Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago

Overview

Through two award-winning National Public Radio documentaries, and now this powerful book, LeAlan Jones and Lloyd Newman have made it their mission to be loud voices from one of this country's darkest places, Chicago's Ida B. Wells housing project. Set against the stunning photographs of a talented young photographer from the projects, Our America evokes the unforgiving world of these two amazing young men, and their struggle to survive unrelenting tragedy. With a gift for clear-eyed journalism, they tell their ...

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Overview

Through two award-winning National Public Radio documentaries, and now this powerful book, LeAlan Jones and Lloyd Newman have made it their mission to be loud voices from one of this country's darkest places, Chicago's Ida B. Wells housing project. Set against the stunning photographs of a talented young photographer from the projects, Our America evokes the unforgiving world of these two amazing young men, and their struggle to survive unrelenting tragedy. With a gift for clear-eyed journalism, they tell their own stories and others, including that of the death of Eric Morse, a five-year-old who was dropped to his death from the fourteenth floor of an Ida B. Wells apartment building by two other little boys.
Sometimes funny, often painful, but always charged with their dream of Our America, LeAlan Jones and Lloyd Newman reach out to grab your attention and break your heart.

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Editorial Reviews

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.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780671004644
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Publication date: 5/1/1998
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 214,439
  • Lexile: 750L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

LeAlan Jones attends Florida State University, where he is majoring in criminology. LeAlan is the National Junior Spokesperson for No Dope Express and has lectured across the country. His honors for the radio documentaries Ghetto Life 101 and Remorse include the Livingston Award, the George Foster Peabody Award, and the grand prize from the Robert F. Kennedy journalism Awards — the first time a radio program has ever received that honor.

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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

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Table of Contents

Preface by Dr. Cornel West

Acknowledgments

Introduction by David Isay

Author's Note

A Ghetto Glossary

Part I: Life — 1993

1. The Beginning

2. The 'Hood

3. School

4. Kicking It

5. LeAlan

6. Lloyd

7. Ghetto Getaway

8. Peace Out: 1993

Part II: Death — 1995

9. Messengers

10. The Scene of the Crime

11. From the Outside, Looking In

12. A Breakthrough

13. Juvenile Justice

14. Falling Through the Cracks

15. Both Sides of the Law

16. Shorties in the 'Hood

17. Closer Than We Imagined

18. Remorse

Part III: Life — 1996

19. The Maze

20. The 'Hood

21. School

22. LeAlan

23. Lloyd

24. Parting Words

25. Our America

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 51 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Excellent Read, really makes you think

    This book is an excellent read. Very easy to understand yet hard to comprehend, unless you yourself live in this life style. It is hard to image what these 5th graders, Lloyd and LeAlan had to endure. It is a heart felt book this speaks the truth about what these kids had to go through everyday. Gives great hope and inspiration to those who live in similar situations.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2007

    Our America

    ¿Our America¿ by LeAlan Jones, Lloyd Newman, and David Isay This very interesting story was about two young boys living in the projects on the south side of Chicago. They experienced a lot of violence in their neighborhood that prevents them from escaping the hard streets. In this story they record fellow residents around their neighborhood to get their perspective of the ghetto life. This book is really good because some of the things that are talked about in this book may be happening in your life. You should read it. These boys 'LeAlan Jones and Lloyd Newman' are two of the few boys trying to make it somewhere in life, but with all the violence who knows where they will end up?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2007

    Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago

    Our America by Le Alan and Lloyd Newman with David Isay Our America is a really good book. It talks about all the problems they went through and all the crime in their community in the Ida B. Wells. My opinion on this book is that you should read it talks about the death of a young 5 year old who was thrown out the fourteenth window because he wouldn¿t steel candy for some kids this happen in the Ida B wells. This is tuff that people could go threw. I recommend this book because it can really speak to you about stuff that can happen to you really recommend this book for you to read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2007

    Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago

    The book ¿Our America¿ by Le Alan Jones and Lloyd Newman with David Isay is a good book. This book is about the point of view of the Residents in the Ida B. Wells. Many Residents describe the way that the Ida B. Wells use to be and in what ways it changed. Le Alan Jones and Lloyd Newman also investigated the death of Eric Morse. As they investigated they interviewed the neighbors and some of the close people to Eric and Johnny and Tyrone. Johnny was a ten-year old boy who was known to commit the crime of Eric Morse. Tyrone was a eleven-years old boy who was also known to commit the crime of Eric Morse. I think that this book changed my point of view in the way that I look at life. Now I¿m thankful that I have a family next to me. I¿m also thankful that I live in a good neighborhood and I have an education. I gave this book a 5/5 stars. I give this book 5 stars because I loved it. Its exciting and it makes you keep on wanting to read it. Its also interesting the point of view of the people who live in that neighborhood.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2007

    Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago

    I think Our America was a great book. This book was written by Le Alan Jones and Lloyd Newman along with David Isay. This story told about the lives of Le Alan Jones and his friend Lloyd Newman. They record their lives for a week using tape recorders. They interview friends and family members and describe themselves. They also face challenges such as death, life, drugs, gangs, violence, and family issues. This story could give you an idea of what life was like back then. I recommend you get this book. It¿s educational. You may learn something from it. I know I did. Be sure you don¿t do things you know are wrong. I would definitely give the story five stars.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2007

    Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago

    ¿Our America¿ is talking about two boys who were living in the Southside of Chicago which are LeAlan and Lloyd. LeAlan and Lloyd knew each other since they were in middle school and they are best friends too. For making this book, ¿Our America,¿ they were interviewing people like their family, friends, and neighborhood and talked about their life when they were children and like the boy who got thrown off from the window, etc. After I finished reading this book, I think this is such as a good book to read because they talked a lot of stuff that is interesting me and made me know what should be doing or not. So I recommend you to read this book since it is a good book to read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2007

    Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago

    The book ¿Our America¿ is one of the best books I have ever read. Its about drugs, gangs, killing, and about life. The setting takes place in the Ida B. Wells, where two young boys, LeAlan Jones and Lloyd Newman, go into a program that gives them a tape recorder. So they start walking around and record people and what they have to say about life. I really liked this book, I really recommend it to anyone who likes a book about life really is. Out of five stars I will give it a five because it¿s great.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2007

    Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago

    Our America was writing by La Alan Jones and Lloyd Newman with David Isay. The book is about these two boys, that they live in the South Side of Chicago. The Ida. B Wall is these two young men struggle with unbeliever thing take place. They tell their own stories and other things that happened in the Wells. The tragedy of Eric Morse, a five-old boy who was dropped to his death, forms the fourteenth floor of an Ida. B walls apartment building by two other little boys. I recommend this book because sometime it is funny and other it is painful. These two boys try to let us in their world of how it looks in their neighborhood.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2007

    Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago

    This book was about two young guys that lived in the south side of Chicago. They talk about their lives and what happens around their neighborhood. There are shootings everyday so you have to be careful and there will be people doing drugs and trying to get children and teenagers like LeAlan and Lloyd to do drugs. The main characters of this book is LeAlan Jones and Lloyd Newman, they are 13-14 year old reporters that go to the same school. They talk about their life in middle school and what goes on as they write their reports. They interview many people about an incident that happened in their neighborhood. I enjoyed reading this book because it has taught me about a lot of things and what goes on in different places of Chicago. I would recommend this book to people around the ages of 14+ because of how some of the people they interview use their language. I gave this book 4/5 stars because I liked this book more then I liked the other books I read and because it is about two kids from Chicago, where I live. This story was also true, all the stuff they say in this book really happened.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2007

    Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago

    Our America Title: Our America Authors: Le Alan Jones, Lloyd Newman, and David Isay This book takes place in Chicago on the year 1993. A radio reporter gave these two boys out of about one-thousand other youngsters a tape recorder. To record their lives for seven days. These two boys happen to be Le Alan and Lloyd. They must record their lives from the time they wake up to the time they go to sleep. They live in the Southside of Chicago in the IDA B Wells projects. They record things like their families and their lives and what happens in school and the streets. Then when they stop recording for the radio reporter they make their own. They try to investigate the death Eric Morse. A five year old who was dropped from a fourteenth floor building. This book is great because it talks about the life on the Southside of Chicago and how families are hurt because of gang violence. I really recommend this book to any reader because it really opened my mind to think of how life really is in the Southside of Chicago.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2007

    Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago

    Our America book review by Le Alan Jones and Lloyd Newman with Davis Isay The book is base on two kids Le Alan Jones and Lloyd Newman. Both Le Alan Lloyd live in Chicago on the Southside of Ida B. wells Le Alan has his mom who is sick from her head and his grandma. Le Alan does well in school. Lloyd has his two sisters that take care of him. Lloyd still has his father but him like to drink a lot. His mothers pass away. Lloyd has trouble in school. Le Alan and Lloyd talk about the streets that change. They interview people and about their life. Le Alan and Lloyd go place to place to talk to people about were they live. They also talk about when some two kids drop a five year old kid name Eric Morse. The two kids drop him from the 14th floor building. It¿s a good book. I recommend this book to people.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2007

    Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago

    ¿Our America,¿ is a book about two boys, LelAlan Jones and Lloyd Newman, who grow up in the getto. The two boys both grow up in the Iba B. Wells were drugs, gangs and violence can be found just about anywhere. The two boys took up journalism to help them stay off the streets and away from gangs. The two boy would go around the neighborhood interviewing people for fun when they were in grade school. When the two boys were freshmen in high school, a boy named Eric Morse was throw out of a fourteen story window, so the boys decided to go and interview neighbors to see what really happened that day. When I first read this book I thought it was a very good book. I like how the story describes the points of view of the two boys on living in the getto. From a scale of one to five I give it a four, so if you¿re into these kinds of books I recommend Our America to you.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2007

    Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago

    Our America is a very good book. I recommend Our America to everyone. The reason why this book I recommend this book is because it is a very interesting book that talks about reality. This book is a good book for people that their life relate this, ¿The Ghetto Life.¿ I think that this is the most interesting book I have read so far. This might be one of the most interesting ones because it is such a realistic book that u keep reading and reading. Sometimes you feel like if you were part of the book. Well this is about two kids that live in the Ida B. Wells and they want to be reporters. These two kids are LeAlan Jones and Lloyd Newman. Their biggest investigation is about a five year old name Eric Morse that got thrown out of a window from the 14th floor. So Lloyd and LeAlan take over this case by investigating people from the neighbor hood to see what really happened with Eric and why he must have gotten thrown out t of the 14th floor.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2007

    the greatst book

    The book Our America written by LeAlan Jones, Lloyd Newman, and with the help of David Isay this book follows the lives of LeAlan and Lloyd two Boys living in the Southside of Chicago. LeAlan and Lloyd were two best friends that were chosen by David Isay out Of thousands of kids to record their lives. It tells how Lloyd lives in the Ida B. Wells housing project, and how LeAlan lives with his family not far from Lloyd¿s houses. This book can be related to all kids in certain ways, like when Lloyd lost his mother, or when LeAlan never meet his father and grew up without one. When Lloyd¿s mom died his dad Started to drink, and LeAlan¿s mom has a mental illness so couldn¿t take care of him and his sister so his grandma took custody of them for they wouldn¿t go to a foster home. All this took place in the city of Chicago were they grew up and still live. As they finished the recording of their lives a new case came up that only they could get information on. The death of Eric Morse, they gathered once again and started investigating to find out why he was killed, if it was an accident or on purpose. I recommend this book to kids with problems like theirs so they see how they over came the experience

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2007

    Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago

    Our America is a very good book to read because it tells you a lot about how there life was and use to be. The two main characters are LeAlan and Lloyd Newman. These two will take you into a world that some of you probably didn¿t even know was possible, a place that¿s called ¿the Ida B. Wells.¿ In the story they interview people about the tragic death of Erik Morris, a 5 year old little boy that got thrown off a 14-story building on the 14th floor. This took place in there neighborhood and also with some people they knew were involved. As you read this I think you will really learn how to appreciate you¿re your life, like what you have now compared to the people living in the ¿Ida B.Wells.¿ I definitely recommend this book because to me its like something you would have never thought you would read about, especially with it being real also. This book probably wont completely change your life but it will most likely make you want to take a closer look right now at where your life is going and if that¿s really how you want your life to be lived

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2007

    Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago

    After reading the book our America by David issay, LeAlan Jones, and Lloyd Newman, I felt like reading the book again. The book is about two boys (Lloyd Newman LeAlan Jones) living in the Southside of Chicago discussing about drugs, gangs, violence, and the death of five year old Eric Morse While struggling with their own life conflicts. Even though they live in a bad neighborhood (Ida b. wells) they continue to strive their way out. In the second part of the story the two boys investigate the death of Eric Morse, but find something interesting. In the end I believe that this is a great book and if you haven¿t read this book you should get a copy now.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2007

    Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago

    The book we read was Our America by LeAlan Jones, Lloyd Newman and David Isay. This book was about to kids LeAlan and Lloyd who knew each other since the first grade. When they got to 8th grade they were chosen to right a documentary from there lives living in the ghetto. They introduce us to the ghetto and the obstacles they face with everyday violence, drugs, ect. The worst thing was the death of Eric Morse that was killed by two kids. This book I really recommend reading this book. I give this book 5 stars it is very cool book to read for someone who likes action and drama but overall its awesome.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2007

    Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago

    The book Our America is about two boys LeAlan and Lloyd. The y both are best friends they hang out together and go where ever they want to go . They both lived in the South Side of Chicago in the Ida B. Wells

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2007

    Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago

    OUR AMERICA After reading Our America I was very satisfied with the story. Which talked about LeAlan Jones and Lloyd Newman living in the Southside of Chicago? That discuss about drug use, violence, and the death investigation about Eric Morse. This young boy¿s try really hard to find out what exactly went on the day of Eric¿s Morse death. They interviewed mostly everybody at the Ida. B Wells were this had happened. I definitely recommend this book because you learn many things that probably never experienced before e and also it becomes very interesting. This story surprised me in a lot of ways, because I learned many things.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2007

    Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago

    Our America is a great book it is about two young African American boys who live in the ghetto. These boys are not thugs or gang members they are just ordinary kids living in a bad neighborhood. I enjoyed this book very much because it talks about the actual lives of people who live in the ghetto, and face challenges like the ones they went through. After reading the book I realized that the way wee live is some what similar to my life over here. That made me realize that they had it worse and I saw what they had to go through. Like the ¿shorty¿¿ who carried a gun and sold drugs. That part was shocking to me because that boy was very young..

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