There Are No Children Here – Book Review Essay

There Are No Children Here is a story of the struggles two preteen boys live with while growing up in the projects. From the first pages the scene is set amongst the all too familiar gun fire blazing through the neighborhood.

This story is of eleven year old Lafeyette and nine year old Pharoah dealing with the daily fight for survival in inner-city Chicago circa 1987. The boys are living in an apartment at the Henry Horner housing complex with their mother, LaJoe, their younger brother and sisters – the triplets, and a constant stream of people from their father Paul to their sister’s boyfriend’s brother staying on and off with them.Henry Horner is a housing project in inner-city Chicago.

Between Henry Horner and a neighboring complex, 60,110 people resided here, 88 percent black, 46 percent below poverty level. (Kotlowitz, p12) This neighborhood has long been forgotten by the city of Chicago. There is no upkeep on the apartments, there are few police and the gangs have taken over.

LaJoe is a loving mother that is doing everything she can to literally keep her boys alive. She has three older children who are anything but role models for the boys. LaShawn who is a drug addict, prostitute and mother of three.Paul Jr. who has already been to prison and Terence who is a drug dealer and father. Paul Sr.

, the boys’ father, loves them very much but cannot provide much of anything due to his drug addiction. Lafeyette is the strong, protective older brother. He is the man of the house concentrating on teaching life lessons to Pharoah and relieving some of the burdens from his mother. Pharoah is sensitive, studious and does everything he can to retain his innocence and youth.

In the beginning Lafeyette and Pharoah are able to keep up a decent attitude.The boys tease, run around and make the best of what they have. Way too often they are ducking for cover or rounding up their siblings from the random gunfire but usually the boys are able to return to their “normal” life. As normal – chaotic life continues, Pharoah develops a stutter as a coping method while Lafeyette gets more angry and detached. LaJoe struggles to get assistance for her family and deals with the constant stress and worry of being able to provide for her five small children. She is forced to depend more and more on Lafayette which is requiring him to act as a man.Lafeyette always welcomes helping his mother and feels obligated to take on some of the stressors but it has stripped him of his childhood. The boys do not have a father figure and their older siblings are not setting a good example.

They are not getting much support from their school since it is one of the most underfunded and has low success rates. They have a constant stress of life and death on their shoulders. Their apartment has rotting appliances, trash, dead animals and is roach infested so is an additional health stressor.The boys have never ending reminders that they are not important to society – watching their mother struggle, watching their home and school deteriorate, fear of police, fear of gangs and fear of death. Lafeyette and Pharoah rarely develop friendships because they have learned not to trust or rely on anyone but themselves and maybe family. As the boys get older some of their friends or acquaintances are involved in risky business including gangs, drugs, thieving and other delinquency. Throughout the book tragic incidents happen taking the lives of people in the neighborhood.

Since these friendships are so rare, the impact it has is significant. Lafeyette becomes more aggressive, cynical and depressed. He is fighting against becoming the expected criminal this neighbor is known to produce and against the pressure to join a gang. Pharoah eventually overcomes his stutter, defined his morals and becomes more successful in his studies. Unfortunately both boys have a realization about their own mortality and of racism before they are teenagers and accept that every day here is a blessing. In the end both Lafeyette and Pharoah have been successful by not letting the projects eat them alive.By that I mean neither is incarcerated nor dead.

Relationship to the Course This book touched on so many important social issues from segregation, racism, failing education, welfare, gangs, drugs, inner-city housing, survival skills, neglect and affects of corrupt political agendas. For starters this book displayed how segregation happens in the post-civil rights era. Comparable to the film Legacy, the book pointed out inefficiencies and struggles minority families have to handle. By putting people in oversized, overcrowded and neglected complexes we managed to segregate and suppress them by a means deemed constitutional.This overwhelming black populated area had lousy schools, literally rotten housing, measly police protection and had been treated as if they were less than a person.

Because of these conditions the neighborhood became drug and gang ridden creating another set of social problems. The book demonstrated how relied upon the gangs were to these people as it was their only means of government, leadership, protection and money. The corrupted CHA of Chicago was at fault by letting the housing conditions get out of hand.

They covered up problems, kept this population contained and convinced others this was the right thing to do.What I’m describing sounds so similar to Nazi Germany it scares the crap out of me. It is relevant to our class and an important story to be told so America can learn from past mistakes. We need these stories so people can understand, empathize and decide to make moral changes, more importantly we need to make sure we do not regress. More topics related are covered in the following section. Personally Significant Segments P. 240-241 It seemed as though I was reading a science fiction novel when I read these pages describing the living conditions at Henry Horner.

It infuriates me that an entire group of people, the Chicago Housing Authority, let this happen to a group of human beings. What’s more disgusting is that it was not an oversight but it was decidedly severe neglect. Some people at the CHA knew it was this dilapidated but made a conscious choice to cover it up. I am truly sickened by the reminder that there are people out there with no regard to the human race whatsoever.

These conditions were festering for 15 years! How do we expect people to be law abiding citizens and contributing members of society when we put them in a biohazard wasteland?Their health and wellbeing may be better being homeless than they are in these quarters. This is the epitome of the forgotten, the shunned, and the not worthy people. Sewage in their apt! They didn’t have a working appliance! They would have been better off in a box on the street quite literally. Everyone at the CHA with a connection to this should be incarcerated for neglect and abuse. I am frustrated that things like this have happened, are happening and will continue to happen.

My own naivety about quality conditions for people or lack thereof angers me.I feel so deeply about these issues it is hard for me to speak to other people or have friendships with other people because I can’t understand why they don’t care. In regards to the conditions of LaJoe’s apartment, what kind of assistance are we providing to our impoverished families? How can we expect them to dig themselves out if they cannot breathe in their home, they cannot cook meals for their children and their water is so contaminated with waste they cannot bathe? This book was taking place 20 years ago but I can guarantee it is still happening to some degree.What’s worse is most privileged people have the audacity to complain about all the money and taxes that go to these “freeloaders. ” P.

50-51 It’s heartbreaking that these children had to see their friend die. It’s even more heart wrenching that these preteens and their parents know that this is more than likely their children’s fate. The last dialogue between Lafeyette and James highlights their own realization and acceptance of early death in this way of life. Can you imagine living your life feeling like you are responsible for what your children are up against?Can you imagine the grief, guilt, and hopelessness? Can you imagine the hostility, fear, and frustration of the children? Would you be able to hold a steady job? Provide a stable physical, emotional and mental home life for your children in these conditions? Would you be able to turn your child away from the security of gangs and give them hope of a better life in this neighborhood? Do people really think it’s their fault they live this way? It’s easy to see why these families can look past the shoddy quality of their apartment when they more importantly need to worry about their baby being shot. . 161 Little Pharoah who is oblivious to racism or prejudice is putting all the pieces together.This was a significant segment to me because I will never know what a child must feel when they realize they are being demeaned because they are black and that they are always going to be black.

There is no way for a child to understand this sort of hate or why they have been chosen victim to it. I want to say this is the best book I have read so far. This was the quickest read and not a page was wasted as every little bit made me empathize with this unfortunate way of life.