Forgive the poor grammar.
Report by Matthew Havens.
There Are No Children Here
The bibliographic information is found on the title page. The author of There Are No Children Here is Alex Kotlowitz. The book contains 323 pages. Doubleday of New York City, New York publishes the book in 1991. This book is a case study of the social conditions of inner-city blacks.
The subject matter of the book shows the conditions of poor people in the subsidized housing projects of Chicago, Illinois. The Riverses are members of a poor family. The family lives in Henry Horner Homes, a subsidized housing project in Chicago. The family relies on welfare and federal assistance for support. They cannot afford most luxuries and many necessities; therefore, life is an ongoing struggle to survive. Many adults and children reside in the family's household. These extra family members further strain the family's resources and cramp their living room in the family's apartment. LaJoe has eight children, all living in the apartment: LaShawn, Weasel, Terence, Lafayette, Pharoah, Tammie, Tiffany, and Timothy. LaShawn has three children: one of which is named DeShawn. Terence has three children also: one of which is nicknamed "Snuggles." Paul, LaJoe's ex-husband, stays with the family on occasion. Leila Mae, LaJoe's mother, sometimes stays with the family. Gangs control the buildings in the projects. Gang members hire residents of the buildings to store weapons and drugs in their apartments. Gang members sell drugs in the neighborhoods and attempt to obtain help selling drugs from small children. Some gangs break into apartments to steal from them and use them as safe havens against the police and other law enforcement agencies. Gangs have "turf wars" which result in gun battles which injure and kill many people, most of which are innocent bystanders. The buildings of the Chicago Housing Authority are in disrepair and mismanaged. The employees at the Chicago Housing Authority embezzle money from the budget. A review finds several employees guilty and they are fired. The buildings of the Chicago Housing Authority are in disrepair. Rusted appliances litter the basements. The heating coils in the buildings' furnaces are missing. The buildings have not been painted in many years. Some buildings have numerous bloodstains in them from murder victims. Dead animals rot in the basements of some buildings. Bullet holes cover some buildings in the Chicago Housing Authority. Many apartments in various buildings have faulty electrical wiring and bad plumbing, which the Chicago Housing Authority will not fix. Many of the buildings' residents contribute to the dilapidation of their neighborhoods. Some residents dump their garbage wherever they please. Other residents steal appliances and fixtures from their buildings for personal use or to sell for money to pay for living expenses or to pay for drug habits. Life in the projects is stressful for the residents. LaJoe worries if her children will be injured while they are walking around in the neighborhood; gang wars can erupt at any time and anyone can be caught in the crossfire. The lure of joining a gang is very compelling to young children. Gangs give money to their members and potential members. Gangs offer a family structure that is not available in many impoverished homes. Pharoah has developed a stutter in response to the violence of the neighborhood. Whenever Pharoah tries to speak, his neck muscles strain and tense to attempt to form words. Pharoah is able to converse when he tries to relax and talk calmly. Pharoah's stutter becomes more pronounced when he is in stressful situations. Many residents live with the fear that they may be victims of a violent crime at any time. One eight year old girl witnessed a friend of her family, her mother, her mother's boyfriend, and her four year old sister killed by two men before being stabbed herself forty-eight times. The girl also described at the murders' trial how they, in her words, used a pen to "dig her guts out." (Page 134.) The family was killed in order to steal 120 dollars worth of electronic equipment. Due to the lure of the neighborhood, and because of poor conditions, the Riverses endure many tragedies and hardships. Terence has been arrested and sentenced to a prison term. He has stolen from video poker machines, and has robbed stores and businesses in and around his neighborhood. Lafayette has been arrested and convicted of carjacking. Although he insists his innocence, the judge does not believe him and sentences him to probation. Many of the Rivers' friends have been killed. "Bird Leg," a friend of Lafayette and Pharoah, is shot by a rival gang member. Craig Davis, mistaken for a gang member, is shot by an agent of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. The family knows many others who have lost friends and relatives to violence. Conditions are slightly improving for Lafayette and Pharoah. A trust fund has been set up for the boys with proceeds form the sales of There Are No Children Here. Pharoah now attends a private school and is excelling in his classes. Lafayette no longer associates with gangs and is obtaining better grades in school.
The author bases his story on the lives of one family and their close friends. The author uses the collective experiences of the Riverses to help the reader understand the plight of the inner-city poor. The author interviewed the family on their thoughts and opinions and compiled a short history of the family. The author writes articles on inner-city conditions for The Wall Street Journal. This gives the author experience to deal with his subject matter. The author is willing to go to dangerous areas to report on his subjects. The author believes that change should be taking place in the Chicago Housing Projects. The Chicago Housing Authority does not take care of the projects it is assigned to maintain. The Chicago Housing Authority often does not have the necessary funds to maintain the buildings. Workers at the Chicago Housing Authority are often more concerned with covering up their mistakes in the face of scandal than helping maintain the project buildings. The author believes that not enough is being done to correct problems in the projects. He believes that the Chicago Housing Authority should be doing more to stop the problems, especially at Henry Horner Homes. The author believes that the residents should also be doing more to help stop the deterioration of their neighborhoods. The residents of the projects ruin their buildings in order to sell the spare parts they steal. Many residents are members of gangs. Gang members break into apartments to steal miscellaneous valuables and items from them. Gang members are constantly fighting with each other. Some gangs knock large holes between walls in apartments to provide escape routes should they be fleeing from the police. Many of the residents do not practice good housekeeping, which allows their apartments to deteriorate.
The purpose of the book is to explain the conditions of the inner-city poor. Writing on this subject is important because it informs readers of the substandard living conditions of subsidized housing. The author believes living conditions in subsidized housing are far below average. The author believes readers should know the plight, history, condition, and management of inner-city housing and its residents. If readers are more aware of inner-city conditions, they can better help to formulate a solution to the problem. Poor people affect everyone in many different ways. All of the residents of inner-city housing projects are poor. Many of the residents rely on welfare and other forms of federal assistance for support, sometimes resorting to theft as a means of support. This causes people to go to such measures as security systems and increased police protection. High violence rates cause residents to mistrust one another. Those who are not poor are affected by poor people because of the money they must pay in taxes to support the poor. Citizens must pay taxes to keep welfare and other federal assistance programs in operation. Citizens must also pay higher taxes for increased police coverage to control high crime areas. The author's message to the reader is that the inner-city poor affect the lives of everyone. The author believes poor persons affect everyone; therefore, everyone should help to find a solution to help combat poverty. Several methods may be used to help curb poverty. Federal assistance can be used to help families while they are in college learning to provide for themselves. Although many families are helped by welfare and use it to improve their living conditions, others abuse it. Some poor persons use welfare money to buy drugs. Many poor families have numerous children that they cannot afford to care for without assistance. LaJoe has seven children and relies on welfare to support them. Two of LaJoe's children have children of their own that they are too poor to care for without assistance. Dawn, a friend of the Riverses, cannot care for her five children.
The evaluation and recommendation for the book is based on its subject matter. The book is easy to read. The ideas in the book are presented in an easy to understand matter. The vocabulary in the book is easy to understand by readers with a moderate reading level, although it does contain varied use of ethnic slang. The book would be recommended to friends. The book makes for an interesting subject that affects the lives of everyone and the United States economy. Many readers will find the book interesting. The book is worthy of reading because the author did well researching his subjects and reporting on them. The author spent time with his subjects. Many readers will find the book enjoyable; it makes for interesting debate on the causes of America's poor and their housing conditions. The lives of the persons discussed in the book are interesting. The information in the book is credible. Some information in the book has the possibility of being biased. The author developed a friendship with his subjects over the course of his research. Due to the friendship, the possibility exists of a biased relationship between the events recorded in the book and those that actually occurred. The author has painstakingly researched the information for the book. The author took descriptions of events from several different witnesses for any one particular event. The author has contacted numerous agencies such as the Coroner's Office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, the Chicago Housing Authority, and the Chicago Police Department. The book is an accurate and interesting description of the lives of the inner-city poor and could be used as an accurate account of the lives of the inner-city poor.
Matthew Havens - 12/17/98 - Book Report - There Are No Children Here