Wrong Place, Wrong Time: Trauma and Violence in the Lives of Young Black Men

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Overview

Medical school taught John Rich how to deal with physical trauma in a big city hospital but not with the disturbing fact that young black men were daily shot, stabbed, and beaten. This is Rich's account of his personal search to find sense in the juxtaposition of his life and theirs.

Young black men in cities are overwhelmingly the victims—and perpetrators—of violent crime in the United States. Troubled by this tragedy—and by his medical colleagues' apparent numbness in the face of it—Rich, a black man who grew up in relative safety and comfort, reached out to many of these young crime victims to learn why they lived in a seemingly endless cycle of violence and how it affected them. The stories they told him are unsettling—and revealing about the reality of life in American cities.

Mixing his own perspective with their seldom-heard voices, Rich relates the stories of young black men whose lives were violently disrupted—and of their struggles to heal and remain safe in an environment that both denied their trauma and blamed them for their injuries. He tells us of people such as Roy, a former drug dealer who fought to turn his life around and found himself torn between the ease of returning to the familiarity of life on the violent streets of Boston and the tenuous promise of accepting a new, less dangerous one.

Rich's poignant portrait humanizes young black men and illustrates the complexity of a situation that defies easy answers and solutions.

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Editorial Reviews

Washington Post

Those of us who spend time tracking violence and its impact on every aspect of life in urban America -- as well as anyone with an ounce of humanity -- ought to be thrilled to see a book like Wrong Place, Wrong Time come along. It looks beyond the gunplay, offering a window on urban violence by putting faces with the cold statistics and presenting stories in the victims' own words.

— Colbert I. King

Cleveland Plain Dealer

In his vital new book, Wrong Place, Wrong Time, Rich lets the reader share and differentiate among the harrowing stories of young black men cut down by violence, stories he collected during the term of a five-year, $625,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health.

— Karen R. Long

Baltimore City Paper

Wrong Place, Wrong Time calls us back to the table to see our safety as intimately connected to the safety of the young men we dismiss with cliche even as they become the prime bogeyman of our conscience in urban America.

Philadelphia Inquirer

A concise yet powerful examination of urban violence from the perspectives of those on the receiving end.

Annals of Emergency Medicine

Dr. Rich is an excellent writer. He is a passionate reporter who becomes one of his characters, as vulnerable as those he writes about.

Raleigh News and Observer

Rich does not sugarcoat the cycle of violence or portray the African-American men who populate the book as saints. Rich does holds out hope, however slim, that understanding that all human beings have more commonalities than divergences could make a difference.

Baltimore City Paper

Wrong Place, Wrong Time calls us back to the table to see our safety as intimately connected to the safety of the young men we dismiss with cliche even as they become the prime bogeyman of our conscience in urban America.

Nursing Standard

Written in a style that would make an accomplished novelist proud, the attention to detail is remarkable. Rich takes the reader with him on a voyage of discovery as he interviews each subject. The case studies are punctuated with his honest, insightful and informed reflections as he recounts the real-life experiences of young black men and their search for a way out of their almost impossible lifestyles. The case studies are condensed summaries summaries of the author's involvement with these young men over a period of years.

Washington Examiner

A remarkable and sensitive account of [the author's] lengthy interviews with boys and young men who were rushed, bloodied and on gurneys, through the doors of the emergency room.

Colbert I. King
…those of us who spend time tracking violence and its impact on every aspect of life in urban America—as well as anyone with an ounce of humanity—ought to be thrilled to see a book like Wrong Place, Wrong Time come along. It looks beyond the gunplay, offering a window on urban violence by putting faces with the cold statistics and presenting stories in the victims' own words. The author, John A. Rich…comes to the subject from the vantage point of having worked on the problem at ground zero. As a primary-care physician at Boston City Hospital, known for its care of poor folks, especially those of color, Rich saw the wounds and scars of young black patients at the height of the time when shooting victims were arriving at the emergency room with the regularity of sunrise. Although set in Boston, Wrong Place, Wrong Time could have been written about young black men in Washington, Baltimore, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Chicago or Los Angeles.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
The statistics startle: homicide death rates are more than 17 times higher for young black men than their white counterparts. Rich, chair of the department of health management and policy at the Drexel University School of Public Health, considers the impact of post-traumatic stress disorder on the survivors. His account is professional, as he finds analogies between his subjects and “combat veterans and victims of sexual assault,” and personal, as he reports “how spending hours and days with these young men transformed” him. Two particularly detailed moments stand out: one follows a young man through emergency room protocols, another follows Rich through prison visit procedures. Although Rich’s research spans two decades, he focuses most sharply upon four young men he encountered at Boston City Hospital. The “high level of violence in their communities makes young men feel physically, psychologically, and socially unsafe,” Rich observes; thus, ironically, these violent young men seem to be looking for safety in a violent world. Rich joins the ranks of Rachel Carson, Michael Harrington and Ralph Nader for bringing attention to a pervasive social problem with a fresh perspective and warranted urgency. (Dec.)
Washington Post - Colbert I. King
Those of us who spend time tracking violence and its impact on every aspect of life in urban America—as well as anyone with an ounce of humanity—ought to be thrilled to see a book like Wrong Place, Wrong Time come along. It looks beyond the gunplay, offering a window on urban violence by putting faces with the cold statistics and presenting stories in the victims' own words.
Cleveland Plain Dealer - Karen R. Long
In his vital new book, Wrong Place, Wrong Time, Rich lets the reader share and differentiate among the harrowing stories of young black men cut down by violence, stories he collected during the term of a five-year, $625,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health.
Huffington Post - Marian Wright Edelman
Powerful... Scholar-practioners like Dr. John Rich are helping find the answers we urgently need to better understand the cycle of violence and save our children from being its next victims.
Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine - Judy Schaechter
Rather than dwell on statistics or prescribe policy, the stories reveal the human toll of violence and help explain the seemingly inexplicable levels of violence in particular communities. And like all good stories, they are both entertaining and edifying.
Annals of Emergency Medicine
Dr. Rich is an excellent writer. He is a passionate reporter who becomes one of his characters, as vulnerable as those he writes about.
Nursing Standard
Written in a style that would make an accomplished novelist proud, the attention to detail is remarkable. Rich takes the reader with him on a voyage of discovery as he interviews each subject. The case studies are punctuated with his honest, insightful and informed reflections as he recounts the real-life experiences of young black men and their search for a way out of their almost impossible lifestyles. The case studies are condensed summaries summaries of the author's involvement with these young men over a period of years.
Philadelphia Inquirer
A concise yet powerful examination of urban violence from the perspectives of those on the receiving end.
Baltimore City Paper
Wrong Place, Wrong Time calls us back to the table to see our safety as intimately connected to the safety of the young men we dismiss with cliche even as they become the prime bogeyman of our conscience in urban America.
Washington Examiner
A remarkable and sensitive account of [the author's] lengthy interviews with boys and young men who were rushed, bloodied and on gurneys, through the doors of the emergency room.
Raleigh News and Observer
Rich does not sugarcoat the cycle of violence or portray the African-American men who populate the book as saints. Rich does holds out hope, however slim, that understanding that all human beings have more commonalities than divergences could make a difference.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801893636
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 10/21/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 232
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

John A. Rich, M.D., M.P.H., is the chair of and a professor in the Department of Health Management and Policy at the Drexel University School of Public Health, where he is also the director of the Center for Nonviolence and Social Justice. A 2006 MacArthur Fellow, Rich founded the Young Men's Health Clinic in Boston and is the former medical director of the Boston Public Health Commission. He was elected to the Institute of Medicine in 2009.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 Kari in Pain 6

2 Roy in Prerelease 24

3 Jimmy in the Hospital 39

4 Jimmy in the Street 68

5 In the Wrong Place 73

6 A Stone in the Heart 83

7 Roy in D.C. 111

8 Kari in the Clinic 124

9 Mark in the Neighborhood 136

10 Kari in His Grandmother's House 145

11 Jimmy in Jail 151

12 Roy in the Pizzeria 170

13 Roy Back in Touch 179

14 Roy Settles In 185

Conclusion 196

Epilogue 202

Acknowledgments 207

Note on Sources 211

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