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Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival & Hope in an American City (2021)

by Andrea Elliott

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2208109,019 (4.54)16
"Destined to become one of the classics of the genre" (Newsweek), the riveting, unforgettable story of a girl whose indomitable spirit is tested by homelessness, poverty, and racism in an unequal America--from Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Andrea Elliott of The New York Times Invisible Child follows eight dramatic years in the life of a girl whose imagination is as soaring as the skyscrapers near her Brooklyn shelter. Dasani was named after the bottled water that signaled Brooklyn's gentrification and the shared aspirations of a divided city. In this sweeping narrative, Elliott weaves the story of Dasani's childhood with the history of her family, tracing the passage of their ancestors from slavery to the Great Migration north. As Dasani comes of age, the homeless crisis in New York City has exploded amid the deepening chasm between rich and poor.  Dasani must guide her siblings through a city riddled by hunger, violence, drug addiction, homelessness, and the monitoring of child protection services. Out on the street, Dasani becomes a fierce fighter to protect the ones she loves. When she finally escapes city life to enroll in a boarding school, she faces an impossible question: What if leaving poverty means abandoning your family, and yourself?  By turns heartbreaking and inspiring, Invisible Child tells an astonishing story about the power of resilience, the importance of family, and the cost of inequality. Based on nearly a decade of reporting, Invisible Child illuminates some of the most critical issues in contemporary America through the life of one remarkable girl.… (more)
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An amazing study of the struggle of a large inner city family that covers just under a decade..Elliott has done a tremendous job as she chronicles their joys, struggles and frailties both in their personal lives with each other and their personal demons as well as the numerous goverment agencies they have to navigate being poor on New York City. This is a very important book and should be read by any person involved in government "help" agencies. I pray this family will continue it's upswing. ( )
  muddyboy | Oct 30, 2022 |
I want to write so much about this book, but it would be nothing but spoilers. A punch in the gut, yet one of the best books I've read all year. ( )
  notbucket24 | Oct 2, 2022 |
We honestly don't know the lives of others. This is a must-read. Follow Dasani, her seven siblings, and parents as they navigate the world of poverty. We have got to find a way to do better. We have to. ( )
  DonnaMarieMerritt | Aug 19, 2022 |
This study is about a family for whom getting into the projects is an aspiration. While it's clear that there are many things that everyone in this family does wrong, you tell me what's wrong with a system in which we wait until a family is broken to help them and then spend $400,000 in one year on "social services" that separate and destroy them, when a fraction of that money could have saved them. I kid you not. Read this book. ( )
  TheLoisLevel | Feb 12, 2022 |
This story certainly forces one to think, and challenges modern liberalism. A drug-addicted couple has eight children, and relies on the state and the older children to raise them. The costs to the taxpayer are at least $400,000 per year, not counting remarkably generous public support following Elliott's New York Times series. Needless to say, it doesn't end well for anyone.

There are some wonderful things here, particularly about the strength of family, even when it is a counterproductive force. But this story of self-propagating poverty is largely sad and terrible.

> These two single parents and their four children merged. After getting married, Chanel and Supreme had another four children, bringing their collective brood to eight. The sheer size of their family can make strangers stare in judgment.

> Supreme hawks DVDs and cuts hair freelance at the shelter while Chanel “boosts” clothes, stealing them from stores to sell on the street. They also rely on public assistance … Since 1997, when Chanel struck a cop in the head with a bottle, she has been arrested eight times on charges including theft, drug possession, harassment, and assault in the third degree.

> “I will kill you if you don’t buy these paper towels,” Supreme tells the clerk, pointing what looks like a “black firearm,” the clerk later tells the police.

> Dasani’s family is getting $182 in monthly welfare cash, $1,103 in food stamps, and $724 in survivors benefits for Supreme’s first two children (due to the death of their mother, his first wife). This comes to about $65 a day, which, divided among a family of ten, amounts to $6.50 per person

> In total, the care of Chanel and Supreme’s children is costing more than $33,000 per month—a figure that will approach $400,000 per year. The Foundling supervisor, Linda, often thinks about this math. It would cost far less to keep a poor family intact, sparing them the trauma of separation, by placing a full-time aide in the home to prevent the problems that lead to neglect.

> she also suspects that Chanel is keeping the girls home from school. Today, a teacher heard one of the sisters complaining about childcare duties. Almost nothing upsets Miss Holmes more than the “baby machine” mother who leaves the task of raising her children to others. The burden usually falls to the oldest girl.

> It is Dasani’s stepbrother Khaliq. He skips school the next day, hoping the police will lose interest. He has never done anything like this. He cannot explain it, except to say that he was broke and his friends dared him to punch someone for $50. He would have preferred to strike a man, but they steered him toward an elderly woman.

> Dasani knows that her exit from Hershey will be seen as self-sabotage, as a form of educational suicide. But for Dasani, succeeding at Hershey required another kind of death. It meant losing, even killing off, a basic part of herself. “It was like they wanted you to be someone that you wasn’t,” she says. “If I talk the way I naturally talk—to them—like, something’s wrong with me.”

> Dasani shares a twin mattress with her closest sister, Avianna, whose name was inspired by the pricier Evian brand of water

> In 1994, the federal government began a social experiment known as Moving to Opportunity, gathering research on more than 4,600 families from five major cities—860 of whom were given housing vouchers to leave the projects for lower-poverty neighborhoods. Nearly twenty years later, researchers returned to see how the children of these families had fared. Those who had moved before age thirteen did better: They were significantly more likely to attend college, earn more money, and avoid becoming single parents. Those who left the projects after age thirteen fared less well. ( )
  breic | Feb 3, 2022 |
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For these are all our children.
We will all profit from, or pay for,
what they become.

                  —-JAMES BALDWIN
Dedication
To Ava and Clara
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First they came for Papa.
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To plan is to fail.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"Destined to become one of the classics of the genre" (Newsweek), the riveting, unforgettable story of a girl whose indomitable spirit is tested by homelessness, poverty, and racism in an unequal America--from Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Andrea Elliott of The New York Times Invisible Child follows eight dramatic years in the life of a girl whose imagination is as soaring as the skyscrapers near her Brooklyn shelter. Dasani was named after the bottled water that signaled Brooklyn's gentrification and the shared aspirations of a divided city. In this sweeping narrative, Elliott weaves the story of Dasani's childhood with the history of her family, tracing the passage of their ancestors from slavery to the Great Migration north. As Dasani comes of age, the homeless crisis in New York City has exploded amid the deepening chasm between rich and poor.  Dasani must guide her siblings through a city riddled by hunger, violence, drug addiction, homelessness, and the monitoring of child protection services. Out on the street, Dasani becomes a fierce fighter to protect the ones she loves. When she finally escapes city life to enroll in a boarding school, she faces an impossible question: What if leaving poverty means abandoning your family, and yourself?  By turns heartbreaking and inspiring, Invisible Child tells an astonishing story about the power of resilience, the importance of family, and the cost of inequality. Based on nearly a decade of reporting, Invisible Child illuminates some of the most critical issues in contemporary America through the life of one remarkable girl.

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