There are no Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing up in the Other America


This true story, written by Alex Kotlowitz and published in 1992, could very well have been written in 2018. The biography follows Kotlowitz as he spent his nearly every waking moment of 1989 with Lafayette and Pharoah Rivers- two young brothers living in Chicago’s public housing.  

At the time, his work provided an unparalleled glimpse into urban poverty and its impact on neighborhoods. Today, it provides a sobering reminder that these issues are not new or even necessarily improving. Accounts from the boys and their friends reveal the robbery of their innocence due to the dysfunction in their surrounding environments. As the boys’ mother says, “But you know, there are no children here. They’ve seen too much to be children.”

Despite all of this, the book maintains a tone of optimism. Pharoah excels when he has the chance to study. Family relationships are still tight – despite all of the pressures surrounding them. Although the book leaves one with a strong disappointment in how little progress we have made, it also provides solid historical context and optimism to redouble our efforts for youth living in urban poverty.

The book has received numerous accolades including the Helen Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism, the Christopher Award, and the Carl Sandburg Award.