There Are No Children Here

by

Alex Kotlowitz

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Alex Kotlowitz Character Analysis

The narrator and author of There are No Children Here. Kotlowitz’s friendship with the Rivers family began while he was working on the written content for a photographer’s essay on childhood and poverty, which featured a photo of Lafeyette and Pharoah. Two years later, Kotlowitz began writing an article in The Wall Street Journal about urban violence’s impact on children. To do so, Kotlowitz spent a large amount of time with Lafeyette and Pharoah. With LaJoe’s permission, Kotlowitz then began writing a book so that Horner residents’ stories could be brought to public attention.

Alex Kotlowitz Quotes in There Are No Children Here

The There Are No Children Here quotes below are all either spoken by Alex Kotlowitz or refer to Alex Kotlowitz. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Family, Love, and Care Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Random House edition of There Are No Children Here published in 1991.
Preface Quotes

I asked Lafeyette what he wanted to be. “If I grow up, I’d like to be a bus driver,” he told me. If, not when. At the age of ten, Lafeyette wasn’t sure he’d make it to adulthood.

Related Characters: Alex Kotlowitz (speaker), Lafeyette Rivers
Page Number: x
Explanation and Analysis:

They have joined gangs, sold drugs, and, in some cases, inflicted pain on others. But they have also played baseball and gone on dates and shot marbles and kept diaries. For, despite all they have seen and done, they are—and we must constantly remind ourselves of this—still children.

Page Number: xi
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 2 Quotes

LaJoe had watched and held on as the neighborhood slowly decayed, as had many urban communities like Horner over the past two decades. First, the middle-class whites fled to the suburbs. Then the middle-class blacks left for safer neighborhoods. Then businesses moved, some to the suburbs, others to the South.

Related Characters: Alex Kotlowitz (speaker), LaJoe Rivers
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:

But though the isolation and the physical ruin of the area’s stores and homes had discouraged LaJoe, it was her family that had most let her down. Not that she could separate the two. Sometimes she blamed her children’s problems on the neighborhood; at other times, she attributed the neighborhood’s decline to the change in people, to the influx of drugs and violence.

Related Characters: Alex Kotlowitz (speaker), LaJoe Rivers
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

Cleaning house was the only way she could clear her mind, to avoid thinking about what might happen or what might have been. It was cathartic in demanding focus and concentration. She scrubbed and washed and rearranged furniture, particularly when things got tense—with family problems, shootings, and deaths. The kids knew to stay out of her way, except for Lafeyette, who, like his mother, also found cleaning a useful distraction.

Related Characters: Alex Kotlowitz (speaker), LaJoe Rivers, Lafeyette Rivers, Pharoah Rivers
Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4 Quotes

Lafeyette, Pharoah, and the other children knew to keep their distance from Jimmie Lee. But they also knew that he and no one else—not the mayor, the police, or the housing authority—ruled Henry Horner. The boys never had reason to speak to Lee or to meet him, but his very presence and activities ruled their lives.

Related Characters: Alex Kotlowitz (speaker), Lafeyette Rivers, Pharoah Rivers, Jimmie Lee
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:

Even at Horner, the viciousness of this slaying unnerved people. By summer’s end, as the Vice Lords established their dominance, the war had touched the lives of almost everyone living in Henry Horner. Lafeyette and Pharoah, as well as the adults, began talking of the “death train” that drove smack through their community.

Related Characters: Alex Kotlowitz (speaker), Lafeyette Rivers, Pharoah Rivers
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

Lafeyette confided to LaJoe, who tried vainly to get him to verbalize his grief, that talking wasn’t going to help him, that everything that “goes wrong keeps going on and everything that’s right doesn’t stay right.”

Related Characters: Lafeyette Rivers (speaker), Alex Kotlowitz (speaker), LaJoe Rivers, Calvin “Bird Leg” Robinson
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8 Quotes

Often, when Rickey became embroiled in a fight, he began to relive Bird Leg’s last minutes, and as he did so, his anger turned to rage. In class, he once choked another child so long and hard that, in the words of Pharoah, “he put him to sleep.” These flashbacks, which were nor unlike those of a traumatized war veteran, haunted Rickey for well over a year after Bird Leg’s death.

Related Characters: Pharoah Rivers (speaker), Alex Kotlowitz (speaker), Rickey, Calvin “Bird Leg” Robinson
Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:

He secretly wished his mother would push him more, make him go to sleep early, make him do his homework. LaJoe conceded that she could be too soft on her children, though she wanted nothing more than to see Lafeyette and Pharoah graduate from high school.

Related Characters: Alex Kotlowitz (speaker), LaJoe Rivers, Lafeyette Rivers, Pharoah Rivers
Page Number: 75
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10 Quotes

Because he had lately responded to nearly every instance of violence and family trouble with the same refrain—“I’m too little to understand”—she feared that the problems, when he was at last ready to confront them, would be too deeply buried for him to resolve. Now, though, she was convinced that Pharoah’s attitude gave him some peace of mind and the strength to push on, so she avoided burdening him with stories of hardship.

Related Characters: Alex Kotlowitz (speaker), LaJoe Rivers, Pharoah Rivers
Related Symbols: Pharoah’s Stutter
Page Number: 97
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 16 Quotes

Pharoah became more alert and prudent. He had never stolen anything. Nor had he ever gotten into any trouble other than talking in class. He wanted it to stay that way. The best way was to hang out more by himself. Pharoah decided he no longer had any friends. Like his brother, he just had associates.

“You don’t have no friends in the projects,” he said. “They’ll turn you down for anything.”

Related Characters: Pharoah Rivers (speaker), Alex Kotlowitz (speaker), Lafeyette Rivers, Rickey
Page Number: 154
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 18 Quotes

They didn’t listen. They didn’t understand. So if they thought he was a bad guy, if they wanted him to be a bad guy, then he’d be a bad guy. If they wanted to put him away for something he didn’t do, then he’d give them something to put him away with. It was a tangled and tragic life that had got him into trouble. It was his own confused method of seeking justice.

Related Characters: Terence Rivers (speaker), Alex Kotlowitz (speaker), Rickey
Page Number: 154
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 19 Quotes

In preparation for the singing of the national anthem, the emcee yelled, “Don’t you love this country?”

“Nooooooo,” the crowd roared, drowning out Pharoah’s meekly spoken “yes.” Only a few in the crowd, including Pharoah, placed their hands on their hearts during the anthem’s singing.

Related Characters: Pharoah Rivers (speaker), Alex Kotlowitz (speaker)
Page Number: 181
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 21 Quotes

Pharoah realized that something was terribly wrong. He didn’t want to ask. No one seemed to care about his spelling bee triumph. No one wanted to hear what he had to say. Dutt was weeping. Lafeyette, while he had one ear to the conversation, stared vacantly out the window; he didn’t even congratulate Pharoah. LaJoe tucked Pharoah’s red ribbon into her pocketbook.

Page Number: 203
Explanation and Analysis:

It was not that they wanted the horrible bloodshed. Nor was it that they wanted to rise up in arms against the police again. It was just that they ached for a time when the community had a collective conscience, when neighbors trusted one another and had enough confidence in their own powers of persuasion to demand a better and more peaceful life. Everyone now seemed timid and afraid.

Related Characters: Alex Kotlowitz (speaker), Craig Davis, The Soto Brothers
Page Number: 207
Explanation and Analysis:

Memories for Lafeyette became dangerous. He recalled nothing of Bird Leg’s funeral. He couldn’t remember the names of any of the performers at the talent show. He sometimes had trouble recounting what he had done just the day before in school. Shutting out the past was perhaps the only way he could go forward or at least manage the present. Besides, he knew, nothing could bring Craig back.

Page Number: 209
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 24 Quotes

She had seen Terence change in the year she had known him. He had hardened. The weight lifting made him look older and more menacing. He seemed more defiant. “When I first saw him he was a little kid. He was soft-looking and soft-spoken,” she said. She didn’t think a long sting in jail would do him any good.

Related Characters: Alex Kotlowitz (speaker), Audrey Natcone (speaker), Terence Rivers
Page Number: 232
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 28 Quotes

The judge looked bewildered. “Did we have a case by that name?” Someone in the courtroom stifled a giggle. Three minutes had passed and he didn’t even remember Lafeyette. LaJoe felt as if no one cared. It was as if they were invisible. No one saw them or heard them or cared enough to treat them like human beings.

Related Characters: Alex Kotlowitz (speaker), LaJoe Rivers, Lafeyette Rivers
Page Number: 274
Explanation and Analysis:
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Alex Kotlowitz Character Timeline in There Are No Children Here

The timeline below shows where the character Alex Kotlowitz appears in There Are No Children Here. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Preface
Family, Love, and Care Theme Icon
Violence and Growing Up Theme Icon
Alex Kotlowitz describes his first encounter with Lafayette and Pharoah Rivers in 1985, at the Henry Horner... (full context)
Family, Love, and Care Theme Icon
Violence and Growing Up Theme Icon
Two years later, in 1987, Kotlowitz returns to Henry Horner to report on Lafeyette and Pharoah’s lives for an article in... (full context)
Family, Love, and Care Theme Icon
Violence and Growing Up Theme Icon
Kotlowitz notes that in Chicago, one in three children live in poverty. Through his reporting on... (full context)
Chapter 3
Persistence, Luck, and Success Theme Icon
Justice and the Law Theme Icon
...this decision highlighted the striking alienation of the poor, mostly black residents of Horner. Chicago, Kotlowitz argues, was so segregated that such housing complexes felt as dangerous and distant to politicians,... (full context)
Chapter 6
Family, Love, and Care Theme Icon
Violence and Growing Up Theme Icon
Justice and the Law Theme Icon
...never be able to change anything. His expression becomes stoic, empty, and unforgiving, revealing what Kotlowitz sees as both loneliness and fear. He tells his mother that, instead of having friends,... (full context)
Chapter 13
Family, Love, and Care Theme Icon
Violence and Growing Up Theme Icon
Persistence, Luck, and Success Theme Icon
...a safe neighborhood, far from Horner—a capacity to project himself into the future that, as Kotlowitz notes, many young men at Horner usually give up on. He talks about “good things”... (full context)
Epilogue
Persistence, Luck, and Success Theme Icon
Justice and the Law Theme Icon
...Boys Club, where he works with small children, which he enjoys doing. In the meantime, Kotlowitz succeeds in getting both Lafeyette and Pharoah into a private school outside of Horner, which... (full context)
A Note on Reporting Methods
Family, Love, and Care Theme Icon
Justice and the Law Theme Icon
Alex Kotlowitz explains that most of the material for the book derives from the time he spent... (full context)
Justice and the Law Theme Icon
On a few occasions, Kotlowitz helped the family financially in small ways, for example buying one of the children a... (full context)