Brendan's Reviews > Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago

Our America by LeAlan Jones
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's review
Feb 18, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: 2009, non-fiction, memoir-autobio
Read in March, 2009

I re-read this book for the New Millennium Studies class I'm teaching this semester. Jones and Newman, two boys who grew up in the projects of South Chicago, write about their lives and experiences there. The book transcribes two radio shows they did: Ghetto Life 101 and Remorse: the 14 Stories of Eric Morse, about a boy in their community who was dropped out a 14th floor window by two other boys. The book is powerful and direct, with a sense of hope and honesty weaving in among the desperate poverty and crime-ridden neighborhood. A few other thoughts:

* The choice to transcribe the radio shows was excellent, as the book really captures the feel of the conversations and environment the boys were living in.
* There are lots of small moments that really help the reader connect with the stories the boys are telling: as LeAlan and Lloyd interview their families, you get a sense both of the relationships they have and the challenges they face.
* As with any honest account of the situation in this system, it's difficult to figure out what one should see as the place/solution for the crisis of this situation. Lloyd and LeAlan talk about the need for both fish and fishing lessons in their community, and we can't help but agree.
* The chronological aspect of the book, from 1993 to 1996, helps us see how the authors might or might not "make it out." We desperately hope that they do.

The class' reactions and conversations about this book have been compelling and interesting. If you get a chance to read it or listen to the radio shows it is based on, I encourage you to do so.

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Keith crawford I actually read this in my New Millennium studies class; I'm very thankful I did. Its a sad commentary on the downfall of public housing and struggles of the inner city youth of America, but a necessary one.

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