THINGS GET HECTIC

TEENS WRITE ABOUT THE VIOLENCE THAT SURROUNDS THEM

A startling series of testimonies about urban violence from New York City teens. These first-person essays on sociological issues first appeared in New Youth Connection, a newspaper for and by students of New York City high schools. By choosing the best essays on the theme of violence, the editors have compiled a book more eloquent than a thousand police reports. For the writers live in housing projects; they know violence all too well. So why do kids kill each other? In their own words, “Kids nowadays are ready to kill . . . over the dumbest things.” You’ll hear talk of trafficking in gold chains—one young man is stabbed for a good fake. Yet the cause of violence is rarely just material. Instead, it erupts when one gets —dissed— (disrespected) too often in a life where to hold onto a shred of dignity is rare. To their credit, two of the teenage boys here write about why they will not pack a pistol: because they’ve seen innocent loved ones get killed, and because it gives the owner a dangerously distorted sense of power. While all the killing seems to involve young men who treat life “like a reset button in a video game,” some of the most abused victims are the young women in their lives—or, in one case, a homosexual young man who cannot take part in their bad-mustached, bad-mouthed behavior. Among the women, one Chinese girl, not dressed provocatively enough to earn the usual stream of catcalls from the corner full of unemployed truants, is angry enough to say, after a bottle is thrown at her, that it’s as though a female in the city “has a bullseye on her body.” Unheard voices crying for a hearing.

Pub Date: Aug. 20, 1998

ISBN: 0-684-83754-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1998

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One of the most searing books on illegal immigration since Sonia Nazario’s Enrique’s Journey (2006).

THE FAR AWAY BROTHERS

TWO YOUNG MIGRANTS AND THE MAKING OF AN AMERICAN LIFE

Markham relies on her roles as a journalist and a worker in the realm of refugee resettlement and immigrant education to craft a powerful narrative about an experience that plays out every day in the United States.

Focusing primarily on one family’s struggle to survive in violence-riddled El Salvador by sending some of its members illegally to the U.S., the author never loses sight of the big-picture issues regarding immigration. Throughout, she inserts brief chapters about those concerns in a compellingly intimate narrative about the Flores family. Markham keenly examines the plights of juveniles sent to America without adult supervision, a large, constantly growing contingent that includes twins Ernesto and Raúl Flores, who sought to escape their hometown because they feared for their lives among the rampant gang violence plaguing their country. Knowing almost nothing about the U.S., the Flores twins lacked both money for their journey and any marketable job skills, and they spoke no English. Their journey was harrowing, to say the least (spoilers omitted), and their transition to life in the U.S., mostly in Oakland, continues, raising new difficulties each day. As they have tried to balance their minimum-wage restaurant jobs with education, the schooling has suffered. Meanwhile, their parents and most of their siblings continue to live in highly dangerous circumstances in El Salvador. Markham met the twins in her job as a counselor at a public high school with a heavy influx of juvenile refugees without documentation, and her experience in that role informs the eye-opening narrative. Most of the book takes place before the election of Donald Trump, but it’s clear that the policies of the new administration will make the lives of the Flores twins and countless others even more terrifying.

One of the most searing books on illegal immigration since Sonia Nazario’s Enrique’s Journey (2006).

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-90618-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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A compellingly investigated, relentlessly gloomy report on the drug distribution industry.

DREAMLAND

Discouraging, unflinching dispatches from America’s enduring opiate-abuse epidemic.

Veteran freelance journalist Quinones (Antonio’s Gun and Delfino’s Dream: True Tales of Mexican Migration, 2007, etc.) cogently captures the essence of the festering war on drugs throughout the 1990s. He focuses on the market for black tar heroin, a cheap, potent, semiprocessed drug smuggled into the United States from Nayarit, a state on the Pacific coast of Mexico. The author charts its dissemination throughout American heartland cities like Columbus and Portsmouth, Ohio, home to a huge, family-friendly swimming pool named Dreamland, which closed in 1993, after which opiates “made easy work of a landscape stripped of any communal girding.” Assembling history through varying locales and personal portraits, Quinones follows a palpable trail of heartbreak, misery and the eventual demise of seemingly harmless people “shape-shifted into lying, thieving slaves to an unseen molecule.” The author provides an insider’s glimpse into the drug trade machine, examining the evolution of medical narcotic destigmatization, the OxyContin-heroin correlation and the machinations of manipulative pharmaceutical companies. His profiles include a West Virginia father burying his overdosed son, a diabolically resourceful drug dealer dubbed “the Man,” and “Enrique,” a Mexican citizen who entered the drug trade as a dealer for his uncle at 14. Perhaps most intriguing is the author’s vivid dissection of the “cross-cultural heroin deal,” consisting of an interconnected, hive-minded “retail system” of telephone operators, dealers (popularly known as the “Xalisco Boys”) and customers; everything is efficiently and covertly marketed “like a pizza delivery service” and franchised nationwide with precision. The author’s text, the result of a five-year endeavor of remote research and in-person interviews, offers a sweeping vantage point of the nation’s ever expanding drug problem. Though initially disjointed, these frustrating and undeniably disheartening scenarios eventually dovetail into a disturbing tapestry of abuse, addiction and death. Thankfully, for a fortunate few, rebirth is possible.

A compellingly investigated, relentlessly gloomy report on the drug distribution industry.

Pub Date: April 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-1620402504

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2015

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