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All God's Children: Inside the Dark and Violent World of Street Families

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All God's Children: Inside the Dark and Violent World of Street Families Cover

ISBN13: 9781586483098
ISBN10: 1586483099
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
All Product Details

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Staff Pick

This book was an eye-opening look into a culture that Portlanders encounter on a daily basis but know little of. After reading this true-life, page-turning thriller, you'll be looking at the city around you with a leery eye.
Recommended by Molly J., Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

James Daniel Nelson first hit the streets as a teenager in 1992. Rejoined a clutch of runaways and misfits who camped out together in a squat under a Portland bridge. Within a few months the group — they called themselves a family — was arrested for a string of violent murders.

While Nelson sat in prison, the society he had helped form grew into a national phenomenon. Street families spread to every city from New York to San Francisco, and to many small towns in between, bringing violence with them. In 2003, almost eleven years after his original murder, Nelson, now called Thantos, got out of prison, returned to Portland, created a new street family, and killed once more. Twelve family members were arrested along with him.

Rene Denfeld spent over a decade following the evolution of street family culture. She discovered that, contrary to popular belief, the majority of these teenagers hail from loving middle-class homes. Yet they have left those homes to form insular communities with cultish hierarchies, codes of behavior, languages, quasi-religions, and harsh rules. She reveals the extremes to which desperate teenagers will go in their search for a sense of community, and builds a persuasive and troubling case that street families have grown among us into a dark reversal of the American ideal.

Review:

"Denfeld brings to light the elaborate structure and culture of the 'families' that harbor the reported 1.5 million teenagers living on the streets of the U.S. Based on a decade of research, his intimate portrait of this fantasy-fueled, violent subculture—populated almost exclusively by teens from white, middle-class homes—is gory and shocking. He spares no details in describing cold characters, cultish rituals and murders, often from the perspective of those involved. Though the anecdotes are intriguing, and Denfeld brings some perspective to the psychology of these street families, he doesn't evaluate the larger cultural forces that have brought them together or their effect on society. Still, this is a powerful study of the dramatic measures that a growing number of lonely teenagers will take to feel like they belong." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"A fine Portland writer pens an often revelatory study of teens who bond together as 'families' on the streets, with much of her book focusing on a group in the Rose City involved in several murders; an important book that is the product of a decade's research." Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Review:

"A chilling look into the culture of feral teens that emerged nationwide in the 1990s." Elle Magazine

Review:

"In the end, what is most fascinating about this alien world is how much it has in common with mainstream teen experience." San Francisco Chronicle

Review:

"An up-close journalistic investigation of street families....A gripping tale." Kirkus Reviews

Synopsis:

How one violent pack of street youth terrorized Portland, Oregon, and how their frightening— and fascinating—subculture has swept unnoticed across America

About the Author

Rene Denfeld is the author of two previous books, including the international bestseller The New Victorians. She has written for numerous publications, including the New York Times Magazine. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her partner and three children.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 9 comments:

S Griffin, September 4, 2011 (view all comments by S Griffin)
In 2003, Jessica Williams was murdered in one of the most horrific ways imaginable. James, or “Thantos” as he liked to be called, was the “father” of a street family in Portland, Oregon. Denfeld shows us that kids are duped into thinking they are safe in a street family, when the truth is that even a made-up transgression can get them killed.
The descriptions of torture and murder in this book, as given by witnesses, are matter-of-fact but VERY disturbing. I chose to skip reading most of the killing of Jessica because it bothered me so much to know that there are such cruel and disturbed people out there on the streets. I think Denfeld’s intention was to wake us up to the reality of what’s going on in these families.
I really came to care about Jessica and am heartbroken to read how she died. I would recommend this book to anyone who has ever wondered, “Why are those kids just hanging out there?”
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(2 of 4 readers found this comment helpful)
Evan50, March 23, 2010 (view all comments by Evan50)
I found the book compelling reading into the "street family" the author investigates. There is some strong journalism/reporting here, and I think it is important to question the efficacy of agencies that help homeless youth. Such discussions are important. On the other hand, the book loses credibility once Denfield assumes an argumentative stance and strays from reporting. Her conclusions rest on a hasty generalization. The "street family" she describes is an extreme example of such social units. One could argue reasonably that this was a "street family" only because it was self-described as such by it's members, and this is where the author is led (and leads her audience) astray. In the end, she doesn't do enough homework to merit taking her conclusions seriously, which is too bad. A look into a horrible tragedy that befell a vulnerable girl with special needs is the true heart of the story and the author seems to lose sight of both her subject and context. Sadly, we end up with a sensationalized rendering of reality and with lots of blood driping. Read her book with a decerning eye.
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(3 of 5 readers found this comment helpful)
SaFiZzIe, January 16, 2010 (view all comments by SaFiZzIe)
I was in a juvenile correctional faility with one of the girls mentioned in this book. She was serving time as a part of the murders discussed in this book. It is a powerful and very informative book about the circumstances of street Families.
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View all 9 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9781586483098
Author:
Denfeld, Rene
Publisher:
PublicAffairs
Subject:
General
Subject:
Murder
Subject:
Criminology
Subject:
Gangs
Subject:
Violence in Society
Subject:
General Biography
Subject:
Gangs -- United States.
Subject:
Murder -- United States.
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Publication Date:
20070130
Binding:
Electronic book text in proprietary or open standard format
Language:
English
Pages:
336
Dimensions:
9.25 x 6.13 in 18.6 oz

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » American Studies » General
History and Social Science » American Studies » Poverty
History and Social Science » Pacific Northwest » Oregon » Portland » General
History and Social Science » Sociology » General
History and Social Science » Sociology » Urban Studies » General

All God's Children: Inside the Dark and Violent World of Street Families Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$11.50 In Stock
Product details 336 pages PublicAffairs - English 9781586483098 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

This book was an eye-opening look into a culture that Portlanders encounter on a daily basis but know little of. After reading this true-life, page-turning thriller, you'll be looking at the city around you with a leery eye.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Denfeld brings to light the elaborate structure and culture of the 'families' that harbor the reported 1.5 million teenagers living on the streets of the U.S. Based on a decade of research, his intimate portrait of this fantasy-fueled, violent subculture—populated almost exclusively by teens from white, middle-class homes—is gory and shocking. He spares no details in describing cold characters, cultish rituals and murders, often from the perspective of those involved. Though the anecdotes are intriguing, and Denfeld brings some perspective to the psychology of these street families, he doesn't evaluate the larger cultural forces that have brought them together or their effect on society. Still, this is a powerful study of the dramatic measures that a growing number of lonely teenagers will take to feel like they belong." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "A fine Portland writer pens an often revelatory study of teens who bond together as 'families' on the streets, with much of her book focusing on a group in the Rose City involved in several murders; an important book that is the product of a decade's research."
"Review" by , "A chilling look into the culture of feral teens that emerged nationwide in the 1990s."
"Review" by , "In the end, what is most fascinating about this alien world is how much it has in common with mainstream teen experience."
"Review" by , "An up-close journalistic investigation of street families....A gripping tale."
"Synopsis" by ,
How one violent pack of street youth terrorized Portland, Oregon, and how their frightening— and fascinating—subculture has swept unnoticed across America
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