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There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in The Other America Paperback – January 5, 1992


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Product Details

  • Lexile Measure: 970L (What's this?)
  • Paperback: 323 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1st edition (January 5, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385265565
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385265560
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (154 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,922 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

There Are No Children Here, the true story of brothers Lafeyette and Pharoah Rivers, ages 11 and 9 at the start, brings home the horror of trying to make it in a violence-ridden public housing project. The boys live in a gang-plagued war zone on Chicago's West Side, literally learning how to dodge bullets the way kids in the suburbs learn to chase baseballs. "If I grow up, I'd like to be a bus driver," says Lafeyette at one point. That's if, not when--spoken with the complete innocence of a child. The book's title comes from a comment made by the brothers' mother as she and author Alex Kotlowitz contemplate the challenges of living in such a hostile environment: "There are no children here," she says. "They've seen too much to be children." This book humanizes the problem of inner-city pathology, makes readers care about Lafeyette and Pharoah more than they may expect to, and offers a sliver of hope buried deep within a world of chaos.

From Publishers Weekly

The devastating story of brothers Lafayette and Pharoah Rivers, children of the Chicago ghetto, is powerfully told here by Kotlowitz, a Wall Street Journal reporter who first met the boys in 1985 when they were 10 and seven, respectively. Their family includes a mother, a frequently absent father, an older brother and younger triplets. We witness the horrors of growing up in an ill-maintained housing project tyrannized by drug gangs and where murders and shootings frequently occur. Lafayette tries to cope by stifling his emotions and turning himself into an automaton, while Pharoah first attempts to regress into early childhood and then finds a way out by excelling at school. Kotlowitz's affecting report does not have a "neat and tidy ending. . . . It is, instead, about a beginning, the dawning of two lives." These are lives at a crossroads, not totally without hope of triumphing over their origin. ( Apr .
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

ALEX KOTLOWITZ is the author of three books, Never a City So Real, The Other Side of the River and the bestseller There Are No Children Here which the NY Public Library chose as one of the 150 most import important books of the twentieth century. Kotlowitz's work has appeared in an array of publications, including The New York Times Magazine and The New Yorker -- and he contributes to public radio's This American Life. His most recent project, the acclaimed documentary The Interrupters premiered at Sundance and was awarded the Film Independent Spirit Award for Best Documentary. His honors include a George Polk Award, the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award and a Peabody. Raised in New York, he's been a Chicagoan for some thirty years.

Customer Reviews

Please read this book!
Nikki D. Kohler
I, as many others who have read their story, do wonder what has happened to all of these people since the ending of the book.
"scarlettdraelynkhar"
The book is a look at what life is like for many people, even now days.
Christina Grijalba

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

144 of 149 people found the following review helpful By W. M. Davidson on July 21, 2005
Format: Paperback
To hardcore conservatives who believe that the plight of the poor is no one's fault but their own, I say: Read this book. To hardcore liberals who believe the poor are oppressed by society and not responsible for their situation, I say: Read this book. "There are No Children Here" shows that life is more complicated than either extreme. The lives of the people in this book are governed by complex interactions of both personal choices and unavoidable bad luck. The author sympathetically examines the terrible hardships his subjects were born into, but never shies away from showing how their situation is perpetuated by the harmful behavior and relationships they choose to pursue. Whatever your ideology is going in, you will not look at poverty the same way after reading this book.
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43 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy Skinner on May 2, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book describes a social atmosphere that few people actually experience or fully understand. It only provides a glimpse into the lives of two boys growing up in one of Chicago's public housing areas, but it will leave an everlasting impression in the minds of its readers. Alex Kotlowitz follows the lives of these two young boys as they attempt to navigate through the gang wars, police and government deficiencies, and the poverty stricken Chicago slums. The boys are under 15 years of age, yet they are forced to make decisions that people much older than them struggle with every day. They are forced to struggle through their childhood in poverty and without a father to guide them in those struggles. Kotlowitz looks at the two boys as they watch their friends and family members perish in gang and drug wars, police brutality, or hauled off to prison for other crimes. They also watch as their mother struggles to provide for her family and the governments inefficient handling of Chicago's public housing. The author is able to show the young boys struggle to get an education and succeed in an area filled with failures. They have few role models to guide their decisions and few opportunities for success. Alex Kotlowitz is able to point out the constant struggle these young boys have faced and the opportunities that they are deprived of. He shows how the environment both physically and mentally hampers the two boys opportunity for success and a normal childhood. The book provides an excellent look into the mental struggles they faced as their friends got caught up in gangs, were killed, and started committing petty crimes. Overall this book provides an excellent depiction of life in the Chicago public housing, and the struggle of those two boys as they attempt to survive and succeed in the ghettos.
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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful By "scarlettdraelynkhar" on May 4, 2003
Format: Paperback
It's been a few years since I've read this book in its entirety. I first did so as a requirement for my college minor - Youth Agency Administration. This book, quite simply, changed everything for me. Growing up in a small farming community far away from the violence of the inner city, the only view I ever had of the life led by Lafayette & Pharoah came from snippets of the news from larger cities or from movies. It's easy to question the accuracy of both. However, with every page of "There Are No Children Here," I was drawn into the struggle these boys and their family & friends faced every day. I, as many others who have read their story, do wonder what has happened to all of these people since the ending of the book. Bottom line: Yes, the author's elaborations can seem a bit contrived at times, but the facts of the story alone speak for themselves. And, honestly, given the power of this account, what author would not be a bit emotional & contrived? That's the point. I recommend this book to people all the time...even to my boyfriend who grew up in a Chicago neighborhood similar to the one haunted by Lafayette & Pharoah. Regardless of your reason for reading it, your own background, or what you think your views are now, you will bring something away from the experience.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By William Spencer on November 14, 1999
Format: Paperback
Alex Kotlowitz's novel was written during the middle and late 1980s. It accurately and truthfully describes the living conditions that existed in a Chicago housing project. He details a three year period in the lives of ten year old Lafayette and seven year old Pharaoh which includes their special adventures on the railroad tracks and their constant fear of gang violence and death. The family is caught up in a "culture of poverty". Mr. Kotlowitz includes many, many true characters including the then mayor, housing execs, politicians, police, and gangbangers in the book. But the beauty of the book is the close bond between the brothers in the mist of surrounding chaos. Today Lafayette is still adjusting, but alive. Pharaoh has graduated high school with the help of Mr. Kotlowitz's, and his mother, LaJoe is well. They have since move from the housing projects, but still reside on the westside of Chicago. Mr. Kotkowitz lives in a suburb outside of Chicago. I was police officer in those projects when this book was written.
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31 of 37 people found the following review helpful By G. Gilbert on June 9, 2004
Format: Paperback
Make no mistake: this book should be read and contemplated from cover to cover. I am horrified to see some of the reviews given of this book such as given by Mr. Galt, and the unidentified 'reader' who should be too ashamed to reveal who he really is. Read the reviews by the above individuals, and stare into the face of brass hard cruelty and ignorant misunderstanding.
Kotlowitz's book is a look into the lives of two young boys growing up in the hard parts of Chicago, and very sucessfully displays many of the struggles that happen in such areas. The book goes into depth into the lives of the individuals who the book is centered on, and really gives an inside out look at the situation that way too many people are forced to grow up in: in the 'other America' that too many of us are content to ignore. The strong reactions by some (such as Mr. Galt) to this book gives good illustration to what Jürgan Moltmann wisely points out, that "[t]he people who enjoy the modern world because they live on `the sunny side of the street' fear the downfall of their world..." (Moltmann 1996, 135). Kotlowitz brings us into the the 'dark side of the street' to see the view of the world from the eyes of two young boys.
Read this book for yourself and make your own final judgements, but in my opinion and many others, this is an excellent read.
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