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Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronxby Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
Synopses & Reviews
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 the only 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.
?The artistry of this frank, enthralling book lies in the utter simplicity - and careful, subtle selectivity - with which she plainly describes the determining events in what will now be unforgettable lives....[W]hat might have been a lurid, discouraging story winds up with backbone and hope?..Random Family reveals more about what keeps people together than what drives them apart.? Janet Maslin, The New York Times
?What separates Random Family from other accounts of inner-city ?pathology? is how vivid she makes her characters, in their faults as much as in their virtues?.It becomes a thick, dense, rich narrative: literary anthropology that reads like a novel.? Michael J. Agovino, Newsweek
?This book makes human the unrelenting problems of the ghetto?. Random Family does not spell out any analytic conclusions, but the reporting does illuminate the lived reality of our social policies.?The precarious world Random Family depicts, the fragility of life and relationships, is probably more like the sweep of human history than most of us realize. It is a sobering thought.? Tanya Luhrmann, The New York Observer
?Somehow managing to be both journalistically objective and novelistically passionate, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc has made a singular contribution to the literature of the American underclass. An unforgettable and intimate portrait of life in the urban trenches, as much about love and longing as it is about the statistics of despair.? Richard Price
?I know no other writer who has dug in as deep as Adrian Nicole LeBlanc. She didn't just report; she burrowed for years into a world she came to know so well that it lost every speck of foreignness. That astonishing intimacy allowed her to view this book's random family as one might view one's own family: with a mixture of exasperation and respect, disappointment and love. If God is in the details, this is a holy book.? Anne Fadiman
"In the richness, vitality, and visceral power of its prose, Random Family struck me in the same way that Hubert Selby's classic Last Exit to Brooklyn did — with detail-driven force. The stories recounted here, of careening lives and urban struggle, seem both familiar and exotic, for this straightforwardly written, often gripping book reads like a fantastic tale from another world — which happens to be the Bronx. Well done." Oscar Hijuelos
?Random Family is a remarkable piece of reportage, an important, up-close window into a tucked-away corner of America. Watching Jessica's and Coco's lives unfold over the course of ten years is by turns unsettling and affecting, and their stories have stayed with me. Adrian Nicole LeBlanc has written a book that's epochal in scope and unflinching in its candor. It's one compelling read.? Alex Kotlowitz
?This book has a fresh, even original quality. It is a family saga, but of a most unusual kind, an intimate and detailed portrait of a world that is shamefully hidden away. I read it compulsively, thankful for its candor and above all its fascination.? Tracy Kidder
?Adrian Nicole LeBlanc brings to life a world often resisted. Writing in the tradition of James Agee and Walker Evans, she invites us to see in a new way people whose lives are often despised or dismissed. Random Family reads like a novel. This is a brilliant, original book.? Carol Gilligan
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's first book, Random Family, was a New York Times Bestseller, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the winner of The Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and the Ridenhour Book Prize. LeBlanc's work has been published in The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, Esquire, Elle, Spin, The Source, The Village Voice, and other magazines. She holds a B.A. in sociology from Smith College, a Master's of Philosophy and Modern Literature from Oxford University, and a Master of Law Studies from Yale Law School. She has also been the recipient of numerous awards, including a Bunting fellowship from Radcliffe, a MacDowell Colony residency, and a Soros Media Fellowship from the Open Society. LeBlanc lives in Manhattan.
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