Comparisons to Alex Kotlowitz's There Are No Children Here (1991) are inevitable and warranted.

RANDOM FAMILY

LOVE, DRUGS, TROUBLE, AND COMING OF AGE IN THE BRONX

An observant, gutsy journalist immerses herself in the lives of marginal Bronx residents.

Freelance writer LeBlanc wanted to understand a nearby culture different from her own, so she won permission to enter the lives of a Bronx family, and stayed more than ten years. Her story begins in the mid-1980s, as 16-year-old Jessica cruises Tremont Avenue, hoping to attract young men amid the drug trafficking and otherwise colorful street life on corner after corner. In the first of 39 densely populated chapters, newcomer LeBlanc introduces Jessica's extremely extended family, including her 32-year-old mother Lourdes; brother Robert, with whom Jessica shares a biological father; half-sister Elaine; half-brother Cesar; and Big Daddy, the 25-year-old meat-market butcher who fell in love with Lourdes after Jessica, the original object of his desire, introduced the couple. Boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives, children, grandchildren, partners in crime, law-abiding friends, law-enforcement personnel, social workers, and merchants—all make cameo appearances, disappear, then sometimes reappear in dizzying fashion. LeBlanc’s narrative style, heavily reliant on novelistic techniques, is almost always gripping, although the storyline occasionally becomes confusing. Jessica’s never absent for long as the connecting character, but with so many supporting players in this real-life soap opera, a refresher on who’s who and who did what is often needed. Near the end, in 2001, as Jessica walks through the neighborhood, she is no longer a man magnet. She is many pounds heavier, self-conscious about her figure, but alive and doing better than just getting by, thanks to a security job in a bank. It is now Jessica's 16-year-old daughter Serena and Serena's friends who draw the attention of the men along the street. How will life turn out for Serena? LeBlanc has some thoughts that she works subtly into the narrative, but this is one saga the author can’t control.

Comparisons to Alex Kotlowitz's There Are No Children Here (1991) are inevitable and warranted.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-684-86387-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2002

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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