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Random Family


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About the Author

Adrian Nicole LeBlanc's first book, Random Family, was a New York Times Bestseller, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the winner of The Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and the Ridenhour Book Prize. LeBlanc's work has been published in The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, Esquire, Elle, Spin, The Source, The Village Voice, and other magazines. LeBlanc lives in Manhattan.


Politicians rail about welfare queens, crack babies and deadbeat dads, but what do they know about the real struggle it takes to survive being poor? Journalist LeBlanc spent some 10 years researching and interviewing one extended family-mother Lourdes, daughter Jessica, daughter-in-law Coco and all their boyfriends, children and in-laws-from the Bronx to Troy, N.Y., in and out of public housing, emergency rooms, prisons and courtrooms. LeBlanc's close listening produced this extraordinary book, a rare look at the world from the subjects' point of view. Readers learn that prison is just an extension of the neighborhood, a place most men enter and a rare few leave. They learn the realities of welfare: the myriad of misdemeanors that trigger reduction or termination of benefits, only compounding a desperate situation. They see teenaged drug dealers with incredible organizational and financial skills, 13-year-old girls having babies to keep their boyfriends interested, older women reminiscing about the "heavenly time" they spent in a public hospital's psychiatric ward and incarcerated men who find life's first peace and quiet in solitary confinement. More than anything, LeBlanc shows how demanding poverty is. Her prose is plain and unsentimental, blessedly jargon-free, and includidng street talk only when one of her subjects wants to "conversate." This fine work deserves attention from policy makers and general readers alike. (Feb.) Forecast: Readers who enjoy the work of Barbara Ehrenreich, Alex Kotlowitz, Jonathan Kozol, Susan Sheehan and other social world reporters will seek this out; it should receive wide review attention and will surely inspire policy debates. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

This is a slice-of-life chronicle of black and Puerto Rican teens in the South Bronx during the 1980s. Looking for excitement, prosperity, love, sex, connection, and family, they instead find drugs, abuse, babies, and prison-a continuation of the home life they had hoped to escape. There is a lot of interesting dialog in the local argot, but the chronicle is too busy to provide much analysis and understanding. Other books of the genre, such as Alex Kotlowitz's There Are No Children Here and Susan Sheehan's A Welfare Mother, have fewer characters and less activity and thereby create a more nuanced, sympathetic, and insightful portrait. LeBlanc is a magazine journalist who has reported extensively on adolescents, and an excerpt of this book previously appeared in The New Yorker. Recommended for sociology and urban affairs collections and some public libraries.-Janice Dunham, John Jay Coll. Lib., CUNY Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.

Alex Kotlowitz author of There Are No Children Here A remarkable piece of reportage about a tucked-away corner of America... It's one compelling read.
Vogue A magnificent tour de force...An insider's narrative that grips from the start.
Janet Maslin The New York Times Mesmerizing...The artistry of this frank, enthralling book lies in the utter simplicity -- and careful, subtle selectivity -- with which LeBlanc plainly describes the determining events in what will now be unforgettable lives.
Newsweek Keenly observed, pitch-perfect...A dense, rich narrative that reads like a novel.
Los Angeles Times A nonfiction Middlemarch of the underclass...A new benchmark in the field of immersion journalism.

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