There Are No Children Here by Alex Kotlowitz chronicles the true story of two brothers growing up in the Henry Horner projects of Chicago over a two year period. Set in the Horner Homes public housing district of Chicago, Lafeyette and Pharoah Rivers, their mother and siblings struggle to survive gun battles, gang influences, over-zealous police officers, and overburdened and mismanaged bureaucracies to simply survive.
The story begins in the summer of 1987. Nine year old Pharoah and his brother Lafeyettte, twelve, venture towards the railroad tracks that run from Chicago's west side to the western suburbs and downtown Chicago. They join six friends and pair up. Pharoah partners with his younger cousin Leonard Anderson, nicknamed Porkchop, a shy but nervous boy. Lafeyette partners with his good friend James Howard whom he grew up with in the same building in the Henry Horner projects There are No Children Here follows the lives of two young brothers, Lafeyette and Pharoah Rivers, who live in the Henry Horner Homes, one of Chicago's subsidized housing projects in the inner city. Lafeyette and Pharoah, aged 11 and 9 years at the start of the book in 1987, live with their mother, along with their many siblings periodically, and rely on welfare and federal assistance. The book depicts them deprived of most luxuries and in constant struggle to survive. The burden of their struggle falls on Lafeyette's shoulders as he tries to protect his brother and help his mother with their daily needs. The brothers live in the midst of violence wrought by local gangs who control the entire housing project. The gangs sell drugs, fight rival gangs, hire residents to keep and store drugs and weapons, and lure children to sell drugs in the neighborhood. Children living in the projects seem to have a bleak future awaiting them if they manage to survive to adulthood.
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