Wynne Kontos's Reviews > Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx

Random Family by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
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Feb 22, 2012

it was ok
Read from February 06 to 22, 2012

I've been assigned this book for a forensic social work class I'm currently taking. I've considered reading it before, but never got to it. Because of it being a class assignment it's taken precedence over the other books on my "too read" shelf. After all these heavy novels I'm going to have to read a paranormal romance I think... The author of "Random Family" will be coming to our class in April, which will be really great.

Now that I've completed this I'm glad it's over. Let me also say, that since I work as a social worker in the Bronx, the insight into the lives of many of the Bronx's children was interesting. I take the 5 train to the second to last stop, and I was able to recognize most of the neighborhoods based on my train rides alone. Despite a large majority of this book taking place twenty years ago, I can still say with assurance that the experiences growing up in impoverished areas of the Bronx have changed very little. Many of my clients still live this way, and are more often raised by their environment and circumstance than their young parents.
LeBlanc immersed herself in the lives of the people she wrote about. Considering the span of the story and how detailed it is, this is an amazing feat. The fact that she does so without judgement or inserting her own opinions in any way makes her investigative writing style all the more triumphant. Where she fails, however, is in creating a momentum, an interest in the day to day happenings of her characters. I wanted to know what happened to Coco and her five children, whether Cesar ever made it out of prison, etc., but I could've read the first thirty pages and skipped until the last 30 pages and met that need without missing too much. I found myself constantly checking to see how many pages I'd read, never a good sign.
Perhaps the most important part of "Random Family" is the education it provides. On the cover there's a quote referring to the story as a "pocket of America." On the cover. A pocket? The hardships faced by the families in LeBlanc's story are hardly a "pocket" of America. Children live on welfare, surrounded by roaches, rampant drug use and sexual abuse all over the country, in urban areas like LA, Chicago and the Burroughs of New York as well as the rural ares of Minnesota, South Dakota and Washington. Simply because there seems to be a large enough faction that believes the lives described in this book take up only a "pocket" of the American landscape is reason enough to continue passing it on to other students, in hopes of educating others on what being a young woman in the South Bronx really means.
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02/10 page 104
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02/15 page 168
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