In early July of 1993, shortly before the first time that I visited the neighborhood, three more people were shot in 30 minutes in three unrelated murders in the South Bronx, one of them only a block from St. Ann’s Avenue. A week later, a mother was murdered and her baby wounded by a bullet in the stomach while they were standing on a South Bronx corner. Three weeks after that, a minister and elderly parishioner were shot outside the front door of their church, while another South Bronx resident was discovered in his bathtub with his head cut off. In subsequent days, a man was shot in both his eyes and a ten-year-old was critically wounded in the brain.
Alicea and Kozol paint a vivid portrait of life in one of America's most impoverished neighborhoods, New York City's South Bronx. While telling similar stories, each narrative has its own unique flavor and characteristics that reveal the crushing nature of poverty in America and recount the lives of those who rise above it. Kozol (Savage Inequalities, LJ 9/15/91) describes a neighborhood ravaged by drugs, violence, hunger, AIDS, and antipathy but also one where children defy all the stereotypes. In the South Bronx, where the median income is $7600 a year and everything breaks down, Kozol reveals that the one thing that has remained resilient is the children. One of the resident children is 15-year-old Alicea, who saw his mother and sister succumb to AIDS, a father incarcerated in prison, and friends entrapped by drugs or violence. Like that of many children, his story is a life of options or despair. The path they pursue is dependent on government leadership. Both books should be required reading for policymakers and those concerned with the plight of the American poor.-Michael A. Lutes, Univ. of Notre Dame Lib., Ind.