Oh, man...I had to read this for a college class and was bummed out. UNTIL I started to read it. WOW. Powerful, scary, uplifting, terrifying, sad, joyful, and true. I looked around my single dorm room a lot as I read it, amazed at all I had while wondering how these people who lived in the projects dealt with having almost nothing. As well as the poverty they had to deal with, there was also drug abuse, police harassment, violence, emotional insecurity, theft...so horrifying, and even more so when you remember that it is a true story.
But it's not all bleak. These are children, after all, and children have a resiliency, a bouyancy of spirit that keeps them optimistic and sometimes unaware of the seriousness of the lives lived around them. That's what these children bring to their mother's life: HOPE.
This is one of my favorite books. It's so amazing that Alex Kotlowitz was able to experience these kids lives and be able to share it with the world. Most People are oblivious to the things that go on in Henry Horner or any other project in America and this book shows the every day struggle that "The Other America" goes through. At times I felt sick to my stomach while reading this book but it's the realness that affects you most of all. This book details building conditions (the way they were built to repairs never being made), violence and crime (the lack of police, also murders and gang activity), and families caught up in the middle trying to raise their kids the best they can with what they had.
I was pleasantly surprised on how much I enjoyed this book. It is about 2 young brothers and their family growing up in "the projects". Some of the stuff in the book will break your heart. The book reads more like adocumentary than a novel but very easy to follow along.
This would make a great book for a high school reading assignment.
The author is well experienced and fell into this story, becoming interested after helping out a friend with a some text to go with his photos. Chicago, the Henry Horner Homes Project. Read the chapter on the basement, if you dare.
Though nearly 30 years have passed since the author followed Lafayette, Pharaoh and their family, this is still very much true to day in some parts of the country. As a social worker, this hit me to my core, but didn't surprise me.
My hope is that we, as communities, can do better to take care of our people and that we can truly work to end disparities that set up this divide in the first place.