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There are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in the Other America
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There are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in the Other America

4.23 of 5 stars 4.23  ·  rating details  ·  8,050 ratings  ·  576 reviews
This is the moving and powerful account of tworemarkable boys struggling to survive in Chicago'sHenry Horner Homes, a public housing complexdisfigured by crime and neglect. ...more
Paperback, 323 pages
Published January 5th 1992 by Anchor (first published February 1st 1991)
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Amar Pai
For those wondering what happened to Pharoah and Lafayette, here's a quote from the author, taken from a 2011 Chicago Tribune article:
In 1991, the same year the book was published, Henry Horner residents embarked on a legal battle that led to a federal consent decree to have the site redeveloped. The towering high-rises were eventually demolished and replaced with town houses, condominiums and public housing apartments.

Public housing now in Chicago is "not perfect, but it's quite different from
This book changed my entire perception of the power of journalism. Kotlowitz follows the lives of two young boys growing up in the projects of the near West Side of Chicago. I consider it a seminal book in my life. It was both heart-wrenching and mind-opening. The writing is smooth and thoughtful. It is exhaustively researched, and his access to the subjects just astounds me. That he could get them to trust him as much as they did is astonishing. Then the story he records just astounds. Before r ...more
Anne Tommaso
This book ended abruptly for me. I think it's because I wanted to keep hearing about Lafayette and Pharoah's days...make sure they were okay. I've felt a void not reading about them since I finished it. That is one sign of an exceptional book.

There is so much chaos in the Lafayette and Pharoah's lives. The book affirmed the importance of school with all its rules and rituals. The Spelling Bee! The biggest idea I take from this story is, as a teacher, school can offer some order, structure, some
At the time this book was written, I was nearly the same age as the main characters and living only 12 miles away in the near west suburb of Bellwood. We thought we were poor back then but this book has opened my eyes to bottomless abyss of poverty.

I'm now convinced that it is nearly impossible for people to rise out of their circumstances. We're not all born with equal opportunities. This book describes a culture where children can't learn because they're hungry/tired/distracted by violence, w
A story of two young brothers growing up in an infamous project in Chicago known as Horner Homes. The book spans 4 years and deals mostly with describing how the boys are affected by poverty, violence, drugs, gangs and run-ins with the police. Won the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Journalism.

I'd been meaning to read this book for some time now. While visiting a friend, I saw it on her shelf and asked her how was it. She said, "It's good, but it's depressing. It's really depressing."

I'd say it was
Frank Stein

I realize now I've been reading a lot of books about the old Chicago projects. Many of them tend to blur together into one tangled mess of shootings, pregnancies, drugs, and live-in fourth cousins, but this one really broke my heart.

Instead of trying to detail every catastrophic news blurb that makes it out of the projects, a white reporter named Kotlowitz somehow manages to spend years hanging out with just two project boys, Lafeyette and Pharaoh. He sees Pharaoh's first birthday party, which h
Raquel Richardson
I read this book over the Christmas holiday. It's an old read, but still a good story and I'm sure lots of information is similar to how it is today (sadly). Two major things bugged me about this... 1) So many people in roles who are to help kids in these situations just gave up. I was reminded to never, ever, judge people and their situation, desire, capacity, etc. I need to always meet people where they are, not where I think they are and 2) Oprah helps people all around the world but these ki ...more
Nichole Flynn
fucking devastating. you should read this book...everyone should.
I grew up in Chicago - Northwest side, Logan Square - and always thought my family was kind of poor. We wore hand-me-downs. We didn't go on vacations. I knew better than to ask for anything because the answer was always "No, we can't afford it", whether I was asking for money for a school trip - or lunch at the Woolworth counter. But we had a decent apartment in a safe, lower middle class neighborhood, adequate schools, and plenty to eat.

The lifestyles and environment of people who lived in Publ
Kathleen Hagen
There are no Children Here: the Story of Two Boys Growing Up in the Other America, by Alex Kotlowitz, narrated by Dion Graham, produced by Blackstone Audio, downloaded from

This is the true life portrait of two boys, Lafeyette and Pharoah Rivers, ages 11 and 9 when the story begins in 1987. The author, a famous journalist, kept track of the family for four years. This included the two boys, their mother, and the six other children she had, plus a father who lived there sometimes, and
Lisa Van Winkle
Fabulous book that had me rooting for the main character from page 3. This book offers a rare glimpse of what it's truly like to grow up among the worst of the worst housing projects in Chicago. Set in the 1980s but might as well be any decade as the issues never seem to change. The author tells the story by chronicling the lives of two young kids over a 2-year period as they struggle with family issues, gang violence, peer pressure, drugs, and much more. The younger of the two children is an ab ...more
This is a wonderful book. In some ways, much has changed since Kotlowitz wrote this book: the Henry Horner Homes have been demolished in Chicago -- a relief considering the poor construction documented in the book, many cities are experiencing an urban renewal, and though Chicago is still plagued with violence, it's down significantly from the era this book documents (possibly due to the absence of lead). But at the same time, much has stayed the same. Poverty still limits far too many children ...more
Dennis Henn
Painful, depressing, and mostly hopeless. Those were the feelings I had reading Kotlowitz's book detailing the lives of families, particularly two boys, "imprisoned" in the projects of Chicago in the late 1980s. This must be a bit what living in a refugee camp must be like. This must be what living in Afghanistan or Iraq or Gaza must be like. Gangs, drugs, crime, lack of opportunity, distrust of the police and legal system, no employment opportunity. How does anyone escape? How does anyone survi ...more
Sheena  at Hot Eats and Cool Reads
This is one of my favorite books. It's so amazing that Alex Kotlowitz was able to experience these kids lives and be able to share it with the world. Most People are oblivious to the things that go on in Henry Horner or any other project in America and this book shows the every day struggle that "The Other America" goes through. At times I felt sick to my stomach while reading this book but it's the realness that affects you most of all. This book details building conditions (the way they were b ...more
Interesting read, and I respect what Kotlowitz achieved in bringing the troubles of inner-city America to suburban audiences nationwide. However, the pace is glacial and the book not particularly well-written; in addition, I noticed an astounding number of typos and other errors in this text. Surprisingly sloppy for a 20 year old bestseller from a major publisher. I rarely if ever notice spelling errors in books, but could not help but be distracted by the frequent errors in this edition. And be ...more
More required reading. This book could have taken place yesterday instead of almost thirty years ago and that's a goddamn shame.
This book has been on my to-read list for a while. Those two little boys (who are now grown men who are older than I am) are going to haunt me - I haven't stopped thinking about them since I finished the book. This is an especially harrowing read in the wake of the Trayvon Martin tragedy. If you're not comfortable challenging your perspective on privilege, race, class, and social justice, this book is not for you.

(Higher Ed friends - it reminded me of A Hope in the Unseen in many ways, so if yo
Apr 09, 2013 Tori rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tori by: Angie
Shelves: 5-star-books
It came as a huge surprise to me that I loved this book as much as I did. It was assigned to me at school, and I was less than enthusiastic about reading it. It took me a little while to get into the writing style - it's not exactly prose, more like a work of journalism or reporting.

I would describe this shocking and moving glimpse into the lives of Lafayette and Pharoah Rivers as disturbing, in a good way. Eye-opening and tragic, something that people perhaps need to read more than they want to
I read this book while on vacation last week. Very moving and eye opening, poignant and sad. I think it's important to read about what life is like for others, people in different countries, different cultures, or people who live in difficult and turbulent contexts, like the boys in this book, (the Chicago projects). I am now curious about what has happened to the two boys, Pharaoh and Lafayette, and their families and friends since publication of this book.. I wonder, does anyone know?
Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s in the Chicago suburbs, we thought we knew about the ghettos and the projects. We were mindful not to wear our Starter jackets if we were going into the city. We knew not to wear hats, and if we did, to make sure we wore them straight. We heard about the dangers of gangs and the threats they presented. At the same time though, it seemed like a fantasy. It seemed like part of a whole other world.
They never really seemed real, and were something we joked about, like
This was gripping and heartbreaking in a way that reminded me of "The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down" (a completely unrelated book). You can see these trains very slowly but surely headed toward each other, or off the track - whatever metaphor you want. You can see why people would come to the conclusions that they do based on their experiences, and indeed you wouldn't expect them to come to any other conclusion, but it's still rough to watch them careen off track.
Apr 27, 2007 suzy rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: teachers, social workers, medical workers, those interested in poverty issues
A sad look as Chicago's west side projects (Robert Taylor) and a couple kids growing up there in the 1980's. The projects have since been torn down, but looked like this:

I remember living near them for a summer and driving by them and being creeped out! I recall in the summer of '85 a toddler was raped and thrown off the roof to her death and that story only got a couple lines in the paper.

Update on Lafayette and Pharoah.
I read on msg boards about their incarcerations as adults. I'm relieved they are both alive unlike their friends and enemies.

The real portrayal of daily life in the Chicago west side housing projects. I felt the terror and pulse-pounding fear of walking around "freely" there through the author's words. I heard the gunshots and the thud of bullets ricocheting around the building along with the gravel skidding aside as bodies
This is a readable non-fiction story of two boys growing up in the projects in Chicago in the 80s. I would suggest everyone read it and remember that there are still many children faced with the violence, poverty and horror of these two young boys. The boys will stay with you, and might cause you to think twice before judging someone's actions.
David Quinn
Very good and very readable. I cared about the Walton family (in telling their story the author changed their name to Rivers) and held my breath for a few sections of the book. The death of a family friend was dispiriting but entirely predictable. The triumphs were few and small but very welcome.

The author seemed to me to be a bit less than objective but that didn’t bother me too much as I felt the family needed a champion more than a dispassionate chronicler.

I’m not exactly sure why but I felt
Vicky Pinpin-Feinstein
If you want to know about poverty, about disenfranchisement, about inner city violence, etc but would not want to know it through a grim recitation of hard nosed statistics bereft of feeling, then this is the story for you. It is one of those books I read again, after reading it when it was first published in 1991 and then read it again in 2013. The author has done a marvelous job in going inside the world of the two brothers, taking it all in and yet manages to dispense with the anger and the f ...more
Jessica Leight
I enjoyed this book very much despite the fact that it's nearly twenty years old. The author presents a compelling portrait of one family - and particularly, two children - in public housing in Chicago making their way through a violent and often unpredictable life. He seems close enough that the narrative is real and compelling, yet doesn't trivialize or over-personalize the story, and provides some useful context and comments about the broader political context of Chicago at the time. In a way ...more
I found out about this book from Paul Tough's book, "How Children Succeed" (also an excellent read). "There Are No Children Here: The story of two boys growing up in the Other America" is a must read for any teacher, mentor, coach, pastor, doctor, etc. working with children growing up in poverty. It is a true story told from the perspective of many children and families growing up in the Henry Horner projects of southside Chicago.

In this book your heart will break for a different type of povert
What a powerful view this book provides into life for children in "the projects!" The real circumstances that these kids live in are just unbelievable. Reading this certainly gave me a dose of gratitude. When we lived in Minneapolis we lived fairly close to several high-rise, low-income housing projects buildings. They were nicknamed the "crack stacks," and the few times I accompanied missionaries there for visits always made me feel like I was being watched and like it was not a very safe area. ...more
I'm declaring myself finished with this book even though I didn't reach the end. Oddly enough, I liked it, but just not enough to read the entire book. It wasn't that it was a bad book, in fact it's the kind of book that should be read even if it isn't "great" or a "page turner". It has important information and I'm all for sending that out as far and wide as possible. There are a couple of reasons I quit before then end. One is that this isn't the first thing I've read on the topic. I have read ...more
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there are no childhere 1 35 Mar 31, 2009 07:36PM  
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  • City of the Century: The Epic of Chicago and the Making of America
  • A Hope in the Unseen: An American Odyssey from the Inner City to the Ivy League
  • Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage
  • Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago
  • American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass
  • No Shame in My Game: The Working Poor in the Inner City
  • Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life
  • Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago
  • Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada's Quest to Change Harlem and America
  • Division Street: America
  • Chicago: City on the Make
  • Off the Books: The Underground Economy of the Urban Poor
Between writing books on urban affairs and society, Alex Kotlowitz has contributed to "The New York Times Magazine", "The New Yorker" and public radio’s "This American Life". Over the past three years, he has produced three collections of personal narratives for Chicago Public Radio: "Stories of Home," "Love Stories" and "Stories of Money." Stories of Home was awarded a Peabody. H
More about Alex Kotlowitz...
The Other Side of the River: A Story of Two Towns, a Death, and America's Dilemma Never a City So Real: A Walk in Chicago The Spelling Bee Division Street: America LaPorte, Indiana

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