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Rosa Lee: A Mother and Her Family in Urban America Paperback – September 1, 1997


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 279 pages
  • Publisher: Plume; 1st edition (September 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452278961
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452278967
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #119,504 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Drug-addled, welfare-using and AIDS-infected, Rosa Lee--a black woman living in the slums of Washington, D.C.--shines an enormous amount of light on the seemingly intractable problems of the underclass by allowing Leon Dash to tell her story. You won't find any diagrams or number-crunching in this book, just an absorbing tale of inner-city despair. Dash won the Pulitzer Prize for his series of articles on Rosa Lee for the Washington Post. The book is even better--easily the best of its type since Alex Kotlowitz's There Are No Children Here. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Dash, a Washington Post reporter and author of When Children Want Children (Viking, 1990), has written a biography of someone we normally would never read about. His subject is a grandmother who has been on drugs a good portion of her life, been in and out of prison for drugs and theft, and on welfare much of this time. She had eight children, six of whom are following in her footsteps. She and several of her children have AIDS due to their drug habits, and six of them are functionally illiterate. Dash shows us how two of her children learned enough to achieve middle-class lives for themselves and escape the drugs and poverty in which the rest of the family is mired. He links Rosa Lee's story to sociological trends and historical reasons and points out that while she is unique, she also serves as an exemplar of many others with similar stories. Most interesting are the tidbits of information about the two successful sons, who both pointed out that they had received motivation and assistance from someone outside of their family, which they felt was what caused them to be different. Well written and researched, this is strongly recommended for all social work and social science collections.?Anita L. Cole, Miami-Dade P.L., Fla.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

This story couldn't have been written any clearer than Leon Dash did in ROSA LEE.
Mary Allen
I have read many books similar to this one and always am interested in the choices that others make in their lives.
Jann Williams
Despite her behavior and legacy, though, Rosa Lee remains somehow likable and sympathetic throughout the book.
Matthew Budman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Tracy Williams on June 20, 2010
Format: Paperback
Rosa Lee Cunningham was a relative of mine. Although I really did not know that much about her, it was still sad to read what she, my cousins(her children) went through in urban Washington,DC. I feel sad for my grandmother(Rosetta) as well because even though she moved from North Carolina to Washington, DC to get away from the abuse of white people and make a better life for herself, she suffered too. As an African-American woman, we are considered the low man on the totem pole. Black men think they have it bad to survive in society-no no! Black women such as my grandmother and my aunt Rosa Lee have carried the weight of America on our backs. Both my paternal and maternal grandmothers have endured so much growing up in the south. My maternal grandmother raised 13 children and had aspirations of becoming a teacher but let people including her husband who could not read. She and her children worked in the fields to make ends meet. My paternal grandmother however, raised her children often by herself but managed to sell dinner plates and own an ice cream truck when she was not cleaning houses for whites in Washington,DC. Listening to my family members tell their memories of my grandmothers has inspired me to pursue a Bachelor's Degree in Business Management. Sometimes when I look in the mirror, I can see my grandmothers and I cry from sadness as well as joy because of them, I am a strong black woman and I am raising my daughter to be one. AUNT ROSA LEE-R.I.P.! I LOVE YOU! AND THANKS TO MR. DASH FOR PROVIDING ME WITH FAMILY HISTORY TO HELP ME AND OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS TO BREAK THE CYCLE!!!!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Mary Allen on December 12, 2000
Format: Paperback
The subject is depressing, but the research and writing are superb. ROSA LEE is a lengthy and well-chronicled look into the daily lives of one multi-generational family in an environment of poverty and drug-infestation, where routine crime and imprisonment are accepted as normal, and where escape is possible, but extremely rare. I'd recommend this book to anyone seeking to understand the mentality and hopelessness of drug addition. This story couldn't have been written any clearer than Leon Dash did in ROSA LEE.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 4, 1999
Format: Paperback
Leon Dash outdid himself on this writing. As an educator within the school system I have seen these families and the devastating affects that drugs and crime have on their lives. Dash cuts Rosa Lee no slack in telling her story, he does not seek to excuse her behavior by blaming a racist and oppressive society, nor does he condemn her for the hiddeous behavior she exhibits and has exhibited over the years. He simply tells her story with the bone chilling truth that must be told. The underclass in America has not just begun it has been hundreds of years in the making and Dash allows his readers to understand not only the past forces that helped create this class but the current forces as well. This is a powerful writing and should be required reading for every Urban Planning, Social Work, and Sociology major in this country. Excellent writing, five stars does not begin to give this book what it deserves.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Budman on May 28, 1998
Format: Hardcover
In recent years, welfare and the underclass have become a prominent part of the national conversation. But pundits' portrayals of the urban poor are often distressingly simplistic, usually presenting the underclass as a mass of indistinguishable brown and black people inhabiting a murky, foreign land. In 1988, Washington Post reporter Leon Dash began a seven-year project that he hoped might dispel reductionist thinking, trying to make this unfamiliar world complex and real by focusing on a single case, one that shows many of the facets of underclass life. He tells the story of a single Washington, D.C., woman and her family-four generations of poverty, pathology and crippling dysfunction. Rosa Lee Cunningham "is fifty-two years old, a longtime heroin addict, with a long record of arrests for everything from petty theft to drug trafficking," Dash writes. "Her eight children-the oldest of whom she bore at age fourteen-were fathered by six different men, and six of the children have followed her into a life of teenage parenthood, drugs, and crime." Rosa Lee's story is hardly inspirational-and yet in it there are glimmers of brightness. Amid the sadness and squalor, Dash leaves room for hope.
"Rosa Lee" grew out of a controversial Washington Post newspaper series that won a Pulitzer Prize in 1994; about half the book is fresh material. Dash paints detailed portraits of Rosa Lee and her children; presented nonjudgmentally, his depictions are founded on ambiguity. He makes it clear that-in the name of "survival"-she condemned at least two succeeding generations to follow her example, alienated from broader, productive society.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Christiane Wells on January 16, 2001
Format: Paperback
As someone who studies poverty and race relations, as well as the devastating effect of drugs on urban America, I found this book to be just enthralling. I could not put it down once I started, and although I found myself shocked at many of the things I discovered about this mother and her relationship with her children, I felt a bond with them. In the end it was hard to be disgusted, just saddened by what had happened to Rosa Lee and her family. Leon Dash did a fantastic job with this story.
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