STATE OF OPPORTUNITY. Can Kids in Michigan Get Ahead?
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This special reporting project wrapped up in May 2017. Read more.

What I'm reading: There Are No Children Here

Sometimes I think there should be a State of Opportunity book club. We read tons of books as part of our research here at State of Opportunity, and any number of them could spark great discussions. The book I'm reading now, Alex Kotlowitz's There Are No Children Here, is no exception. It is, in a word, intense.

I picked up the book last week and have been devouring it ever since. It's the story of two African American boys trying to survive in one of Chicago's crime-ridden housing projects. The brothers, Lafeyette and Pharoah Rivers, witness countless shootings and are no strangers to gang life. To paraphrase a line from the book: the boys don't talk about what they want to be "when" they grow up, but rather "if" they grown up. Words you never want to hear any child utter, let alone think about. 

I'm about 100 pages into the book, and every day I resist the urge to Google the brothers' names to see what's become of them since Kotlowitz published the book some 20 years ago. I hope they're thriving, not just surviving, but I somehow doubt that's the case. 

There Are No Children Here is just one of many books I'm reading as part of research I'm doing for a new hour-long State of Opportunity radio special I'm working on about race and culture. (You'll hear more about the special over the next couple months.) And while the book might not be the most academic-y of the lot, it's by far the most moving. 

What books do you think would be good for a State of Opportunity book club?

Jennifer is a reporter with Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project. She previously covered arts and culture for the station, and worked as a producer for WFUV in the Bronx.
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