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There Are No Children Here by Alex Kotlowitz

There Are No Children Here, is a novel written by Alex Kotlowitz. The heart-wrenching story tells about the violent life of children in a poverty-stricken society. The story is set in the backdrop of Urban America. The author portrays about the tragic life of two young boys and their hardships.

About the Author :

Alex Kotlowitz is an award-winning American author and journalist. He has written several books such as There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in the Other America, a Death and America’s Dilemma, The Other Side of the River: A Story of Two Towns, and Never a City So Real.

Summary :

The story is all about two boys – Pharoah and Lafayette Rivers. Both the boys are raised in American society and struggle very hard to overcome their domestic lives. The story displays the boys’ life disappointments, tragedies, and joys. The entire story happens in a two-year time period. The boys live in Chicago’s public housing, surrounded with violence and poverty. The life of the Rivers family in the locality shows the reality of people in these communities. The author vividly describes the low-income people’s emotions, relationships and social temptations.

Lafayette and Pharaoh are of age 11 and 9 respectively. The story describes the dark part of the American society and the urban youth are prone to domestic violence. The children in the locality are ripped off their childhood innocence because of the dysfunctional social setting. LaJoe is the mother of 8 children and they survive in the society where gun battles, drug addictions, and gang influences are widely common. She finds the family to be in a devastated state. Since her husband is a drug addict, she is left to fight alone with her children. Because of the social setting, her eldest sons got involved in drug-addictions and many other illegal activities. They also have gone to jail several times.

At last, she keeps her hopes on her younger son, Lafayette, what she presumes to protect and support the family. Lafayette has to take care of his younger brother Pharaoh and the other four-year triplets Timothy, Tammie, and Tiffany. Their neighborhood has been a warzone since the gang influences took into existence. She finds it hard to protect her children from being killed by the notorious gangs. However, the tensions of the scenario affect Pharaoh in her academic performance. Emotionally, Lafayette is affected on facing the sudden death of his close friends in the locality. The rampant public housing is often subjected to police’s suspicious attacks and gangs’ gunfire.

The children’s life gets entangled amidst the society because of its unruly activities. It affects them physically, mentally, and also emotionally. They are devastated and depressed of the unrest life in the locality. Every child wonders if they would make it to the adulthood. They feel powerless over the situations, fearing to be killed or imprisoned one day.

With the course of the story, certain changes happen in the society to end the atrocities. There are repairs, and clean ups and anti-drug rehabilitation programs. Even after several measures taken, the violence remains in the Horner community. Soon, the Rivers family decides to survive in their environment, no matter what. With their future totally uncertain, Pharaoh gets a hope in life for his family’s future. The novel ends with his epilogue, mentioning how he places his brothers in an academically standard parochial school. While Pharaoh manages to thrive the new environment, Lafayette finds it challenging and returns to the public school.

The entire novel depicts an entirely different America, filled with social, economic, and health problems. With least policies implemented, the lives of the people are left with no future. It is clear that poverty, racism, and violence have caused destruction in the lives of the young boys in the novel.

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