THERE ARE NO CHILDREN HERE re-creates crucial scenes in several years in the lives of two of Chicago’s black victims, Lafeyette and Pharoah Rivers, as they navigate the rapids of their young lives in the violent world of an inner city housing project. Lafeyette is an eleven-year-old mature beyond his years, who attempts to take the place of the absent father, and who helps to rear his nine-year-old brother, but at the end he has been arrested for breaking into a truck and is given a year’s probation. Pharoah is more motivated to succeed and does better in school, but he pays a price for living in this violent world: His stammer worsens in tough situations, and he daydreams to try to shut out the drugs and brutality of his neighborhood.
Part of the power of the book comes from the fact that Kotlowitz describes its incidents without editorializing; readers draw their own conclusions from the scenes of violence and fear. More and more writers in the 1990’s are detailing the moral and physical decay of America’s cities and pleading for help. The difference in Kotlowitz is that he focuses, not on Chicago or its institutions, but on two of the victims of this decay, two young boys full of love and sensitivity and intelligence who are being crushed by the conditions under which they live.
Sources for Further Study
Chicago Tribune. March 17, 1991, XIV, p. 1.
Inc. XIII, July, 1991, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. March 3, 1991, p. 1.
The New Republic. CCIV, May 27, 1991, p. 35.
The New York Times Book Review. XCVI, April 14, 1991, p. 11.
Newsweek. CXVII, June 10, 1991, p. 64.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXXVIII, February 15, 1991, p. 80.
Smithsonian. XXII, October, 1991, p. 175.
The Times Literary Supplement. August 2, 1991, p. 10.
The Washington Post Book World. XXI, March 17, 1991, p. 3.