There Are No Children Here

by

Alex Kotlowitz

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LaJoe Rivers Character Analysis

A mother of eight, LaJoe devotes most of her life to protecting her children from the dangers of the neighborhood. She has her first child at fourteen and, after her husband, Paul, becomes addicted to drugs, she is soon forced to care for her growing family on her own. Her older children include LaShawn, Weasel, and Terence, and her younger children include Lafeyette, Pharoah, and the triplets. Characterized by an inability to say no to people, she often takes on more responsibilities than she can handle—like agreeing to raise vulnerable children in the neighborhood in addition to her own children. Her shyness and frequent feelings of despondency also keep her from defending herself and her family against certain problems, like retaining her welfare benefits or keeping even people from moving into her cramped apartment. The stress of living at Horner, in an environment of poverty and near-constant violence, often weighs on her and occasionally leads her to loses her temper against her children. Overall, though, she remains committed to accompanying her children through the various moments of their life, however exciting or difficult.

LaJoe Rivers Quotes in There Are No Children Here

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

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:

“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 12 Quotes

“Pharoah is Pharoah. He’s going to be something. […] When he was a baby, I held him up and asked him if he’d be the one. I’ve always wanted to see one of my kids graduate from high school. I asked him if he’d be the one to get me a diploma.”

Related Characters: LaJoe Rivers (speaker), Pharoah Rivers
Page Number: 116
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:
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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LaJoe Rivers Character Timeline in There Are No Children Here

The timeline below shows where the character LaJoe 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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...to video games and walks, he becomes friends with them. Soon, he asks their mother, LaJoe, if she would allow him to write a book on the children in the neighborhood.... (full context)
Chapter 2
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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 on them. Known for her warmhearted nature,... (full context)
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LaJoe has witnessed the neighborhood’s decline over the decades, as white families left urban life for... (full context)
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...about insecurity, some families refuse to let their children outside to play. What has disappointed LaJoe the most, however, is her own family, which she finds she cannot fully shield from... (full context)
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LaJoe’s family life now revolves around her younger children. Despite being married for seventeen years, LaJoe... (full context)
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...his childhood, although a stutter he has recently developed reveals his fears and vulnerability. While LaJoe has promised herself to protect her sons’ childhood and to keep them from the same... (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... (full context)
Chapter 3
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LaJoe remembers moving into the Henry Horner Homes in 1956, at the age of four, when... (full context)
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On the day her family moved in, young LaJoe was mostly excited about their new apartment. At the time, children at Horner could enjoy... (full context)
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...the 1970s, when funds ran out to maintain the apartment buildings. In addition, one of LaJoe’s sisters was brutally assassinated, and her brother died of a heart attack after hearing the... (full context)
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...staying away from windows where stray bullets might pass through. One day, after a shooting, LaJoe, feeling particularly nervous, begins to sweep the floors. Cleaning allows her to focus her energy... (full context)
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Despite LaJoe’s frequent cleaning, the apartment remains eternally messy, due to overcrowding (eight people live there), and... (full context)
Chapter 6
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...keeps him from speaking, giving the impression that he has become physically incapable of communicating. LaJoe finds her son’s stutter particularly sad because Pharoah has always been so articulate, to the... (full context)
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...introverted, refusing to show his emotions and concerns. He is occasionally harsh with Pharoah, but LaJoe knows that this reveals his fear and his desire to protect his younger brother. Once,... (full context)
Chapter 7
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LaJoe has known her best and only friend, Rochelle, since they were children. Before they were... (full context)
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...and play in the narrow parking lot by the Riverses’ building. One such day, when LaJoe and Rochelle are watching the children play around, LaJoe worriedly notes that Pharoah has recently... (full context)
Chapter 8
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...not work as hard as Pharoah and often misses school. Secretly, though, he wishes that LaJoe would put more pressure on him, encouraging him to have healthy habits and do his... (full context)
Chapter 9
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The apartment has become seriously overcrowded, as LaJoe’s eldest daughter, LaShawn, has moved back in with her boyfriend, Brian, her boyfriend’s brother, and... (full context)
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While LaJoe understands the dangers of leaving some of her children homeless in a neighborhood without any... (full context)
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LaJoe’s most severe disappointment in her family has been Terence. LaJoe’s family responsibilities began early. She... (full context)
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Unable to say no to anyone, LaJoe did not want to kick Paul out, and over the years, she had Terence, Lafeyette,... (full context)
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When LaJoe discovered, months later, what had happened to her son, she was still unable to bring... (full context)
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After an incident with his mother, Terence finally returns home. Seeing LaJoe in the street, he asks his mother for a few dollars. While LaJoe refuses, saying... (full context)
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...the police comes to the apartment to arrest Terence, however, he proclaims his innocence. Despite LaJoe’s protests, the officers handcuff him in front of Lafeyette, Pharoah, and Snuggles, who begins to... (full context)
Chapter 10
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LaJoe is called to the local welfare office because, in light of the allegation that her... (full context)
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The inquisitors show LaJoe evidence, such as joint tax incomes and her husband’s unemployment benefits, where Paul has claimed... (full context)
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...mother has gone to a meeting about her welfare benefits, asks her about it, and LaJoe tells him they will no longer receive any. Lafeyette is visibly upset, and LaJoe decides... (full context)
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...to protect her and shield her from the difficulties of life. One year ago, after LaJoe and Rochelle were robbed by two teenagers who severed nerves in LaJoe’s fingers with a... (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, where he... (full context)
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...might feel sad about losing his friend, he rarely seems to dwell on the issue. LaJoe realizes that, by worrying so often about their family with Lafeyette, she has forced her... (full context)
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...about his mother’s situation a few weeks later after the fact, when he realizes that LaJoe is no longer doing her monthly shopping. He does not seem too upset by the... (full context)
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While LaJoe has also searched for work, her extreme shyness has often made her seem overly nervous... (full context)
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LaJoe still has an appeal hearing with a judge to give her response to the Public... (full context)
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...to a caseworker before the appeal, explaining his problems with drugs and his separation from LaJoe. He asks that this information be kept confidential from his employer, but the caseworker understands... (full context)
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...tragedies form part of their everyday life, whereas other people experience them as extraordinary occurrences. LaJoe tells herself that she needs to keep on moving rapidly through her life, because she... (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... (full context)
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...he is innocent, which he has only done once before and was indeed wrongly accused. LaJoe believes him and tells him not to lose hope. (full context)
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...Terence can get out from behind the glass, Lafeyette tells him to shut up before LaJoe has time to answer. (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 know and asks... (full context)
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...another loss in their long experience with losing friends and family members to violence. While LaJoe argues that prison could be good for Terence, as it keeps him from getting into... (full context)
Chapter 12
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At home, LaJoe also tries to reassure him. She knows that Pharoah will succeed at school and that... (full context)
Chapter 13
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In contrast to what LaJoe calls the “war-zone” summer of 1987, the summer of 1988 begins with hope. Craig Davis,... (full context)
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...evening drags on, Horner residents become 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... (full context)
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...Audrey is particularly impressed by Terence’s relationship with his family. Unlike most of her clients, LaJoe is always present on Terence’s court dates. Terence’s seemingly sincere insistence that he is innocent,... (full context)
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At Horner, things begin to seem more hopeful. LaJoe begins to feel more optimistic about Terence’s case. She also reapplies for welfare benefits and,... (full context)
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...part of the honors course. On various occasions, she has wanted to drop out, but LaJoe has always encouraged her to stay strong and trust that investing in her school work... (full context)
Chapter 14
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...sentence, thirty years in prison. News travels fast from the court room to Horner, but LaJoe tells her children not to talk about it, since doing so could get them killed.... (full context)
Chapter 15
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When LaJoe receives her Public Aid check, she hires a taxi cab to go shopping with Rochelle... (full context)
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...taking place there. After hiding the truth about Damen Courts for weeks, he finally tells LaJoe about it, revealing that he feels completely carefree there. (full context)
Chapter 16
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When a neighbor tells LaJoe about this incident, she becomes worried about Lafeyette since she remembers how little time it... (full context)
Chapter 17
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When Lafeyette’s friends run to tell LaJoe about what has happened, she hurries to the stadium and the police releases Lafeyette. One... (full context)
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Lafeyette’s incident at the stadium reminds LaJoe of the neighborhood’s fraught relationship with the police. While Horner residents understand that spending the... (full context)
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These deaths destroyed a lot of trust between Horner residents and the police. LaJoe has never understood how the police could kill people and then lie about their involvement... (full context)
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When LaJoe’s mother, Lelia Mae, and Weasel’s girlfriend move into the apartment, it becomes even more overcrowded... (full context)
Chapter 18
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...do at Horner except sit around all day or go to the Boys Club. Therefore, LaJoe decides to give her children some entertainment and get them out of this terrible heat.... (full context)
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...and the children stare in awe at the high-rise buildings. As the children’s excitement increases, LaJoe begins to feel part of a normal family. When they get out the bus, the... (full context)
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...the bus, imitating adults’ way of speaking, concluding that they had a “lovely day.” Even LaJoe laughs at their imitations. When they return to the apartment, however, Lafeyette, seemingly hurt at... (full context)
Chapter 19
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...fight in their apartment, and one of them shoots a pistol. The police arrives, and LaJoe screams in outrage at the neighbor who shot the pistol and has to be restrained... (full context)
Chapter 21
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Although LaJoe tries to console Dutt, Lafeyette says that Craig’s death is unfair and that he shouldn’t... (full context)
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...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 he does... (full context)
Chapter 22
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...he is too young to understand it, thus avoiding the pain it might cause him. LaJoe, however, finds herself at a loss to try to get Lafeyette to talk about his... (full context)
Chapter 23
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In the meantime, LaJoe has begun to feel more distant from Lafeyette. Her son has started dating a girl... (full context)
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In the meantime, the violence continues, as usual, continually harming Horner residents. When LaJoe hears running by the apartment, she sees a group of young boys, including Lafeyette, hit... (full context)
Chapter 24
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This time, Terence has asked LaJoe not to come to court, since he feels that he has let his entire family... (full context)
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In the meantime, LaJoe has had trouble with Keith, a man in the neighborhood who makes sexual advances toward... (full context)
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LaJoe remains shaken and enraged. She is angry that Keith could make her feel insecure and,... (full context)
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Over time, to cope with the stress of living in the projects, LaJoe begins dreaming about leaving Horner. At the same time, she begins to spend more time... (full context)
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...4, Terence is sentenced, on the very same day that the new mayor is elected. LaJoe is angry that these two events are so unrelated to each other, since she feels... (full context)
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...the meeting is awkward, filled with silences, and lasts no more than thirty minutes. Although LaJoe tries to convince herself that prison might be better for Terence, keeping him away from... (full context)
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LaJoe keeps her grief for herself, having decided that she does not want to make Lafeyette... (full context)
Chapter 25
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Anderson discovers that these appliances have been in the basement for over fifteen years. Now, LaJoe understands that the horrible smell coming from one of her toilets is caused by all... (full context)
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This physical rotting mirrors, LaJoe feels, her general spirit about her life and the neighborhood. An uncovered sewer in the... (full context)
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Dawn, too, who is a role model for LaJoe’s children, has been experiencing trouble. She still lives at Horner and has recently felt so... (full context)
Chapter 26
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On May 19, LaJoe and Rochelle prepare a surprise birthday party for Pharoah, who recently mentioned that he has... (full context)
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While Lafeyette and Rickey soon leave the party, which disappoints LaJoe, Pharoah spends the party smiling and waiting for Porkchop to come. Porkchop arrives two hours... (full context)
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...celebrates his 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... (full context)
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These events have led LaJoe’s family to feel renewed hope and energy. Everyone is happy about Pharoah’s summer program, and... (full context)
Chapter 28
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...him, Lafeyette begins to pack his clothes, believing that they might keep him in jail. LaJoe tries to reassure him that nothing will happen to him, but she is not sure... (full context)
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LaJoe and Lafeyette head to the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, where judges and attorneys are so... (full context)
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When LaJoe enters the building, she remembers the number of times she came with Terence, but is... (full context)
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LaJoe and Lafeyette are sent to a waiting room, where they wait three hours and a... (full context)
Chapter 29
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LaJoe, who is just as angry as her son, succeeds in restraining Paul for a second... (full context)
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...from the neighborhood during the day, Lafeyette becomes increasingly nervous about leaving Horner. One evening, LaJoe sees him trying to break up a fight between a group of adolescents who are... (full context)
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...her mother’s apartment. One day, Lafeyette puts a picture of Craig on his wall, which LaJoe interprets as a good sign, but she is later forced to remove it after it... (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... (full context)
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Anne Rhodes, the children, and their parents then walk into the courtroom. LaJoe tells her son who, like the other children, is nervous, to stand up straight. The... (full context)
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...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, and feels happy to know... (full context)
Epilogue
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...caught smoking marijuana before school, he promises his mother to stay away from drugs, but LaJoe is worried that he might fall prey to Horner’s bad influences. However, Lafeyette successfully graduates... (full context)
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...in 1991. Finally, Paul has a new part-time job and has been able to give LaJoe money so she can buy Tammie and Tiffany sandals. (full context)