Children Here by Alex Kotlowitz This True Book Review

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¶ … Children Here by Alex Kotlowitz

This true story focusing on Lafayette and Pharaoh Rivers, pre-teen brothers living in Chicago's Henry Horner Homes public housing project, seems too gruesome to be real. The family not only lives in poverty, but Lafayette and Pharaoh, along with their single mother and their siblings, have to struggle each day to keep themselves alive. Alex Kotlowitz provides a vivid and eye-opening account of what this family is faced with in order to survive.

Kotlowitz makes excellent use of the crumbling, decaying neighborhood of the projects as a metaphor for our current social condition - it's not just neighborhoods that crumble; families do, too, especially when they are forced to live in an atmosphere of violence and hatred. This is a book that will horrify many readers, especially those who have never been "up close and personal" with such sordid living conditions. The social atmosphere that surrounds this family is something that few of us ever experience or truly comprehend.

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The slums of Chicago are a dark contrast to the many affluent neighborhoods in this country, and Alex Kotlowitz makes an indelible impression as he describes the conditions these two boys encounter as they try to live their lives amid gang wars, drugs, poverty, and government bureaucracy that seems to turn a blind eye to their plight. Things that many of us take for granted are part of Lafayette's and Pharaoh's daily struggle - not having a father who can provide for them, both emotionally and financially; trying to get an education in an atmosphere where many children are labeled failures without being given a chance to prove otherwise; and just being able to live their lives feeling safe, secure and cared for.

Book Review on Children Here by Alex Kotlowitz This True Assignment

We are forced to acknowledge that these boys have little chance for success when they live day-to-day with the realization that people (including their friends) are routinely killed in gang fights - that they regard gang shootings and death as a "normal" part of life -- and it almost seems they have no other avenue than to get caught up in a life of crime. The brutal violence that is overwhelmingly a part of these boys' lives shows us how seemingly impossible it is for anyone to avoid some brush with death, whether or not that person is a gang member. How can any child living under such conditions have a normal childhood? Kotlowitz forces us to wake up our social consciousness and fully acknowledge the continuing pattern of inner-city violence and poverty that is so inescapable for this family and others who live in the projects.

One thing that disturbs me, however, is that Kotlowitz hardly mentions the role of the children's father or his responsibility for his children. Is it all the fault… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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"Children Here by Alex Kotlowitz This True."  Essaytown.com.  February 22, 2002.  Accessed October 29, 2020.
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