Our America

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9780684836164: Our America

Interviews describe ghetto life

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Review:

This heartbreaking and inspiring book goes a long way toward fulfilling the wish one of its authors, LeAlan Jones, makes in his epigraph: "You must learn our America as we must learn your America, so that, maybe, someday, we can become one." Based on hours and hours of taped interviews that Jones and Lloyd Newman, two high school students, conducted for two National Public Radio documentaries they prepared in 1993 and 1995, Our America is a no-holds-barred look at the devastatingly poor Chicago neighborhood in which they live. It's a world where elementary school students learn about sex and drugs before they learn how to read, and where many boys do not expect to live to be 20. You finish the book marveling not that so many of those who people it are trapped, but wondering that anyone survives at all.

From the Publisher:

Every once in a while, voices emerge from a part of the world that we have forgotten or chosen to ignore. Sometimes their words ignite our conscience and rekindle our sense of justice. Our America, the work of two young men living in one of the most notorious public housing projects in America, does just that.

LeAlan Jones and Lloyd Newman have made it their mission to be loud voices out of a dark place, through two nationally acclaimed radio documentaries and now through this book. Informed by stunning photographs taken by a talented young photographer from the projects, Our America opens up the world of these two amazing young men, and tells the tragic story of the death of another, Eric Morse, a five-year-old who was dropped to his death from the fourteenth floor of a building in their project by two other little boys.

The book is sometimes funny, often painful, but always full of the promise of Our America -- that one day, the talent, the gift, the vision, of our children who are being raised in circumstances that should make us all weep will be heard and praised and understood. Our America is a step toward that goal. In the tradition of The Diary of Anne Frank and Zlata's Diary, Our America reaches out, to grab your attention and break your heart.

Author's Note

Our America was edited from more than a hundred hours of tape recorded by LeAlan and Lloyd. Some of the language, grammar, and slang in the interviews have been corrected to make for easier reading. number of names have also been changed to protect the identities of minors and others who do not wish to be identified. All references to gangs and gang members have been omitted for the safety of LeAlan, Lloyd, and their families.

LeAlan did most of the talking on the tapes from which this book | \\ was written (he is an extraordinarily gifted speaker), with Lloyd listening hard by his side, curious and admiring, every so often tossing in a wide-eyed question or comment. Except for the chapters on Lloyd's life, Our America is in LeAlan's voice.END

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Lloyd Newman, Lealan Jones, David Isay
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