There Are No Children Here

by

Alex Kotlowitz

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Lafeyette Rivers Character Analysis

At twelve years old, Lafeyette is LaJoe’s closest confidante. He is a devoted older brother to Pharoah and the triplets, and is a younger brother to LaShawn, Weasel, and Terence. Lafeyette works hard to reduce his mother’s stress and take care of his younger siblings, protecting them from shootings and negative influences that permeate the neighborhood. At the same time, this causes him to become overcome by stress and, like his mother, to give in to anger when he feels overwhelmed. The deaths of his friends Bird Leg and Craig Davis cause him to turn inward and to keep his emotions to himself. Upset by the violence around him, he develops an increasingly cynical attitude toward life, believing that friends are not reliable and should therefore be considered mere “associates,” and trusting that he is probably going to die young instead of growing up into an adult.

Lafeyette Rivers Quotes in There Are No Children Here

The There Are No Children Here quotes below are all either spoken by Lafeyette Rivers or refer to Lafeyette Rivers. 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 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

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

“The things I should of been talking to Paul about I was talking to Lafie,” LaJoe said. “I put him in a bad place. But I didn’t have anyone to talk to. Lafie,” she said, regretfully, “became a twelve-year-old man that day.”

Related Characters: LaJoe Rivers (speaker), Lafeyette Rivers, Paul Rivers
Page Number: 100-101
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 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:

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 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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Lafeyette Rivers Character Timeline in There Are No Children Here

The timeline below shows where the character Lafeyette Rivers appears in There Are No Children Here. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Preface
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Alex Kotlowitz describes his first encounter with Lafayette and Pharoah Rivers in 1985, at the Henry Horner Homes public housing complex, when Lafayette... (full context)
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Two years later, in 1987, Kotlowitz returns to Henry Horner to report on Lafeyette and Pharoah’s lives for an article in The Wall Street Journal about the impact of... (full context)
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...and, in that sense, remained children. Over the course of two years, Kotlowitz reports on Lafeyette and Pharoah’s lives, following the changes they undergo as they struggle to grow up and... (full context)
Chapter 1
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Nine-year-old Pharoah, his twelve-year-old brother Lafeyette, and their friends are climbing through dirt and vegetation to reach the railroad tracks near... (full context)
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...friends include “Porkchop,” Pharoah’s cousin and closest friend, and James Howard, a close friend of Lafeyette who has grown up with him and lives in the same building. With crowbars, the... (full context)
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...home when the sun sets, since staying longer could be dangerous. On their way back, Lafeyette takes Pharoah’s hand to cross the street, and the two of them walk home. (full context)
Chapter 2
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...building, and is also most likely to arise in the summer. One June day, on Lafeyette’s twelfth birthday, the young boy and his nine-year-old cousin, Dede, are walking around their neighborhood... (full context)
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In such a violent neighborhood, Lafeyette and Pharoah depend on their mother, LaJoe, for comfort stability, and LaJoe, in turn, depends... (full context)
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...her husband, Paul Rivers, have long been estranged, and LaJoe now depends on her son Lafeyette to take on a fatherly role. Although Lafeyette used to be a bubbly, energetic young... (full context)
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Very different from Lafeyette, Pharoah is also unlike most other children. He has an imaginative, loving spirit and desperately... (full context)
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To alleviate LaJoe’s worries, Lafeyette knows that he must actively protect his younger siblings. However, one day after school—barely three... (full context)
Chapter 3
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...single task, serving as a distraction and an outlet for the stress of gun violence. Lafeyette offers to help and, knowing that LaJoe is only cleaning to handle her stress, tries... (full context)
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...diamond has been filled in, and the basketball court usually lacks usable rims. In addition, Lafeyette often fears playing at the court because he doesn’t want to be recruited by gangs.... (full context)
Chapter 4
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...gang control Henry Horner and have more authority than any other group, including the police. Lafeyette and Pharoah have learned to stay inside when Lee arrives at Horner, as the gang... (full context)
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...turned significantly more violent, which deeply impacted ordinary people’s lives. At the age of ten, Lafeyette saw someone die before his eyes. In a fight to take control of Henry Horner,... (full context)
Chapter 5
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At his young age, Lafeyette has already had to reckon with death and injustice on a deeply personal level. One... (full context)
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...the chest, taking Bird Leg by surprise. News of Bird Leg’s near-immediate death soon reaches Lafeyette, but unlike James and the rest of the growing crowd, Lafeyette refuses go see Bird... (full context)
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...Leg’s family organizes the ceremony at a storefront church outside the neighborhood. At the church, Lafeyette, Pharoah, and James all walk up to Bird Leg’s casket. The young boy’s swollen face... (full context)
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...and James begin to cry when people begin to sing an emotional pop song, but Lafeyette remains stoic. Later, he explains that he cried on the inside, as he did not... (full context)
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After the service, Pharoah asks Lafeyette about heaven, but his older brother tells him to shut up. They hear a mother... (full context)
Chapter 6
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...of returning to the train tracks, which he had found so peaceful. Pharoah finally convinces Lafeyette and James to go with him, and the three boys are walking in the street... (full context)
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While he has not developed a stammer like his brother, since Bird Leg’s death, Lafeyette has become more introverted, refusing to show his emotions and concerns. He is occasionally harsh... (full context)
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One day, Lafeyette witnesses a firebombing after teenagers throw Molotov cocktails into the apartment next door. His trauma... (full context)
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...being haunted by Bird Leg’s death and encouraged by his mother to articulate his emotions, Lafeyette concludes that talking about his grief will not help, since everything always goes wrong in... (full context)
Chapter 7
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...during the strike-extended summer, the neighborhood remains violent. When a family friend is killed, both Lafeyette and Pharoah refuse to attend the funeral, because they still have not gotten over Bird... (full context)
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The Henry Suder Elementary School, which both Lafeyette and Pharoah attend, was once a symbol of controversy and racial inequality, due to the... (full context)
Chapter 8
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Aware of Rickey’s reputation, Lafeyette worries about Pharoah’s new friend. At the same time, he admires Pharoah’s academic successes. While... (full context)
Chapter 9
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...LaJoe did not want to kick Paul out, and over the years, she had Terence, Lafeyette, Pharoah, and the triplets with him. LaJoe used to work off and on as a... (full context)
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...those who leave are not their children anymore. Terence, though, loves and misses his family. Lafeyette adores his brother and wants him to come home, but Terence usually just gives him... (full context)
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...however, he proclaims his innocence. Despite LaJoe’s protests, the officers handcuff him in front of Lafeyette, Pharoah, and Snuggles, who begins to cry for the police to leave his father alone. (full context)
Chapter 10
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When she arrives home, Lafeyette, who knows his mother has gone to a meeting about her welfare benefits, asks her... (full context)
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Lafeyette responds to his mother’s trust by wanting to protect her and shield her from the... (full context)
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To comfort his mother, Lafeyette tells LaJoe that he will one day have a white house, outside of the projects,... (full context)
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Lafeyette feels used to disappointment, and to knowing that he can only rely on his mother,... (full context)
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...comes home in the morning. When she isn’t home to prepare breakfast for the children, Lafeyette takes over and gets everyone ready for school. (full context)
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...violence at Horner continues to traumatize the children. Pharoah shakes at any loud noise, and Lafeyette desperately wants to get out of Horner. When Alonzo Campbell, a nine-year-old friend of theirs,... (full context)
Chapter 11
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When LaJoe, Lafeyette, Pharoah and the triplets go to the county jail to visit Terence, they have to... (full context)
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When Lafeyette softly says hello to his brother, Terence gives him a long lecture telling him to... (full context)
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A few weeks later, Lafeyette himself asks LaJoe when Terence will get out of prison, LaJoe admits that she doesn’t... (full context)
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Lafeyette and Pharoah are upset by Terence’s arrest, as it represents yet another loss in their... (full context)
Chapter 13
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Lafeyette particularly admires Craig because Craig listens to Lafeyette’s opinions, treating him as an equal, and... (full context)
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...more comfortable. Pharoah dances freely to the music, making LaJoe laugh, while Rickey, James, and Lafeyette stay to the side. Lafeyette has come to accept Rickey, and Pharoah and he have... (full context)
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Rochelle insists that Lafeyette dance. As everyone encourages him, Lafeyette reluctantly begins to dance but is ultimately able to... (full context)
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...unemployment, sees her welfare restored. In addition, Craig Davis serves as a positive influence on Lafeyette, someone whom he can look up to as a role model. Most importantly, though, LaJoe’s... (full context)
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Lafeyette and Pharoah are amazed by Dawn’s success, and both of them want to work hard... (full context)
Chapter 15
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...at Horner slows down a bit. This allows Pharoah’s stutter to subside, and he and Lafeyette go to an outdoor swimming pool or to the Boys Club to play. Pharoah still... (full context)
Chapter 16
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Between summer and fall, Lafeyette and Rickey, who are closer in age than Rickey in Pharoah, have become “associates.” Rickey... (full context)
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One Saturday, Pharoah, Lafeyette, Rickey, and other friends go window shopping. When they enter a video-cassette store, Rickey suggests... (full context)
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While Rickey is acting overconfident, Lafeyette is apologetic and asks Vera if he can let them go, but Vera needs to... (full context)
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When a neighbor tells LaJoe about this incident, she becomes worried about Lafeyette since she remembers how little time it took for Terence to fall prey to other... (full context)
Chapter 17
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One night, Pharoah and Lafeyette go to the nearby stadium to try to make some money. Children from the neighborhood... (full context)
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...children not to watch cars, Pharoah and Porkchop return to Horner to play basketball. However, Lafeyette decides to stay and help a parking attendant wave in cars, which can give him... (full context)
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When Lafeyette’s friends run to tell LaJoe about what has happened, she hurries to the stadium and... (full context)
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Lafeyette’s incident at the stadium reminds LaJoe of the neighborhood’s fraught relationship with the police. While... (full context)
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...her feel resentful and hurt. Experiences of injustice, too, LaJoe knows, will also only increase Lafeyette’s cynicism and suspicion. (full context)
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...the apartment, it becomes even more overcrowded than it already was. At the same time, Lafeyette enjoys Lelia Mae’s company, as she tells them stories about Horner’s past wealth and safety,... (full context)
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Lafeyette deeply resents his father for failing to deliver on his promises and for choosing drugs... (full context)
Chapter 18
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...“lovely day.” Even LaJoe laughs at their imitations. When they return to the apartment, however, Lafeyette, seemingly hurt at having been left alone, asks why LaJoe didn’t ask him to come.... (full context)
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...the family learns that Terence might be sentenced to ten years in prison. While both Lafeyette and Pharoah are shocked by this news and worry about their brother, they keep their... (full context)
Chapter 19
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...annual talent show, one of the few community gatherings which even rival gangs attend peacefully, Lafeyette and Pharoah head there on a Friday evening. Once in the gym, they find a... (full context)
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In the meantime, Lafeyette looks for Craig Davis but doesn’t find him anywhere. He goes to visit the young... (full context)
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...he is doing, he usually tells Timothy to leave him alone because he is studying. Lafeyette sometimes helps Pharoah, giving him words to spell. At school, Pharoah also benefits from his... (full context)
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...out. A few days later, LaShawn gives birth to her third child, DeShaun, which makes Lafeyette and Pharoah excited, but also worried about the impact the baby will have on the... (full context)
Chapter 21
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...seems absent. Dutt, a neighbor and the mother of Craig’s girlfriend, has been crying, and Lafeyette is staring out the window, failing to congratulate Pharoah on his success. (full context)
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Although LaJoe tries to console Dutt, Lafeyette says that Craig’s death is unfair and that he shouldn’t have died, because he was... (full context)
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...and is attended by the many people who admired the young man. Even though both Lafeyette and LaJoe hate funerals, they attend the ceremony, but Pharoah decides to stay home because... (full context)
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During the service, Lafeyette steps out. He cannot keep the image of Craig smiling and waving at him from... (full context)
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Barely two days after Craig’s funeral, another friend of Lafeyette’s, Damien Russell (nicknamed Scooter), dies after a police car chased the one he was in,... (full context)
Chapter 22
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It has been a week since Craig Davis’s funeral, and Lafeyette is irritable, often gets angry at his siblings, and cleans the apartment frantically to channel... (full context)
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Although he worries about Lafeyette, Pharoah handles Craig’s death by claiming that he is too young to understand it, thus... (full context)
Chapter 23
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Rickey and Lafeyette have begun to spend more time together, and Rickey has included him in his group,... (full context)
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In the meantime, LaJoe has begun to feel more distant from Lafeyette. Her son has started dating a girl but is adamant that he does not want... (full context)
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...cross the Four Corner Hustlers’ territory, he is also conflicted about his behavior. He tells Lafeyette that he wishes to return to his childhood and make different choices. The two boys... (full context)
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While Lafeyette enjoys Rickey’s company, he does not appreciate his group of friends and hopes that he... (full context)
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...When LaJoe hears running by the apartment, she sees a group of young boys, including Lafeyette, hit an old man who had apparently molested one of the boy’s cousins in a... (full context)
Chapter 24
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...is angry that Keith could make her feel insecure and, in her anger, snaps at Lafeyette. Then, she begins to cry, angry at her husband, Paul, for ruining her life and... (full context)
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...visit him at the jail to say goodbye. Terence is shocked and impressed to see Lafeyette so grown up, but the rest of the meeting is awkward, filled with silences, and... (full context)
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LaJoe keeps her grief for herself, having decided that she does not want to make Lafeyette more worried than he already is, and hopes that neither Pharoah nor Lafeyette will end... (full context)
Chapter 25
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...recently felt so depressed that she sometimes pretends she is not home. Neither Pharoah nor Lafeyette understands why Dawn—their family’s success story—has not yet moved out of Horner, but Dawn has... (full context)
Chapter 26
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...LaJoe was able to buy bunk beds for her children and new mattresses, on which Lafeyette and Pharoah leave the plastic covering, saying that that will keep them clean. She has... (full context)
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...green shorts, and quietly gets ready for the party, trying to take it all in. Lafeyette tells his brother he looks handsome and wishes him happy birthday. (full context)
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While Lafeyette and Rickey soon leave the party, which disappoints LaJoe, Pharoah spends the party smiling and... (full context)
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...birthday, bus is also asked to recite a poem for Suder’s end-of-the-year celebration. LaJoe and Lafeyette come to the assembly, happy and excited for Pharoah. When Pharoah walks onto the stage... (full context)
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...boy of Pharoah’s age shoot at rival gang members. Her anger returns, and she tells Lafeyette that she will not let him wear hats or earrings, since these symbols could mistakenly... (full context)
Chapter 28
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Today is Lafeyette’s first date in court. Four weeks earlier, on June 2, he was arrested with four... (full context)
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Since Lafeyette’s shoplifting incident, though, he has been staying at home more, distancing himself from Rickey when... (full context)
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LaJoe and Lafeyette head to the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, where judges and attorneys are so overworked that... (full context)
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...goes to the information desk to ask about her son’s hearing, the woman cannot find Lafeyette’s name and LaJoe is forced to insist for the woman to look again. When Mr.... (full context)
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LaJoe and Lafeyette are sent to a waiting room, where they wait three hours and a half for... (full context)
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A few days later, the family receives a letter from Terence. While Lafeyette and Pharoah still care about their brother, they do not worry about him as much... (full context)
Chapter 29
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Earlier in the summer, Weasel gives Lafeyette and Pharoah two pit bull puppies, which remind Lafeyette of Bird Leg and his passion... (full context)
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Lafeyette immediately thinks that his father must have sold his puppy for drug money and begins... (full context)
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...is just as angry as her son, succeeds in restraining Paul for a second and Lafeyette runs out of the apartment before returning with a metal chain in his hand. LaJoe... (full context)
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...to summer school in the morning, enjoying being away from the neighborhood during the day, Lafeyette becomes increasingly nervous about leaving Horner. One evening, LaJoe sees him trying to break up... (full context)
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...Dawn has been evicted from her apartment and moves into her mother’s apartment. One day, Lafeyette puts a picture of Craig on his wall, which LaJoe interprets as a good sign,... (full context)
Chapter 30
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When Pharoah and Lafeyette go to buy some fries near their house, they run into Rickey, who has just... (full context)
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When they return to Lafeyette, Pharoah is disappointed because he thought he might find out if there truly is a... (full context)
Chapter 31
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When LaJoe and Lafeyette return to the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center on Lafeyette’s court date, the young boy’s face... (full context)
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...they so desperately need to feel listened to and to benefit from a fair trial. Lafeyette, though, is relieved to realize that he will be able to go home. At the... (full context)
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...at the apartment, when Pharoah comes home from school, he is excited to see that Lafeyette has not been detained. LaJoe later hears the two of them argue over a T-shirt,... (full context)
Epilogue
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It has been one year since these events. After Lafeyette’s trial, he is given a year of probation and has to perform hours of community... (full context)
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Lafeyette’s experience at a private school has made him enthusiastic about learning, but he is now... (full context)
Violence and Growing Up Theme Icon
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...the violence has not subsided, even though tragic shootings never seem to make the news. Lafeyette and Pharoah both want to move out of the projects, and Pharoah worries so much... (full context)
A Note on Reporting Methods
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...of the material for the book derives from the time he spent sharing Pharoah and Lafeyette’s ordinary life. He also interviewed over a hundred people, whose thoughts and life stories are... (full context)