THE VILLE by Greg Donaldson


Cops and Kids in Urban America
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 ``You're not in Kansas anymore,'' proclaims a popular Brooklyn T-shirt, the words emblazoned above an illustration of a smoking gun. Donaldson's report on a year in the borough's baddest ghetto brings that warning home with power and compassion. To center his story of Brownsville's urban blight, Donaldson (a freelance writer and Brooklyn schoolteacher) focuses on the days of one cop and one kid--both black, the cop young Housing officer Gary Lemite, the kid 17-year-old Sharron Corley. As time passes, summer to spring, each succumbs to the violence that drenches the area, a warren of forbidding housing projects and tenements: Lemite, though a decent cop, grows more ready to use his fists and his gun; Sharron--the heart of Donaldson's story--though basically a good kid despite his allegiance to a shoplifting gang (Polo clothes only), can't resist the ghetto code of the triumph of the fittest, and ends up doing a terrifying stint behind bars for stealing, with an ice pick, a jacket from another, weaker kid. Donaldson's clear but shocking message is that in the desperately poor, drug-ridden inner city (further brought to life by the author's tracking of several local hoodlums, including a notorious crack-dealing family), even good kids must be at ease with violence in order to survive. But there's hope in the ghetto too, personified by the principal of, as well as a teacher at, the area's tough high school--courageous women who speak the language of the streets and use it to try to keep their students from dying young. Full of charged moments--Sharron marveling like an alien visitor at the clean wonders of white Brooklyn, or grieving for his dead baby son, or standing down a threat to his life--Donaldson's account vivifies the humanity of ghetto residents on both sides of the law, and stands as one of the most gripping inner-city chronicles of recent years. (Photos)

Pub Date: Nov. 3rd, 1993
ISBN: 0-395-63315-X
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1993