HomeGroupsTalkMoreZeitgeist
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Loading...

Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx

by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,2323511,202 (4.29)33
Random Family tells the American outlaw saga lurking behind the headlines of gangsta glamour, gold-drenched drug dealers, and street-corner society. With an immediacy made possible only after ten years of reporting, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc immerses the reader in the mind-boggling intricacies of the little-known ghetto world. She charts the tumultuous cycle of the generations, as girls become mothers, mothers become grandmothers, boys become criminals, and hope struggles against deprivation. Two romances thread through Random Family: the sexually charismatic nineteen-year-old Jessica's dizzying infatuation with a hugely successful young heroin dealer, Boy George, and fourteen-year-old Coco's first love with Jessica's little brother, Cesar, an aspiring thug. Fleeing from family problems, the young couples try to outrun their destinies. Chauffeurs whisk them to getaways in the Poconos and to nightclubs. They cruise the streets in Lamborghinis and customized James Bond cars. Jessica and Boy George ride the wild adventure between riches and ruin, while Coco and Cesar stick closer to the street, all four caught in a precarious dance between life and death. Friends get murdered; the DEA and FBI investigate Boy George's business activities; Cesar becomes a fugitive; Jessica and Coco endure homelessness, betrayal, the heartbreaking separation of prison, and throughout it all, the insidious damage of poverty. Together, then apart, the teenagers make family where they find it. Girls look for excitement and find trouble; boys, searching for adventure, join crews and prison gangs. Coco moves upstate to dodge the hazards of the Bronx; Jessica seeks solace in romance. Both find that love is theonly place to go. A gifted prose stylist and a profoundly compassionate observer, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc has slipped behind the cold statistics and sensationalism surrounding inner-city life and come back with a riveting, haunting, and true urban soap opera that reveals the clenched grip of the streets. Random Family is a compulsive read and an important journalistic achievement, sure to take its place beside the classics of the genre.… (more)
Recently added byhivetrick, lilypute99, Happenence, private library, clio21000, AK148, rperlin, Keesha94, baruthcook
Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 33 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
This was an extremely compelling book and highly recommend it. I gained a first-hand perspective on what its like to grow-up and live in poverty and how difficult it is to overcome. The women in this book stayed with me long after I finished reading it. ( )
  baruthcook | Aug 26, 2020 |
Random Family was written over 10 years by LeBlanc who immersed herself in the lives of an extended family of Puerto Ricans living in serious poverty in the Bronx. As a non-fiction book this is a little old now in relation to it's subject matter (written in 2003, chronicling from 1985 to 2000), but no matter - it's still incredibly powerful stuff.

As an immersive piece of fly-on-the-wall piece of journalism (LeBlanc was trusted and welcomed into the lives of those she chronicled), this book is so affecting because of the extended length of time the author spent with her subjects. We don't just read about the 'whats' in their lives - by really getting under the hood of their world we start to understand a little more about their 'whys' in terms of bad choices made.

At its heart this is a story about abject poverty in an area overrun by crime. Depressingly, although each generation wants better for their children than their own upbringing, the cycle gets endlessly repeated again and again. Young mothers (14, 15, 16) end up with large families from different fathers while they're still adolescents themselves. Families typically have no firm roofs over their heads, drifting between small, rundown apartments belonging to extended family members that often have multiple adults and children already living in them. Adults most usually are unemployed or ensconced in the drug trade. Addictions are the norm, child molestation is common but not dwelled on (there are so many adults on the scene figuring out the culprit is often near to impossible), and kids are generally neglected by their families and schools despite good intentions. Young girls typically end up bearing the brunt of the work in bringing up their younger siblings (before starting motherhood themselves), and young boys - lacking guidance from fathers who are usually not involved in their upbringing and typically in jail by their late teens or murdered - eventually get into trouble on the streets, with tough attitudes and uncontrolled anger leading quickly to involvement in gangs, drugs and serious crime.

LeBlanc started writing this novel after following the trial of notorious young drug kingpin Boy George, who, before being sent down for life, was living the high life with Bentleys, jewellery, furs and beautiful women. One of those girls was Jessica, a knockout girl from a poor slum in the Bronx, and it's starting with Jessica that LeBlanc weaves this true story. Within 15 years, Jessica will have gone from rags to riches to a 10 year prison sentence back to rags, becoming a mother of 5 and grandmother of 1 in that same period. We also follow the story of her brother Cesar and his inevitable spiral into crime, and that of Coco, mother to 2 of Cesar's children who extracts herself from the Bronx but ultimately can't escape the grinding poverty that keeps her stuck in the same cycle as previous generations.

As a white, privileged reader, many of the life choices made seem utterly crazy - more babies when they can't cope with the ones they already have, money windfalls (from robberies or insurance claims) frittered away within weeks. However, LeBlanc is pretty successful by the end of the book in helping us understand that when living in this level of extreme poverty, amid everyday violence and dysfunction, there are few support structures, few reliable people to guide or help, and few opportunities to do the right thing when the day-to-day grind is like quicksand.

This is not a book of hope and light at the end of the tunnel - it is a book of stark realism about those living in the poorest sectors of society.

Were it written today, I wonder would LeBlanc be accused of writing a story that is not hers to tell. I think in this case that would be an unfair argument. In researching Random Family she spent a significantly long time immersed in her characters' lives, and it's doubtful that any of her characters would ever have been in a situation privileged enough to have been able to write their story themselves.

5 stars - thoroughly engrossing, albeit incredibly tragic. ( )
1 vote AlisonY | Apr 20, 2020 |
well written, but I'm just not interested in the story and the characters (people). This doesn't fit my criteria for one of the 100 New Classics. ( )
  deldevries | Oct 27, 2017 |
From Publishers Weekly
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 incluidng street talk only when one of her subjects wants to "conversate." This fine work deserves attention from policy makers and general readers alike. Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. ( )
  WayCriminalJustice | Apr 8, 2016 |
An incredible portrait of the joint impacts of poverty and the drug war in the US. The author walks a fine line between journalism and voyeurism at times, but the simple act of telling the in-depth stories of these families making ends meet is tremendously confronting and powerful. And, to be honest, a bit dispiriting. ( )
  mjlivi | Feb 2, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
...Some say that Happiness is not Good for mortals & they ought to be answerd that Sorrow is not fit for Immortals & is utterly useless to any one a blight never does good to a tree & if a blight kill not a tree but it still bear fruit let none say that the fruit was in consequence of the blight.
William Blake, letter to William Hayley
London, October 7, 1803
Dedication
For my parents,
Eve Mary Margaret Mazzaferro
and Adrian Leon LeBlanc
First words
Jessica lived on Tremont Avenue, on one of the poorer blocks in a very poor section of the Bronx.
Quotations
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

Random Family tells the American outlaw saga lurking behind the headlines of gangsta glamour, gold-drenched drug dealers, and street-corner society. With an immediacy made possible only after ten years of reporting, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc immerses the reader in the mind-boggling intricacies of the little-known ghetto world. She charts the tumultuous cycle of the generations, as girls become mothers, mothers become grandmothers, boys become criminals, and hope struggles against deprivation. Two romances thread through Random Family: the sexually charismatic nineteen-year-old Jessica's dizzying infatuation with a hugely successful young heroin dealer, Boy George, and fourteen-year-old Coco's first love with Jessica's little brother, Cesar, an aspiring thug. Fleeing from family problems, the young couples try to outrun their destinies. Chauffeurs whisk them to getaways in the Poconos and to nightclubs. They cruise the streets in Lamborghinis and customized James Bond cars. Jessica and Boy George ride the wild adventure between riches and ruin, while Coco and Cesar stick closer to the street, all four caught in a precarious dance between life and death. Friends get murdered; the DEA and FBI investigate Boy George's business activities; Cesar becomes a fugitive; Jessica and Coco endure homelessness, betrayal, the heartbreaking separation of prison, and throughout it all, the insidious damage of poverty. Together, then apart, the teenagers make family where they find it. Girls look for excitement and find trouble; boys, searching for adventure, join crews and prison gangs. Coco moves upstate to dodge the hazards of the Bronx; Jessica seeks solace in romance. Both find that love is theonly place to go. A gifted prose stylist and a profoundly compassionate observer, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc has slipped behind the cold statistics and sensationalism surrounding inner-city life and come back with a riveting, haunting, and true urban soap opera that reveals the clenched grip of the streets. Random Family is a compulsive read and an important journalistic achievement, sure to take its place beside the classics of the genre.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Haiku summary

Quick Links

Popular covers

Rating

Average: (4.29)
0.5 1
1
1.5 1
2 6
2.5 2
3 31
3.5 12
4 73
4.5 15
5 128

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 151,467,097 books! | Top bar: Always visible