarely get an opportunity to express themselves. As someone who grew up in the suburbs, I take too much for granted.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 18, 1999
Format: Paperback
"Our America" was assigned reading for my course in Child Social Policy. It grabbed me from page one and I could not put it down until it was through (and then I read parts over again). LeAlan and Lloyd walk you down the streets of Chicago and let you have a little peek into their reality -- a world where violence and death are a part of every day life, and instead of focusing on grades in school, children must worry about survival. These young men represent so many children with talents and dreams and potential who are raised in an infertile, even poisonous environment. I wish everyone would read this book and realize that "America" shouldn't change when you cross the tracks.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By christina mann on June 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
Your America may be a bit different from LeAlan Jones's and Lioyd Newman's...welcome to theirs. These young men bring you into their community were you find yourself laughing at time and then wanting to reach out and save them. This reading is not sugar coated...your heart will break. LeAlan and Lloyd have used thier power to speak, listen to what they have to say! Then you will be blessed with John Brook, the talented young photographer whose images grace these pages of this outstanding book.
I have great respect for these men in this book for they are our future. Chicago, my home, is a better please because of these talented men...Continue to speak with your mighty voices.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 12, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book is one of the most amazing books I have read. It targets what it is like for a child to grow up in such trying times and tragic circumstances. I have personally spoken with LeAllan after reading this book. Hearing that he is now attending college in Folrida, and is doing well majoring in criminal justice, while supporting his schooling through funding provided by his book tours, and speeches, makes me hopeful that we can make a difference in a childs life if we just give them a chance. This book gave Leallan wings, and with them he has flown to the moon!
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