From the Publisher
Judith Newman The New York Times Book Review Our America is meant to stir the mind and break the heart, and it does just that.
Louise Kiernan Chicago Tribune Heart-cracking power....Our America stands out because its voices spill out virtually unrestrained raw, ugly and eloquent.
D. Cooper Philadelphia Inquirer A remarkable book....Jones and Newman present observations that draw empathy and surprise.
General Colin L. Powell LeAlan Jones and Lloyd Newman have told us a story that should tear at our hearts. They speak of a 'different America.' One where crime, drugs, lack of jobs, and every imaginable social ill work to break the human spirit. Some youngsters rise above it, but too many of them don't have a chance. They are trapped. Read this moving chronicle and resolve to help a young person in need in your community to believe in the American dream.
Frank McCourt Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Angela's Ashes You won't reach the last page of Our America without wondering what country this book is about. The young authors, LeAlan Jones and Lloyd Newman, have given us dispatches from hell, bleak and numbing as anything from Vietnam. You despair of the waste of young lives but hope that at least two will be saved: the sensitive and perceptive young Jones and Newman. We rage and pray for them and their generation.
Read an Excerpt
Chapter 2, The Hood
Our neighborhood is a fun neighborhood if you know what you're doing. If you act like a little kid in this neighborhood, you're not gonna last too long. 'Cause if you play childish games in the ghetto, you're gonna find a childish bullet in your childish brain. If you live in the ghetto, when you're ten you know everything you're not supposed to know. When I was ten I knew where drugs came from. I knew about every different kind of gun. I knew about sex. I was a kid in age but my mind had the reality of a grown-up, 'cause I seen these things every day!
Like when I was eight years old, my cousin Willy had a friend named Baby Tony and another friend, Little Cecil. They used to hang out watch TV, go to the park and hoop, sell drugs. They all went to jail. When Baby Tony came out he was walking through the park when a boy lit him up and blew his face off. His face was entirely blown off. And then a couple of days later Little Cecil sold somebody a dummy bag of plaster from off the walls, so the man who was using it came back and asked him for his money back. Little Cecil took off running and the man shot him. And Cecil was dead. That was both of my cousin's friends that died in one week! And I heard about this when I was eight! I had just seen Baby Tony the day before he died.
It's like Vietnam. I remember one time I was over at my auntie's house spending the night. We were playing Super Nintendo and I heard this lady say, "I heard you been looking for me, nigger!" Then she just BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! She let off about eight shots. Then I heard the other gun fire off. And we were just still there playing like nothing happened. In Vietnam, them people came back crazy. I live in Vietnam, so what you think I'm gonna be if I live in it and they just went and visited? Living around here is depressing! It's depressing! Just look outside this isn't Wally and the Beaver! - - - - - - -
It's Friday afternoon after school, and we're going to take you on a tour of our neighborhood. It's about sixty degrees today feels good out. Walking down the streets. See an abandoned building, graffiti on the wall. See some little kids playing on a little shopping cart that they got from Jewel Supermarket.
Walking by some abandoned houses looks like some Scud missiles just bombed them out. A lot of trash here glass and things. Used to be little snakes in this field in the summertime and we'd catch them. People out here pitching pennies. Houses boarded up.
Walking through puddles of water. Bums on the street. An abandoned church. A helicopter. There goes somebody we thought was dead guess he ain't dead.
By the old library, which is no longer in business there was a murder in there last year and they closed it down. See a "Rest in Peace" sign. Birds flying. There's the store that they burned down when the Bulls won the championship. Going by the gas station where they sell liquor and food. Now we see some spray paint that says: "Justice for Rodney King/Revolution Is the Only Solution."
Now we're walking in the Ida Bees, which is 50 percent boarded up. Now we're by Lloyd's house. Abandoned apartments. Brokedown basketball hoops. We see little kids just sitting around looking at us.
Now we're walking in the parking lot where they play loud music in the summertime. Little trees growing up in the concrete cracks. See a trash dumpster and graffiti. See an airplane overhead. A bum walking down the street. We're walking through the ghetto. Our neighborhood.
Copyright ©1997 by LeAlan Jones, Lloyd Newman, and David Isay