Alex Kotlowitz, There Are No Children Here
Alex Kotlowitz's There Are No Children Here is a justly renowned work of journalism. The New York Public Library, most notably, named it one of the 150 most important books of the 20th Century, and that's not mere hyperbole. Kotlowitz deftly and sensitively details and explores the difficult lives of Lafeyette and Pharoah Rivers, two kids who live in the crime- and drug-plagued Henry Horner Homes public housing project on Chicago's tough West Side. It's an uplifting story of one family's fight to survive against overwhelming odds, and two kids' struggle to enjoy some semblance of childhood.
Given the book's age (1991) and nearly unanimous accolades, I doubt if this posting will introduce anyone to this great book for the first time or bestow any accolades more significant than the previous ones. Instead, this is more of a gentle reminder to re-read the book, or check it out if you somehow (like me) inexplicably missed it the first time around.
Here's just a taste of some of the critical raves:
San Francisco Chronicle: "This meticulous portrait of two boys in a Chicago housing project shows how much heroism is required to survive, let alone escape. Kotlowitz's story informs the heart."
The New Republic: "[This] book transcends the journalist's professional distance to capture, with extraordinary empathy, the struggle toward adulthood--without reliable, competent male role models--of Pharoah and Lafeyette Rivers..."
The Times Literary Supplement: "Kotlowitz's depiction of one family's misery is graphic and movingly personal...There is genuine humanity as well as highly skilful journalism to be found in the book."
Chicago Sun-Times: "An extraordinary glimpse into the lives of those struggling for survival and dignity in inner-city America."
Chicago Tribune: "Alex Kotlowitz joins the ranks of the important few writers on the subject of urban poverty."