Henry Horner Homes, an inner-city housing project, is the setting in which the story of two boys growing up in America’s inner-city occurs. The story tracks the River’s family, particularly the two middle boys, Lafeyette and Pharoah, focusing on the strife-ridden times of drugs, death, gangs, and poverty. The author describes how devastating life in the inner city is for a family, but mainly for the children.
Public housing complexes were seen as pleasurable places. When the boys’ mother, LaJoe, first moved to Horner she was thirteen. The homes had white, freshly painted walls, new linoleum floors, closets you could hide in, and brand new appliances. The children went to dances in the basement, belonged to the girl scouts, and played outside on the playground surrounded by freshly planted grass. This harmonious sight all came to an abrupt end. The housing authority did not have the money or interest to put into the projects. They did not have much concern for low-income families and, therefore, the projects were neglected. The smell in the apartments became so bad that people thought dead fetuses were being flushed down the toilets. The appliances in the apartments hardly ever worked, so cooking was limited. After an inspection of the basement, over 2000 new and used appliances were found covered with rats, animal carcasses and excrements. The dead animals, paraphernalia, and female undergarments explained the smell lingering throughout the apartments.
Inner-city life is filled with glimmers of hope. The children had hopes of leaving the dreadful streets of the ghetto and moving into an innovative and improved place. There are times when Lafayette states, ...
... middle of paper ...
...eir mothers are getting pregnant, commonly, with a different father for each child.
Kotlowitz does an excellent job portraying how demoralizing life in the ghetto really is. Through showing what the children of the book go through, Kotlowitz remains very neutral. He bestows the thoughts, fears, and hopes of inner-city children that normally are not exposed to those who do not live in these circumstances. Lafayette and Pharoah are only two of the thousands of children suffering in these disturbing conditions. The Chicago Housing Authority did go in and clean up the buildings, but without accessible money there is not that much that can be done. The children born into poverty cannot overcome the situation, unless they are provided with the means and opportunities to do so.
Kotlowitz, Alex. There are no children here. New York: Doubleday.1991.
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