August 27, 2008
Book Suggestion -- Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx
By Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
Book Review (From Amazon)
Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, who has written for the New York Times Magazine, Esquire, The Village Voice, and others, gained unprecedented access to those living in an impoverished section of the Bronx. For some ten years the author shared their existence as she documented struggles, defeats, and transient victories. "Random Family" is an astonishing work of straightforward reportage; it is also written with heart.
A stunning picture of life in the Bronx drug trade, "Random Family" is traced through the experiences of two girls, Jessica and Coco. In Part I, "The Street" we are introduced to Jessica who lived on Tremont Avenue, "...one of the poorer blocks in a very poor section of the Bronx. She dressed even to go to the store. Chance was opportunity in the ghetto and you had to be prepared for anything....A sixteen-year-old Puerto Rican girl with bright hazel eyes, a generous mouth, and a voluptuous shape, she radiated intimacy wherever she went. You could be talking to her in the bustle of Tremont and feel as though lovers' confidences were being exchanged beneath a tent of sheets. Guys in cars offered rides. Women pursed their lips, grown men got stupid, boys made promises they could not keep."
Jessica's man of choice is Boy George, a young heroin dealer with money to spare and a willingness to do anything to earn more. He provides undreamed of escapes: trips, jewelry buying sprees, and a car that James Bond would envy. He's also free with physical abuse.
Coco, a fourteen-year-old, is the other girl. "Boys called her Shorty because she was short, and Lollipop because she tucked lollipops in the topknot of her ponytail; her teacher called her Motor Mouth because she talked a lot."
But, school wasn't high on Coco's list of priorities. She has eyes for Cesar, Jessica's younger brother, who is working hard at becoming a thug. This pair also enjoys the big time for a while, if you can relish luxury while your friends are being murdered.
Teenage pregnancies are the norm, and being old at 30 isn't a surprise. Prison becomes home.
"Random Family" is a look at a part of our country we would like to think does not exist. But, it does and the awareness of it sears. We owe a debt of gratitude to Adrian Nicole LeBlanc for her honesty and dogged courage.
Posted by vardigan at August 27, 2008 11:21 AM