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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Our America
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...
Published on February 14, 2006 by L. S. Muscato

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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Our America, February 14, 2006
This review is from: Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago (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.

Our America is not something to pick up for light Saturday afternoon reading, or to help you forget about the troubles of the world. Instead it's a book to crack open the minds of two young boys living an all-too-common reality, and face both the issues and the joys that they see every day. Its literary value is lesser than its cultural significance, one of the few books written by young African Americans and one of the few resources for genuine information about what their lives are like.

Our America is published by Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, 1997.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The voice of the voiceless, July 30, 2004
By 
S. Maae (Paramount, CA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago (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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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stole my breath, August 18, 1999
By A Customer
"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
5.0 out of 5 stars OUR AMERICA Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago, June 21, 2000
This review is from: Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago (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
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing! - a must read, April 12, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago (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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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AMAZING, March 23, 2005
This review is from: Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago (Paperback)
This book is amazing and heartbreaking. Very raw and honest, and eye-opening to the inequalites apparent in the United States today. The poor African-American people who live in the Ida B. Welles housing projects live a life that is like growing up in open warfare with very little hope for the future and enjoyment of the past.

The narrators, LeAlan Jones and Lloyd Newman, are very bright and perceptive young men who prove that a child born in the ghetto can still make something out of his life. The revelation I came away with after reading this is that the children in this world are smart; they just don't have the resources and support that are needed for a child to be fulfilled and happy. Although the principal we meet in the book is doing her best to provide these children with the education they deserve.

These children grow up too fast. They see things at a young age that no one should see, ever. Drug deals, shootings, prostitution. It is so sad. Conducted in interviews, many memorable characters are come across in this unfortunate housing project.

Slavery may be over. The Civil Rights movement may have happened. But, really, what is happening here is a form of racism. Poor black people are stacked in unfordable housing and basically forgotten about by the white establishment of America. This book is important for drawing attention to these inequalities and the shameful reality of urban American living.

Particularly heart-breaking is the story of little Eric Morse, a five year old, who was dropped from a four story window by two eleven year olds. Heartbreaking.

What is truly inspiring is the words of wisdom and hope by narrators LeAlan and Lloyd.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars South Side Chicago- Pocket Books-1997, January 29, 2006
This telling account of life on the south side of Chicago is worth reading to catch a glimpse of the struggles and hardships that marginalize this south side community. The narrative and accounts of life in Chicago's public housing complexes unveil the social conflict that is tucked away from viewing and ignored by outsiders.

To shed light on the situation, two teenagers, assigned by the National Public Radio, conduct interviews with family members, neighbors, and friends throughout the text. During the process of their interviews, they describe the everyday life and hopes of escaping the self destruction of those who must live in the projects especially Ida B. Wells public housing.

The book is a short read of two hundred pages with a reading level of sixth grade. Despite the simplicity of the layout of the accounts, the descriptions of urban city life and death are profound. Since the teenagers' interviews, some of the public housing complexes have been brought down. The south side of Chicago is beginning to prosper as new schools and businesses bring opportunity and hope to a community that seemed abandoned.

Whether you are a student, parent, or professional, reading this book will make you want to take action to rebuild our community.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is one of the most powerful books I have ever read., June 29, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago (Paperback)
Though I was required to read this book for a course I took, and therefore supposed to be reading and analyzing it over a week's time, I found myself reading the entire book in one sitting. This book shows the unfamiliar reader what poverty really is, how it thinks, acts, looks like, and feels from the words and experiences of children. LeAlan and Lloyd are children growing up in a very adult world, and one is reminded just how young they actually are when you listen to the recordings of their initial broadcasts. Knowing that they and their families are real people, how can you read this book and feel nothing? The tragic part is, those who most need their eyes opened to the state of poverty and violence in our nation will most likely never read this book. For those of us who do, may your eyes be a little wider, your heart a little deeper, and your spirit be called to action.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read for America, May 3, 2011
This review is from: Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago (Paperback)
When I heard about the book "Our America," I was interested to see what Lealan & Lloyd's story would be like. I was surprised that it was a book of their recorded accounts of moments in their lives. As a college student the language was easy to read, but nonetheless the stories were heartfelt. I've had friends and family that have lived in poor communities with drugs and gang violence, but nothing to the extent of the conditions at Ida B. Wells. Hopefully this book will bring awareness to the poor communities not only in the south side of chicago, but throughout America. 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. I took this book out from the library, but I'm buying it to show it to everyone I can. Thank you LeAlan & Lloyd for sharing your America.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wake Up Call, July 31, 2001
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This review is from: Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago (Paperback)
For those of us who have had the privelege of growing up in the ideal setting (safe neighborhoods, competent schools, two-parent households) this is a wake-up call that not everyone is afforded the same amount of luxury. LeAlan and Lloyd, at the young age of thirteen, opened up a world many of us did not know existed. Their brave and intellectual assessment of their neighborhood is displayed frankly in their personal account documented in "Our America." This book does not sugar-coat the destructiveness of the inner city. It tackles the subject matter in an open and honest way. What an incredible account by two kids who give us all hope that one day the world will be a different, but better place.
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Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago
Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago by Lealan Jones (Paperback - May 1, 1998)
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