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The Curse of Life in There Are No Children Here

There Are No Children Here – The Curse of Life

To most living in the Henry Horner Homes, life often seems to be more of a curse than a gift. The people of this public housing project only experience the briefest moments of joy before the reality of their lives comes rushing back to them. This book chronicles the lives of two boys, Lafeyette, 10, and Pharoah, 7, from the summer of 1985 to the fall of 1989. Though the boys are young, author Alex Kotlowitz adeptly conveys that these children are not children at all. They have not been allowed to live the carefree lives that most of us living outside of the projects did. Instead, very early on they became aware of their hardships and had to learn to deal with them. In their short lives, they have been to more funerals than weddings and this has simultaneously crushed their spirits and hardened them.

The environment in which these boys live is one of violence, drugs and poverty. Their housing is less than optimal, as the bathtub faucet cannot be shut off, the oven and kitchen sink are broken, and the plumbing is often out of order. Gang activity rules these Chicago housing projects. This book gives a keen insight to someone on the outside on how intense the violence there is.

Bullets riddle through the night, and frequently into the apartments. Facing each new day with the fear that your life could be taken away in a second, by one of many acts of gang violence, leaves the residents feeling hopelessly insecure. Throughout the book, Lafeyette and Pharoah voice a strong desire to get out of the projects. However, a solution as to how this might be accomplished is never discussed. The family is dependent on welfare, so there is no extra money to be saved for alternative residence. For the time being, Lafeyette and Pharoah make a conscious decision to lay low and keep away form gangs and drugs so they do not become a part of the life that keeps them down.

Lafeyette and Pharoah make insightful comments about how people get sucked into gang-life. They, like many other children and adults, are caught in the middle of despising gang activity, but still understanding the reasons people are involved in it. There are not many examples of tangible incentives to stay out, but to join means that you will have power, protection and money.
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