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

Random Family by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
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Oct 01, 09

bookshelves: social
Read in January, 2009 — I own a copy, read count: 1.5

I have very complex emotions about this book.

We started reading it in summer class two years ago during my failed expedition as a New York City Teaching Fellow. We only went so far in class, and then everyone had the choice to continue it or not. I didn't.

But I picked it back up, re-reading the beginning and going on through it, sometimes even reading while walking home from work (yes, this is inadvisable).

Clearly that last bit shows you that it's captivating. The thing about Random Family is that it's about real people. The author and narrator of their story lived for years among an interconnected group of family and friends in the Bronx. In an author's note, she explains that whatever she's writing about, she saw or heard related to her by the real life characters. She says this, but there are instances in the book where she editorializes in ways that demeans the characters; trivializing something that happened to them, falling back on stereotypes, using their experiences to make points. This usually happens in metaphors or asides, with adjectives or other sentence-trimming words.

Their stories and their voices - through letters, quotes, diaries - are writ larger than LeBlanc's framing of them (which sometimes is her making really good observations, sometimes seems like judging), and it's those that stuck with me. I had dreams about the characters, and at the end I was shocked that I had to part from them. This has its own danger; they are not here for my entertainment! It also has its good side, I learned from their wisdom and cared for them as friends.

I wish I could say that everyone should read this book, but some people would take it the wrong way, especially if they haven't been to these places or walked down these streets or paths like them. The ideal - and this happened to me and a lot of my classmates - is to realize that we're not that different from the members of the Family. Stuff like, "I've been abused like Jessica," "I put off important appointments like Coco," "I too go from house to house," "I keep coming back to the same places and the same people."
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Reading Progress

08/27/2009 page 16
3.7%

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message 1: by Meredith (new)

Meredith Wow! You read heavy stuff.


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