In March of last year, Newsweek published a report on a South Side Chicago ghetto. What made that slice of life fascinating was that one of its authors, Sylvester Monroe, was returning to his own roots on those very same streets. Here, we have an outgrowth of that Newsweek assignment. Monroe managed through native intelligence and diligence to escape the streets when he was sent to a New England prep school via an outreach program, and then on to Harvard. But most of his friends remained locked in the prison of the South Side housing projects. This book is a group portrait of 12 of these friends, narrated loosely in the language of the streets. Most of these men had come of age in the 1960's. But what were perceived by society at large as hopeful gains for the black poor and various liberation movements seemingly passed these folks by. ""A few were touched by the vogue of affirmative action and two were delivered by it. Most were not. . .They dreamed the American Dream, but as they approached middle age, their hopes had mostly been checkmated by circumstance."" In one way, this is an answer, 20 years later, to Edward Banfield's critique of the ""present-think"" mentality of the inner-city poor. As Monroe says: "". . .when people say that guys like Half Man don't have any sense of the future, it's not that clear cut. The future they see is shut off. It's closed. You're afraid to dream for fear of not reaching it, so you don't set up any goals, and that way you don't fail. You just live for now."" An evocative account of lifetimes of wasted days and dashed hopes. A portfolio of photos (not seen) should help bring the point home.