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

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  14,460 ratings  ·  1,044 reviews
This is the moving and powerful account of two remarkable boys struggling to survive in Chicago's Henry Horner Homes, a public housing complex disfigured by crime and neglect. ...more
Paperback, 323 pages
Published January 5th 1992 by Anchor Books (first published February 1st 1991)
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 ·  14,460 ratings  ·  1,044 reviews

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Amar Pai
Feb 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
May 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 21, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
“What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore-
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over-
Like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?”

~Langston Hughes

Having recently read An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago, I was anxious to read this author’s earlier work There Are No Children Here, that documents the life of two brothers, their family and friends in the late 1980’s in the Henry Ho
Carl Audric Guia
May 21, 2022 rated it really liked it
There are No Children Here immersed me in the tragedies of America. I have always seen articles about drugs, violence, and neglect, but I guiltily felt distant reading those. Alex Kotlowitz, however, made me realize the power of storytelling.

Growing up in a housing project in Chicago, Lafeyette and Pharoah watched the horrors of society at an early age. Every day poses an impending threat of death as gang wars and shootings rage within the area. These are the same events that I've heard on the n
Aug 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Although this is a true story and very sad, I did not find this book very interesting. I don't know if it was because I have not worked with children this poor in the past, although I have worked with some very low income families, but I have not been around the world of drugs and guns as I am from the countryside and not a big city girl, although I have lived in some massive cities around the world. This book was an okay read, but I kept waiting for their to be a drastic, devastation to the sto ...more
May 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Readers may have to continually remind themselves, "This book is taking place in America. This is not a war-torn, third world country. This is the richest nation in the world."

The writing style is dated, but the things described here are still occurring every day in our nation. You think of all of the money spent to do things like give police in podunk towns military-grade vehicles and subsidize the production of junk food, but we can't even perform enough maintenance on low-income housing to m
Oct 06, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
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
Frank Stein
May 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing

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
Aug 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
sally ✿
I feel a little weird giving this book a rating, so I think I'll refrain from doing so. How do you rate something so heartbreaking and frustrating and sad and intense? To see how little has changed, despite the time that has passed is nothing short of horrific. ...more
Jun 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The other America. What do I really know about life in the projects from my suburban life? Turns out nothing. Turns out it will make my stomach turn and weep for these children. While this book is decades old, and the projects that Kotlowitz profiles—Henry Horner Homes in Chicago— have since been razed, this is still a telling portrait of how some people are forced to live.

While the subject matter was at times appalling and grotesque, the writing was so readable, I couldn’t put the book down. R
Jun 14, 2020 rated it liked it
While this is an important book, the writing was not quite up to par. It was meandering and repetitive at times, occasionally also missing necessary context. I was offended by the somewhat congratulatory (or unconsciously condescending?) way in which the author referred to a father who "babysat" his own children while his wife was at school, mentioning again later that he "continued to look after the kids". Okay, the book was published in the early 1990s, but still. Such issues lessened my trust ...more
Mar 03, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 15, 2010 rated it liked it
This reads like a sociology textbook, rather than a novel, which it is not. In all fairness, I lost interest halfway through the book. The climax that set the rest of the book apart hadn't shown up in those first 150 pages. Every day was conflict and climax. It is heartrending yet achingly difficult to not ask myself, as a middle class Caucasian, why did she continue to have children when the father was out of the picture? Why didn't she seek employment sooner?

But, as I pointed out, the circumst
Jul 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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? ...more
Apr 06, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Am I really averaging reading a new book every 2 days at this point? Good news for my brain, bad news for my wallet (it's also indicative re: how much time I spent in March watching cooking shows vs doing more "mindful" activities).

Some of the writing in this reads as dated now. It's also a good book for sparking debate about how much an author of reported non-fiction should be inserting themselves into the narrative or not.

This book is about a now-demolished "vivienda popular" site in Chicago;
Emily Nicoletta
There are No Children Here isn’t just another book; this is a life changer. It is an incredibly rare form of spectacular journalism that absolutely rips you to shreds, devours you, and spits you out. No words I can write come close to what this book made me feel.

Kotlowitz’s engrossing piece follows the day to day life of Lafeyette and Pharoah, two young children growing up in the Chicago Public Housing Projects with their mother and siblings. Despite their mother’s dedication to doing her best f
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
Reading this book was a rather surreal experience for me. In September of 1987 I flew to the US to visit relatives. I was picked up in Chicago and we spent the night at the airport hotel. Watching the news, we saw a story of a drive-by shooting in these projects, in which a bullet penetrated the wall of a building and ended up in an elderly lady's eye as she lay in bed. While reading the first section of the book, I would often compare what LaJoe and her family were going through with what I did ...more
Annie Ryan
Jun 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is the powerful story of two boys, Lafeyette and Pharoah, their mom, LaJoe, and their other family and friends who lived in the Henry Horner Homes, just one of the many housing projects in Chicago back in the late 1980’s. Even though this book was published in 1991, it is still a MUST-READ, because it brings the reader perspective on what it’s like to be poor and black as a child in America. I can not imagine having the childhood that these children had: the financial struggles their famili ...more
Emily Jameson
Jun 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Alex Kotlowitz wrote this book after spending time with a family living in the Henry Horner Housing Projects, in the midst of peak levels of gang and drug related crime among its residents. The Henry Horner homes have since been demolished, and the area is going through a gentrification process that is lowering the crime rates in the area. This book, at almost 30 years old, provides a harrowing historical look into life for predominantly poor, black, single parent families.

As a reader, I couldn
The content is of huge importance, unveiling governmental neglect of low income housing, and the connivance involved in police brutality, but I did not like reading it. I am often not a fan of journalist-turned-author writing style or narrative construction, and sadly it’s true for this one. It’s not that it reads like a newspaper column, but the writing is flat, and the narration simply chronological notes of events in the central characters’ lives. I had hoped Kotlowitz would provide a kind of ...more
Jan 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Having read An American Summer by Kotlowitz earlier this year, I immediately added his other books to my wish list. His journalism is immersive, he pokes your heart with his pen. An outstanding author, an acute observer - the man is a real Giant. Also morally.

I happened to open this book immediately after completing Obama's memoir. And I wandered if Obama, a state senator, then a senator elected from Chicago, and then Obama-president, was aware of this all? He and his wife saw games and the stad
Dixie Meeks
Jan 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: society, owned
One topic that I'm interested in is the lives of the children who lived in the Chicago projects. This book was not so much eye-opening as it was a reminder that not all children are afforded the basic things in life such as safety, education, and love. Heartbreaking and surprisingly, I have hope for the two boys, Lafayette and Pharoah, and did throughout the book. ...more
Jan 20, 2022 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a deeply necessary but disturbing book. For three years the author followed the lives of one family, particularly two brothers, who lived in the Henry Horner complex of Chicago. The time frame covered is 1988-1990. The desperation and violence since then has only escalated, but this family’s struggles are something most people cannot comprehend or write off as their own doing.

Almost daily I encounter people who have zero clue what it means to be poor in America and yet, who are quick to
MM Suarez
Jun 22, 2021 rated it really liked it
This is one of saddest things I have read in a long time, if your heart doesn't break for those two little boys and all of the people stuck living in those horrible conditions then you have an empty hole where the heart should be. Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps is impossible when you don't even have boots! ...more
Apr 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
An non-fictional account of American poverty as experienced by two adolescent boys and their mother in a Chicago housing project during the late 1980s. The author was a young journalist who initially became acquainted with the family while doing a related story for the Wall Street Journal. He felt compelled to elaborate on what he saw by spending several days a week and many weekends just hanging out with the kids and their mom over a two year period, and then wrote this book about it. He interv ...more
Oct 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
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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

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