There Are No Children Here

by

Alex Kotlowitz

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Pharoah Rivers Character Analysis

LaJoe and Paul’s nine-year-old son, Pharoah (whose name is a misspelling of the Egyptian “Pharaoh”), is the Rivers family’s success story, as his hard work at school pays off, allowing him for example to place second in the school’s spelling bee. Like Lafeyette, though, Pharoah suffers from the trauma caused by the near-constant violence at Horner. After a series of shootings in the neighborhood, Pharoah develops a stutter whose intensity is proportional to his fear. To shield himself from the effects of death and injustice, though, he clings onto his childhood, keeping himself from thinking about difficult events and often claiming that he is too young to understand what is happening around him. At the same time, he is characterized by a fierce determination to succeed at school, improve his life, and make his family proud, hoping one day to escape the projects. His siblings include Lafeyette, the triplets, Terence, Weasel, and LaShawn.

Pharoah Rivers Quotes in There Are No Children Here

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

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 7 Quotes

“The kids want this orderliness,” Ms. Barone reasoned. “They appreciate it. They like it. It gives them a sense of being in an environment that is safe and comfortable.”

Related Characters: Diana Barone (speaker), Pharoah Rivers
Page Number: 67
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 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 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 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:

There were some words Pharoah had trouble pronouncing because of his stutter. “I can’t say this right,” he’d cry out in frustration. “No such thing as can’t,” Clarise would remind him, like a mother encouraging her son. And the two would work at sounding out the word, syllable by syllable.

Related Characters: Pharoah Rivers (speaker), Clarise Gates (speaker)
Page Number: 185
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:
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Pharoah Rivers Character Timeline in There Are No Children Here

The timeline below shows where the character Pharoah 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 was ten... (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 urban violence... (full context)
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...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 establish their... (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... (full context)
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The two brothers and their six friends include “Porkchop,” Pharoah’s cousin and closest friend, and James Howard, a close friend of Lafeyette who has grown... (full context)
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After the train passes, the boys laugh among themselves. Lost in thought, Pharoah appreciates the smells and sounds of this peaceful place, which offer him a much-needed respite... (full context)
Chapter 2
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...buildings at the Henry Horner Homes public housing complex, which children call “the projects” and Pharoah nicknames “the graveyard,” are so poorly constructed and run-down that, in the absence of functioning... (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 on them.... (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 clings... (full context)
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...one day after school—barely three days after the violent events on his birthday—Lafeyette almost loses Pharoah, as gunfire erupts when children are exiting school. From the apartment, Lafeyette watches his brother... (full context)
Chapter 4
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...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 is known... (full context)
Chapter 5
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...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 makes... (full context)
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...the end of the speech, Jimmie Lee thanks the young girl for her thoughtful words. Pharoah and James begin to cry when people begin to sing an emotional pop song, but... (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... (full context)
Chapter 6
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The summer’s violence has deeply upset Pharoah and he develops a stutter that often keeps him from speaking, giving the impression that... (full context)
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Pharoah becomes obsessed with the idea of returning to the train tracks, which he had found... (full context)
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...become more 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... (full context)
Chapter 7
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...day, when LaJoe and Rochelle are watching the children play around, LaJoe worriedly notes that Pharoah has recently been daydreaming a lot and forgetting things, as though he is living in... (full context)
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Pharoah loves school. Despite his stammer and being two months below what is considered a standard... (full context)
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...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 Leg’s death.... (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 school board... (full context)
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Pharoah’s fourth-grade class is led by Ms. Barone, an enthusiastic, experienced teacher. While Ms. Barone devotes... (full context)
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...aspects of their life, need it desperately to grow and feel safe. When she noticed Pharoah’s stutter on the first day of school, she was mostly impressed by the young boy’s... (full context)
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Unlike in the rest of the neighborhood, Pharoah feels so comfortable and free at school that he spends his time talking in class,... (full context)
Chapter 8
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Pharoah has made an unusual friend at school. Ever since Rickey asked Pharoah to ask his... (full context)
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...brother and actually witnessed him being shot. Yet instead of shying away from violence like Pharoah, Rickey uses his anger about his friend’s death to immerse himself even more deeply in... (full context)
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...people weaker than him in other ways. One day, in gym class, a boy taunts Pharoah and tries to hit him while playing basketball. Without thinking, Rickey grabs and punches the... (full context)
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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 he himself is... (full context)
Chapter 9
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When Pharoah’s two pet goldfish die, the young boy cries for hours but goes to bury them... (full context)
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...LaJoe’s husband, Paul, stays the night, the small apartment totals thirteen people. While this makes Pharoah feels safer, he also finds himself unable to focus on his schoolwork. (full context)
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...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 clerk... (full context)
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...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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...will no longer receive any. Lafeyette is visibly upset, and LaJoe decides not to tell Pharoah about it because Pharoah has tried hard to keep from being burdened by adult problems—an... (full context)
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...to disappointment, and to knowing that he can only rely on his mother, his brother Pharoah, and himself in life. His “associate,” James, has succeeded in moving out of Horner, after... (full context)
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Pharoah learns about his mother’s situation a few weeks later after the fact, when he realizes... (full context)
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In the meantime, violence at Horner continues to traumatize the children. Pharoah shakes at any loud noise, and Lafeyette desperately wants to get out of Horner. When... (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 talk... (full context)
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...tells everyone how good it was to see them, they are forced to separate. When Pharoah asks how Terence can get out from behind the glass, Lafeyette tells him to shut... (full context)
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Pharoah is also upset by his brother’s incarceration. He is deeply troubled by notions of right... (full context)
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Lafeyette and Pharoah are upset by Terence’s arrest, as it represents yet another loss in their long experience... (full context)
Chapter 12
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When Pharoah is selected to participate in the school’s spelling bee, he prepares for weeks before the... (full context)
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Pharoah succeeds at spelling words until only five contestants are left. However, when asked to spell... (full context)
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At home, LaJoe also tries to reassure him. She knows that Pharoah will succeed at school and that he might be the first of her children to... (full context)
Chapter 13
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As the evening drags on, Horner residents become more comfortable. Pharoah dances freely to the music, making LaJoe laugh, while Rickey, James, and Lafeyette stay to... (full context)
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Lafeyette and Pharoah are amazed by Dawn’s success, and both of them want to work hard to become... (full context)
Chapter 15
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...with enough food to feed thirteen people for a month. Back at Horner, she expects Pharoah to come running toward her to help her with the groceries, which he loves to... (full context)
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...the weeks following Jimmie Lee’s conviction, violence 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... (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 introduces Lafeyette to his group of friends who, like Rickey, have... (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... (full context)
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...her instead of bearing the cost of a funeral when she dies. This conversation upsets Pharoah because he fears that Lafeyette will not provide for him when LaJoe dies, despite Lafeyette’s... (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... (full context)
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Pharoah takes this task seriously and partners with Porkchop to guard people’s cars. He also sometimes... (full context)
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That night, after the police tells the neighborhood children not to watch cars, Pharoah and Porkchop return to Horner to play basketball. However, Lafeyette decides to stay and help... (full context)
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Pharoah, too, begins to think about important social issues, such as race. After staying away from... (full context)
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...safety, and gives Lafeyette, who enjoys helping others, someone to take care of. Lafeyette and Pharoah are less affected by the overcrowding than by their father’s depression. Unable to get rid... (full context)
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...can, so that his children do not grow up fatherless like he did. Unlike Lafeyette, Pharoah usually tries to cheer his father up. One day, though, he asks his father why... (full context)
Chapter 18
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...give her children some entertainment and get them out of this terrible heat. She takes Pharoah, the triplets, and her grandchildren Tyisha, Baldheaded, and Snuggles to downtown Chicago as a Christmas... (full context)
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...at McDonalds, and LaJoe then takes them to have two large bags of popcorn, despite Pharoah’s protestations that she should keep the rest of the money for herself. (full context)
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...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 thoughts to... (full context)
Chapter 19
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...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 place at... (full context)
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...the crowd if they love this country and the crowd yells a loud “no,” overwhelming Pharoah’s soft “yes.” As the show begins, alternating dance routines, singers, and humorous skits, the room... (full context)
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In February, Pharoah works hard every day after school to study words for the spelling bee. While his... (full context)
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Pharoah’s environment becomes particularly chaotic a few weeks before the spelling bee. A couple of weeks... (full context)
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Despite these events, Pharoah remains extraordinarily focused on his work. Excited by the prospect of the spelling bee, he... (full context)
Chapter 21
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The next day, on March 3, Pharoah prepares himself for the spelling bee, ironing his clothes and putting on some of Weasel’s... (full context)
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Even though both Pharoah and Clarise would have gladly accepted to stop there and share first place, they have... (full context)
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After walking joyfully back home, Pharoah enters the apartment and notices a dark, silent atmosphere. Even though he is happy and... (full context)
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...efforts to accept Craig’s death, everyone agrees with Lafeyette and stays silent. In the meantime, Pharoah has decided to escape the sadness in the apartment, realizing that this is not is... (full context)
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...young man. Even though both Lafeyette and LaJoe hate funerals, they attend the ceremony, but Pharoah decides to stay home because he does not like being around sad people. Unlike Bird... (full context)
Chapter 22
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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 avoiding... (full context)
Chapter 23
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In contrast to his brother, Pharoah becomes interested in politics even though his mother, whose own mother had played an important... (full context)
Chapter 24
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...has let his entire family down. The last time, two months ago, LaJoe came with Pharoah, who was interested in all the details of the proceedings, and Terence’s trial was postponed.... (full context)
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...and expressing her desire to get out of the ghetto. Her friends hug her while Pharoah feels that he is going to cry and Lafeyette decides to sweep the room. LaJoe... (full context)
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...not want to make Lafeyette more worried than he already is, and hopes that neither Pharoah nor Lafeyette will end up like Terence. Terence sends a letter from prison three days... (full context)
Chapter 25
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...and has 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... (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 never had one. Excited, the two of them arrange... (full context)
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When Pharoah walks in, he is so surprised to realize that his family has prepared a party... (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 late,... (full context)
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During the next few weeks, Pharoah not only celebrates his birthday, bus is also asked to recite a poem for Suder’s... (full context)
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Pharoah is also chosen to attend a special summer school at the University of Illinois, Project... (full context)
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...events have led LaJoe’s family to feel renewed hope and energy. Everyone is happy about Pharoah’s summer program, and he is delighted by the university campus, even telling his mother that... (full context)
Chapter 27
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...she can run away if she needs to. The shooting does not stop and, while Pharoah hopes that Lane will take care of their building, lack of funds does not allow... (full context)
Chapter 28
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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 as they... (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 for dogs.... (full context)
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While Pharoah always goes excitedly to summer school in the morning, enjoying being away from the neighborhood... (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... (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 treasure... (full context)
Chapter 31
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...going to happen, and LaJoe reassures him, telling him they will let him go. Although Pharoah is worried about his brother, he decides not to come. (full context)
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Back at the apartment, when Pharoah comes home from school, he is excited to see that Lafeyette has not been detained.... (full context)
Epilogue
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...children, which he enjoys doing. In the meantime, Kotlowitz succeeds in getting both Lafeyette and Pharoah into a private school outside of Horner, which is strict but has no problems of... (full context)
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...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 about it... (full context)
A Note on Reporting Methods
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...that most 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... (full context)