This week, I read Random Family by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc. It’s an amazing feat of reportage-I remember reading that she started off following one member of a poor Bronx family, then gradually expanded to the rest of it, and kept up with them for ten years, following all the events of their lives. I’m still thinking a lot about the book, hence the thread.
It’s an engrossing book-I read it in two days because I just had to see what was coming next. Since I grew up in a middle-class suburb, the book was a window into a world that I’d never known first-hand. It was troubling to see how the cycle of poverty kept everyone locked in. Whenever anyone would try to do something to improve their lives, like Coco returning to school, something would always come along and screw it up.
At the same time-I’m fresh from a Multicultural Counseling class, so I fully acknowledge the lens I view this throught-while the book jacked describes the book as “the story of young people trying to outrun their destinies,” it’s impossible not to aknowledge how the people in the book repeatedly screw themselves over. This book features a lot of systematic causes of misery-bureaucracratic rules that keep people busy staying poor, bad schools, child abuse, drug dealers everywhere, but for every one of those, there’s someone making a desicion that would cause someone who opposes welfare or any anti-poverty iniatives to stand up and crow. “See, they keep having kids they can’t afford! See, that dumbass 15-year-old with the pregnant girlfriend said welfare would support them! I told you so!”
The people in the book I most felt for were the kids like Mercedes and Serena, the ones who got stuck shuttling back and forth between apartments of mothers, grandmothers and friends, who never got to be kids because they were stuck baby-sitting. It was heart-breaking to see Coco try to make Cesar happy even after he’d had kids with other women, his accidental shooting of his friend over some gangbanger shit landed him in jail, and he was a drain on her already precarious finances.
Anyone else have any thoughts on the book?