Amanda's Reviews > All God's Children

All God's Children by Fox Butterfield
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Jan 25, 09

bookshelves: non-fiction, really-great-books
Read in January, 2009

This is a fascinating examination of the way that American culture and our social policies create a hideous underclass where children are lost at a very young age without much hope for redemption. It focuses on Willie Bosket, NY state's "most violent inmate" who received a sentence of life in prison following a string of juvenile crimes and then the violent murders of two people on the NYC subway. It was his misdeeds and unsuccessful attempts of the system to reform him (he had been in and out of institutions from the age of 9) that inspired NYS laws allowing children to be treated legally as adults in criminal court. Through some incredibly creative and thrillingly thorough research, Fox Butterfield traces Willie's family back to the deep south where they had been slaves. The pattern of violence and it's connection to the culture of the South that he uncovers is intensely fascinating. He makes a very compelling case for the values of the antebellum South, as they translate to a modern urban environment, where drugs and guns are readily available, and hope is fleeting, as a root cause in our culture's creation of violent sociopathic children like Willie. It was truly chilling and fascinating reading.

On a personal note, as I was reading I learned that Willie's trial was taking place in my hometown while I was in elementary school and that two of my neighbors played important roles in the trial that condemned him to prison for life. I have no memories of this trial but it was interesting to contrast my own experiences with the ones that doomed a very young, and by all accounts incredibly gifted boy, who is not that much older than myself, to a life of crime and incarceration.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Wow! This book sounds really interesting Amanda, I think I might need to borrow it from you.


Amanda Sarah wrote: "Wow! This book sounds really interesting Amanda, I think I might need to borrow it from you."

It was extremely interesting. And horrifying. And it makes a pretty compelling case for society and culture being a major factor in producing violent children, though the generations of violence that preceded WIllie also make a case for heredity and upbringing being major factors as well. But then again, if the same societal/cultural values were shaping Willie's ancestors.... It might be a what came first, chicken or egg, kind of scenario.

Happy to pass it your way.




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