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

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

by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc

Scribner | February 10, 2004 | Trade Paperback

3.6667 out of 5 rating. 3 Reviews
In her extraordinary bestseller, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc immerses readers in the intricacies of the ghetto, revealing the true sagas lurking behind the headlines of gangsta glamour, gold-drenched drug dealers, and street-corner society. Focusing on two romances-Jessica's dizzying infatuation with a hugely successful young heroin dealer, Boy George, and Coco's first love with Jessica''s little brother, Cesar-Random Family is the story of young people trying to outrun their destinies. 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 survival and death. Friends get murdered; the DEA and FBI investigate Boy George; Cesar becomes a fugitive; Jessica and Coco endure homelessness, betrayal, the heartbreaking separation of prison, and, throughout it all, the insidious damage of poverty.

Charting the tumultuous cycle of the generations-as girls become mothers, boys become criminals, and hope struggles against deprivation-LeBlanc slips behind the cold statistics and sensationalism and comes back with a riveting, haunting, and true story.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 432 Pages, 5.12 × 8.27 × 0.79 in

Published: February 10, 2004

Publisher: Scribner

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0743254430

ISBN - 13: 9780743254434

Found in: Social and Cultural Studies

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– More About This Product –

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

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

by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 432 Pages, 5.12 × 8.27 × 0.79 in

Published: February 10, 2004

Publisher: Scribner

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0743254430

ISBN - 13: 9780743254434

Read from the Book

Chapter One Jessica lived on Tremont Avenue, on one of the poorer blocks in a very poor section of the Bronx. She dressed even to go to the store. Chance was opportunity in the ghetto, and you had to be prepared for anything. She didn''t have much of a wardrobe, but she was resourceful with what she had -- her sister''s Lee jeans, her best friend''s earrings, her mother''s T-shirts and perfume. Her appearance on the streets in her neighborhood usually caused a stir. A sixteen-year-old Puerto Rican girl with bright hazel eyes, a huge, inviting smile, and a voluptuous shape, she radiated intimacy wherever she went. You could be talking to her in the middle of the bustle of Tremont and feel as if lovers'' confidences were being exchanged beneath a tent of sheets. Guys in cars offered rides. Grown men got stupid. Women pursed their lips. Boys made promises they could not keep. Jessica was good at attracting boys, but less good at holding on to them. She fell in love hard and fast. She desperately wanted to be somebody''s real girlfriend, but she always ended up the other girl, the mistress, the one they saw on the down-low, the girl nobody claimed. Boys called up to her window after they''d dropped off their main girls, the steady ones they referred to as wives. Jessica still had her fun, but her fun was somebody else''s trouble, and for a wild girl at the dangerous age, the trouble could get big. It was the mideighties, and the drug trade on East Tremont was brisk. The avenue ma
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From the Publisher

In her extraordinary bestseller, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc immerses readers in the intricacies of the ghetto, revealing the true sagas lurking behind the headlines of gangsta glamour, gold-drenched drug dealers, and street-corner society. Focusing on two romances-Jessica's dizzying infatuation with a hugely successful young heroin dealer, Boy George, and Coco's first love with Jessica''s little brother, Cesar-Random Family is the story of young people trying to outrun their destinies. 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 survival and death. Friends get murdered; the DEA and FBI investigate Boy George; Cesar becomes a fugitive; Jessica and Coco endure homelessness, betrayal, the heartbreaking separation of prison, and, throughout it all, the insidious damage of poverty.

Charting the tumultuous cycle of the generations-as girls become mothers, boys become criminals, and hope struggles against deprivation-LeBlanc slips behind the cold statistics and sensationalism and comes back with a riveting, haunting, and true story.

About the Author

Adrian Nicole LeBlanc is a frequent contributor to The New York Times Magazine and other publications. She has also been the recipient of numerous awards, including a Bunting fellowship from Radcliffe, a MacDowell Colony residency, and a Soros Media Fellowship. She lives in Manhattan. Random Family, which was short-listed for the international Lettre Ulysses Award for the Art of Reportage, is her first book.

Editorial Reviews

Los Angeles Times A nonfiction Middlemarch of the underclass...A new benchmark in the field of immersion journalism.

Bookclub Guide

Random Family

Reading Group Guide

1. At the beginning of the book, the author writes that "chance was opportunity in the ghetto and you had to be prepared for anything." What opportunities did Jessica, Boy George, Coco, and Cesar consider significant, and how did they prepare for them? Did they have opportunities they could not see? Why?

2. Loyalty plays a crucial role in Random Family. What did it mean to each of the principal characters? How do their loyalties shape the course of their lives?

3. We are told that "For Jessica, love was the most interesting place to go and beauty was the ticket." Describe the relationship between romance and money in the lives of the book''s female characters. Is this different, in degree or in kind, from the sexual economy in mainstream American life?

4. We meet Cesar as a young boy, sitting on "the broken steps of his mother''s building, biding his time, watching the older boys who ruled the street." Who were his male role models? According to their example, what did becoming a man entail? How did this understanding of manhood prepare Cesar for prison? How did his definition of masculinity change over time?

5. For the teenage girls in Random Family, what are the attractions of being a mother? What sort of power and influence-real or imagined-is associated with the role?

6. Describe the role of social service agencies in Coco''s life. Describe the ways in which their treatment of her enhanced or undermined her own sense of agency.

7. By conventional standards, Elaine and Iris are more successful than their sisters. What qualities and actions were instrumental in achieving that success? What price did they pay for it? How do their strategies confirm or challenge traditional notions about the supportive functions of families?

8. Explore the reasons why the households in this book are often in a state of flux. Why do people move? What are the advantages and disadvantages of relocation? Do men and women move for the same reasons?

9. Many of the characters in Random Family continue to be optimistic, even cheerful, despite extremely difficult lives and setbacks. When and how can hope be a sustaining force and when and how can it be a destructive one? Discuss.

10. The author writes, "The sexual threat men posed to little girls was so pervasive that even the warnings meant to avert it were saturated with fatalism." Explore the ways in which the ubiquity of sexual abuse in the world of the book affects the characters'' attitudes about it.

11. None of the young people in the book blame their circumstances for the choices they made, yet much of the public discussion of the poor uses terms that infer moral and personal blame. Why do you think this is? Would you assign blame for the tragedies described here? To whom? Why?

12. Political activists often complain about society''s "crisis approach" to poverty, how basic supports are only granted in emergencies. Are there examples of this in the book? What alternate strategies would improve the lives of children like Mercedes?

13. Have your ideas about poverty and privilege changed since reading Random Family? Were there moments when you particularly empathized with the people in this book? Were there moments that you felt particularly alienated? If so, when and why?

14. The author, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, interacted with/observed??? these families for over a decade and was witness to most of the events that took place, yet she is not present in the narrative. How might this have been a different book if she had included herself as a character? Why does she leave herself out?

15. In an interview about the title, the author described her ongoing interest in the families teenagers form among their friends and the appeal of self-created families. Have "random families" played an important role in your own life?

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