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There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing up in the Other America

There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing up in the Other America

4.7 38
by Alex Kotlowitz

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This is the moving and powerful account of two  remarkable boys struggling to survive in Chicago's  Henry Horner Homes, a public housing complex  disfigured by crime and neglect.


This is the moving and powerful account of two  remarkable boys struggling to survive in Chicago's  Henry Horner Homes, a public housing complex  disfigured by crime and neglect.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An extraordinary glimpse into the lives of those struggling for survival and dignity in inner-city America."—Chicago Sun-Times

"Alex Kotlowitz’s story informs the heart. His meticulous portrait of two boys in a Chicago housing project shows how much heroism is required to survive, let alone escape."—The New York Times

"Alex Kotlowitz  joins the ranks of the important few writers on the  subiect of urban poverty."—Chicago Tribune

"Kotlowitz has achieved a triumph of empathy as well as a significant feat of reporting."—Los Angeles Times

"A powerful argument against the politics of inertia, hopelessness, and greed, and for a real war on poverty, violence, and racism in our country."—Tracy Kidder, author of Among the Schoolchildren

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The devastating story of brothers Lafayette and Pharoah Rivers, children of the Chicago ghetto, is powerfully told here by Kotlowitz, a Wall Street Journal reporter who first met the boys in 1985 when they were 10 and seven, respectively. Their family includes a mother, a frequently absent father, an older brother and younger triplets. We witness the horrors of growing up in an ill-maintained housing project tyrannized by drug gangs and where murders and shootings frequently occur. Lafayette tries to cope by stifling his emotions and turning himself into an automaton, while Pharoah first attempts to regress into early childhood and then finds a way out by excelling at school. Kotlowitz's affecting report does not have a ``neat and tidy ending. . . . It is, instead, about a beginning, the dawning of two lives.'' These are lives at a crossroads, not totally without hope of triumphing over their origin. ( Apr .
Library Journal
In this powerful and moving book (an expansion of his 1988 Wall Street Journal series), reporter Kotlowitz traces two years in the lives of ten-year-old Lafeyette and seven-year-old Pharoah Rivers as they struggle to beat the odds and grow up in one of Chicago's worst housing projects. Confronted with violent gangs, persistent poverty, and personal tragedies (a beloved older brother is convicted on robbery charges), the brothers differ in their attempts to survive. Lafeyette replaces his frequently absent father as the man of the house, trying to help his mother and to protect his younger siblings from the dangers of the project. Sensitive and imaginative Pharoah seeks escape through his daydreams and schoolwork. Unless they have hearts of stone, few readers will fail to become emotionally involved with these boys, as Kotlowitz did. Proceeds from the book's sales will be used to set up a trust fund for them, and Oprah Winfrey has bought the film rights. Highly recommended.-- Wilda Williams, ``Library Journal''
School Library Journal
YA-- Life in Chicago's Henry Horner housing project robbed Lafeyette and Pharoah Rivers of their childhood and innocence. The crowded apartment housed LaJoe, six of her eight children, and a procession of needy relatives and friends. Bleaker than the overcrowding was the physical condition of the apartment; conditions outside were worse. Drug use, crime, shootings, and other violence were commonplace. Retribution sure and swift followed if someone saw or knew too much. Through his extensive research and his intimate friendship with the Rivers family, Kotlowitz paints a poignant, heartbreaking picture of life in the inner-city ghetto and the overwhelming odds children must overcome to break out of the vicious cycle of poverty and crime. A must-read for everyone. --Grace Baun, R. E. Lee High Sch . , Springfield, VA

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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)
970L (what's this?)

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There Are No Children Here 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 38 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
To truly understand how a book can open your eyes and give you a new perspective, I feel you have to read the book, There Are No Children Here, by Alex Kotlowitz. The book followed the story of two young boys living in a Chicago housing project. The characters, Lafeyette and Pharoah, are faced with struggles no children should have to deal with. From the lure of gangs to family drug problems, the children are constantly fighting the pressures of the neighborhood. They watch their brothers and sisters being sent to jail, and their young friends being shot and killed in the very streets they live on. The youngest boy Pharoah was especially likeable due to his ability to keep his innocence. In contrast, Lafeyette was stern and took on much responsibility for his family by trying to protect them. The author, Alex Kotlowitz, did a wonderful job in making the characters personalities known to the reader. He did this by having quotes and responses from the boys that reflect their personality. What made the book really effective was the amount of facts and research that Kotlowitz put into the book. He gave crucial information that provided the reader with strong background knowledge on the neighborhood. As the story progressed with new topics, for example the change in topic from gang violence to the schooling system, Kotlowitz transitions by describing the topics in detail. He connects the boy's story with the current situation of their school, the court system, and correctional facilities. By supplying the reader with facts, the book becomes more interesting because it informs us on what is going on in our city. While reading, I was appalled by the amount of violence in the neighborhood. Reading about it, it sounds almost as if it is in another country. It is mind-boggling to think that this violence is only miles away from my own quite neighborhood. Overall this book was very interesting to read because the story line is exciting, and it is informative. I normally am not interested in fiction books but Alex Kotlowitz surprised me with this life changing book. There Are No Children Here opened my eyes to a new world and taught me never to take my own life for granted.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book is great. It talk about two black boy' life in the city has a lot of criminal and gang.Two black boy are Lafeyette and Pharoah.Although they live in bad environment, they aren't affected. They have to try to protect their life and their family in the dangerous city. Two boy meet a lot of trouble and difficult where they live. However, they still have good friends,and their friend help them have many experience to live in the dangerous city.Lafeyettle do anything to him and his brother escape the bad life.
Alexiac4 More than 1 year ago
This book follows the lives of two brothers growing up in a gang affiliated neighborhood in the Chicago projects. The two young boys, Lafeyette and Pharoah, are forced to grow up quickly because they were born into a neighborhood that is known for gangs, drugs, and violence. The author is able to create an image through these boys story that validates that there are actually no children here because the children have to, in most cases, mature fast and make decisions that most adults do not have to. The children in this book also have to try to stay away from the peer pressure of gangs and drugs that lure in their neighborhood. I enjoyed how this book told a story and added other information about what was going on at the time in the Henry Horner Homes. After reading this book, I was able to gain a greater understanding of how houses in the projects are set up, and how many of the children that live their end up dead or in jail by their eighteenth birthday. I also enjoyed reading this book because it made me feel more appreciative of what I have in life and that I do not have to go through what Lafeyette and Pharoah did such as having friends get killed or having a loved one get sent to jail. This book is now one of my favorite books because while reading it I could not put it down, and I became connected with the characters hoping that they would one day make it out of the projects to get away from the chaos. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is captivating, eye-opening, and leaves you wanting to hug these two boys. I found myself cheering and routing this family on while I got to learn about a truly stratified society. I very much recommend
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was assigned for a Graduate class. We had to apply Germain and Gitternman's Ecological Model to the characters in the book. It helped me see how our environment directly affects how we are able to cope, how we act, and how we generalize what we go through to the rest of the world. The book is an extremely easy read and you are drawn to the characters and develop a sense of caring for them. It is also a good narrative of how life is living in poverty, violence, and social prejudice (and racial). It is heartbreaking, full of hope, harrowing, and unforgettable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
There Are No Children Here is the true story of two boys, Lafeyette and Pharoah Rivers, growing up and struggling to overcome the hardships presented in the projects. The story takes place in the surrounding neighborhoods in the inner city of Chicago in the summer of 1987, in an abandon housing project called the Henry Horner Homes. The author, Alex Kotlowitz, receives permission from the boys’ mother to watch them for two years, with the purpose to expose the problematic lifestyles in “the other America” that others pay no heed to. These boys go through life learning how to dodge bullets and gangbangers, rather than how to play ball like the children living in the suburbs. Like most families in the projects, the Rivers family was lead by one guardian, their mother LaJoe. With three older siblings already in and out of jail, Lafeyette, who is only 11, takes on the responsibility of protecting his younger siblings, including Pharoah. Unlike most children, these boys had no intentions to become involved in drugs, gangs, and robberies. But the biggest struggles they faced was their own inner demons that could cause them to give up on their dreams and fall into the corruption of the projects. As the boys cope with the pressure from the other children around them, they focus hard on staying above it all, especially Pharoah. His innocence, love for school, and hate of devastation separate him from the children. Unlike Lafeyette, who looses hope after the loss of his close friends and at some points it seems as if he won’t make it. Alex Kotlowitz provides great detail about the young boys, their horrid conditions, and the struggles they strive to overcome. The amount of violence and lost opportunity is unimaginable, but seems normal to these children. Nevertheless, the love and support these boys have for each other is amazing, and the reason they have such dedication. Overall, I would recommend this book as it opened my eyes to the unknown struggle many children face while telling an interesting, true story. It showed me to appreciate my life and family and not take life for granted.
quepaige More than 1 year ago
Just a sample of what povety can do to a child...
Tigerlily94 More than 1 year ago
This book was a very good book. At first I thought that it was going to be a bad book, but as i got to know the people I found that this was an amazing story and that it is true just blows my mind that kids have to deal with neighborhood shootings every day and act like they are no big deal. I strongly recommend it to anyone. It has all the aspects that a good book needs; facts, struggles, a little romance and most importantly a strong family bond that you learn to rely on. This book has put many things into perspective for me. I realized that my problems are nothing compared to Pharoah's and Lafeyette's. I worry about the next day's homework and what I will wear to school tomorrow. While they have to worry about if they will make it home at all. This book will have an impact on my life because I was a very inspirational book in the messages about holding on to your family because when everything goes wrong you know that you can rely on them.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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DD75 More than 1 year ago
Its a shame how many kids are at a disadvantage from birth. I have much respect for Mr. Kotlowitz for trying to be part of the solution and not adding on to the problems.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I choose to read There Are No Children Here because it was a very interesting book dealing with the poverty life of a family trying to survive the daily hardships in a rough area of Chicago. When reading this book I thought it was very interesting on how the two brother¿s pharaoh and Lafayette had two options when growing up. You could either go to school, and not give in to the local gang or you could be persuaded by the younger recruits to work for the drug lords. When reading this book you get captured to the ways the two brothers live and how they stick together throughout the story. As the older brother Lafayette looks out for his younger brother telling him right from wrong I felt disappointed when he starts to get into trouble by hanging out with the wrong crowd. When reading about the mother in this story whose name is Lajoe it shows how hard she really has it, caring for all of the people in her family and wanting her children to grow up to complete there education and leave there horrible neighborhood. There is a lot of violence in this book dealing with the gangbanging and daily shootings that occur making everyone scared to go outside and even go for a walk .If you like to read books that excite you, and want you to read more this book would be for you. I would recommend this book to anyone that likes adventure and excitement dealing with all of the problems that go on.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I choose There Are No Children Here because it was a nonfiction biography,and because of its high reviews. It was a very enjoyable book.The book really opened my eyes more into the lives of children growing up in poverty as well as in the ghetto. I also learned alot about Chihcago that I never knew.
Guest More than 1 year ago
THERE ARE NO CHILDREN HERE This book is about two kids and their family growing up in the Henry Horner Projects. The boys¿ names are Pharaoh and Lafayette. The boys¿ mother is named Lajoe. Lajoe, as any caring mother would, tried to keep her kids out of trouble and in school, but they faced the fact that were they lived was not safe at all. They suffered from poverty, Lajoe had very little money. Pharaoh and Lafayette want to go to college. Their dream is to leave the projects and move into a nicer safer place. Most of the people in the complex would never open their windows because they feared that bullets might come flying in. Most of the gang members consist of boys as young as thirteen. Kids that age were already shooting, fighting, doing drugs, gangbanging and drinking. It was difficult living in the projects because nothing ever changed. Paul, the kids¿ father never helped them. He didn¿t even have a job, he only made things worse. He sold his kid¿s T.V for drugs. I think that the title, There Are No Children Here means that there are no children there in the projects because of the many things they see that there are not suppose to. That¿s why most of them grow up as bad adults because of the killing, drugs, shooting, and fighting that they saw as kids. Many people don¿t survive because of the dangers in the projects. There is more to it, but you have to read to find out. I hope you read There Are No Children Here to find out more about the other America. I would recommend this book to someone because it¿s a different life style from what other people live.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought this was a great book! Very interesting and so hard to put down. Kotlowitz did a great job painting a picture of how Lafayette and Pharoah live in Chicago and the struggles that they have to face. Excellant!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book portrays an inhumane way of living and the strong bond and open relationship of 2 young boys and their mother. Although its story is told in a newspaper column-like way(of course, it IS written by a reporter), the reader can imagine ever the more clearly the subdued attitude the children have of the future and their hope of a better one. Somewhat monotonous, one can still get a good overview of their lives and their problems.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I can't wait to read this book for a second time. Even if this is not the type of book you would normally read, you will be glad when you do. I was truly inspired by Lafayette, Pharoah, and their mother.
Guest More than 1 year ago
An amazing book that will change the way you see inner city children. It helped me find my career. Heart wrenching and enraging. You only hope the author writes a follow up.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After re-reading this book for the second time I was once again moved at how Kotlowitz vividly displayed light within the darkness in the Horner homes. An excellently moving book I reccommend it! 5 stars!