17 Feb 2023


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

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The book “There are no Children Here” is one piece study on the effects of violence and poverty in the lives of an American family. In this book, Alex Kotlowitz decided to expand his research of the Rivers family that was done on behalf of the Wall Street Journal. The author puts forward the members of the Rivers family as one lot of distinct people who can adapt in different ways when faced with a difficulty in situations. The author gives account of families living in the Henry Horner Project for public housing built for the urban poor in Chicago. 

Q. 1.) 

The houses in this area are poorly managed and dilapidated ( Steinberg, 2010) . Few have phones with which to report the crimes that happen every day around them. The school is not seen as critical; a significant portion of the freshmen at the nearby secondary school won't endure their senior year. The scene shows the level of poverty that the neighborhood is exposed. The family in question is a large family living in a small house which always gets crowded during winter when the siblings show up with their partners and babies. Most of the people in the public housing projects are caught up in the vicious cycle of poverty which they cannot escape. They lack the abilities and skills that can make them earn a job. That is because most are school dropouts. The level of poverty leads to several other vices like drug addiction and violence. 

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The other important point the author talks about is violence. Most parts of Chicago is seemingly engulfed into the effects of war. The story specifies that youngsters as young as thirteen years of age are as of now occupied with violence, group enrollment, and drug handling ( Kotlowitz, 1991) . There are gangs which carry out the violence, and one of them is the Conservative vice Lords. Shootings are a common occurrence in the neighborhoods of Chicago and the worst season is summer when the numbers are high. LaJoe and her children often hide in the narrow hallway in their apartment to avoid the stray bullets which already has made holes in the walls. The author shows that Lafayette has become tired of the gangs and did his best to avoid them. The primary concern of the mother is that her children can grow up well by seeing them feed and clothed. She also looks forward to helping them get the opportunities that will make them successful as adults. The mother is trying her best to avoid the children joining the vicious cycle of neighborhood violence ( Kotlowitz, 1991)

The third point is racism. The Rivers family and the other Blacks living in the project feel abandoned, and no one cares about what happens to them regardless of the magnitude. The gangs are running the business in town with impunity, and no one cares ( Steinberg, 2010) . The CHA is poorly managed and does not raise eyebrows of the majority. In other cases, innocent young, black children are killed, and the media fails to cover, or the culprits walk freely as the law keeps silent about it ( Kotlowitz, 1991) . People in the neighborhood are arrested on wrong grounds or for crimes they did not commit. However, the Rivers family survives all these, and that becomes the miracle. As the train passes through, the passengers pull over their windows in the fear that the ghetto people with snipers would strike. In the same time, a boy playing on the tracks begin sobbing in the fear that the passengers would shoot at any trespasser. The scene describes the relations between the races in the current America. The different races, that is Blacks and Whites all hold stereotype about one another and have a separate but similar measure of terror and ignorance. 

The final point the author brings out is that any person can make it when given a chance. Despite all the ordeals that Pharoah is exposed to, he goes ahead to excel in school to counter the effects ( Kotlowitz, 1991) . He proves to be sharp in spelling and writing which wins him accolades in his studies. 

Q. 2.) 

The author, however, fails to give more support to the idea of succeeding anywhere in the world when given a chance. He just follows the lives of the two boys, and one of them seems to be doing well in the studies. However, there are several things still bringing him (Pharoah) down as far as living in the neighborhood. How he collects his data also raises more questions. The author purely depends on observation and anecdotes from the family members led by LaJoe. It is not clear whether they are telling the truth or they just give accounts on the effect of appearing as a case study. It is possible to consider that his encounter with the boys made a friendship that would impact on the study because it was difficult to make observations from an impartial scope. 

It is fascinating to note that Kotlowitz examines things that fall into the culture of poverty contention, without giving a structural claim to balance. In other words, the author overlooked the fact that the counter-balance of poverty was necessary with illustrations from structural evidence. The accounts in the books seem to be social issues rather than structural ones. The author already had in mind what he would write about when he started the observation of the family and describing the family unit. Another problem is that the author uses the tactics of emotions to make people feel for the boys in the case. The message is therefore distorted as people are focused on what could have happened to the kids later in life. 

Q. 3.) 

The ideas in There are no Children Here represent the disparity in the American society. The racial hard lines are evident in this books as illustrated by the blacks being neglected to suffer in the valley as the affluent whites build their mansions on the hill facing the Valley ( Steinberg, 2010) . The poor have no rights in such a society as the family gets mistreatment when one of the boys is charged in court for drug-related crimes. There is a big rift between the rich and the poor and the violence is what connects them together. The once thriving Henry Horner Project is now vanishing into the rot. The project has seen budget cuts from the government which suggests that the politicians also don’t care about what the then administration started. The project was once booming with troops and community gardens ( Steinberg, 2010) . That was when Reagan was in power and spread the safety net into the west coast neighborhood. But once Reagan reign was over, the safety nets started getting holes which continued to eat away the area until it became almost uninhabitable in the eighties. The social programs collapsed as the budget was cut. There is social disorganization and inequality in the United States as the book depicts. In short, the individualistic culture of America has brought about the difficulties in the families living in such conditions as they no one thinks about them ( Steinberg, 2010)

Q. 4.) 

In conclusion, the book is an excellent piece on waking America up to the realities happening in the dark. It exposes the dark side of America. There is the differentiation of the citizens regarding the class. Thus the ones living in the slums are stereotyped as “underclass ( Steinberg, 2010) .” The dividing politics surrounding the building of the public housing made them built but not maintained. The occupants now feel like they were thrown into hell by then but it was not visible. 


Kotlowitz, A. (1991).   There are no children here: The story of two boys growing up in the other America . Anchor. 

Steinberg, S. (2010). The myth of concentrated poverty.   The integration debate: Competing futures for American cities , 213-227. 

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