As depicted in the book, the Alex Kotlowitz describes the living conditions of the poor people in Chicago city as substandard for human survival. This can be explained by the several instances in which he puts the main characters in the story, LaJoe River and her two sons, Pharaoh River and Lafeyette River. These instances justify the title of the book as indicated below.
The author also says that, the mortality rate was in Chicago city in the 1950s was lower than the rate at which new born babies were dying (Alex, 1992, p.12). He continues to say that children were exposed to insecurities and that there was no trust among people not to mention one’s neighbors. He depicts Lafeyette to act acted like an adult all through his life. He was bossy when around his siblings and had the same anger as his mother. (Alex, 1992, p.14).
This was just a perfect indicator that the city did not have children as the book is titled. Everyone in city sought for ways to survive despite the hard conditions. Due to the tough conditions, even the youngest children had to find schemes to protect themselves from the other ‘tough’ and ‘harsh’ children. According to the book, Lajoe and other women were helplessly watching their children grow old though so quickly. This is because of the problems that they were facing (Alex, 1992, p.16).
LaJoe grew up in dark tunnels that cut through a building. This is what their home use to look like. The real meaning of a home was minimal to her because as children, they were left exposed to cold and other dangers of the night. The children clothed themselves with green leaves and other unfit clothes despite the harsh environment and scorching sun.
The author describes the harshness of the environment to also include gun shots that were quit scaring to the children while playing on corridors. The children were always at risk even when enjoying a better and natural atmosphere outside their ‘home’ (Alex, 1992, p.9).
The author also says that Madison Street was crowned with ‘grandmothers’ nurturing their kids and grand children. The women were actually not of age to be grandmothers but the adverse effects of the sever challenges they had encountered in their early life dictated they wear out (Alex, 1992, p.10).This is an indicator that ‘there were no children in the city’, as the author names the book.
More so, from the story, Chicago city had three main black street gangs. These include: the Vice Lords, El Rukns and Disciples. According to the author, they started in their early lives.
This is also a justification for the title of the book (Alex, 1992, p.10). Pharaoh at the age of nine would even write a letter to his uncle telling him how much he love him (Alex, 1992, p.10).He was actually no child. Other possible titles would be: Life in Chicago city or Facing life bravely. This is because of the described situation in the story.
U.S does not grant equal opportunity for people
Contrary to as many may think, the U.S does not provide equal opportunity for all. The book, ‘There are no children here’ perfectly shows this. This is because of the problems that most of its citizens go through in real life. Ideologically, one may think that opportunities are equal for all in U.S but the author shows it different.
According to Kotlowitz, when the Congress came up with a program to build houses for the poor in 1959, white politicians resisted the move and fought against the efforts to have publicly financed house.
This brought a lot of conflicts in Chicago. Other than building houses for the poor to compensate for the harsh conditions in the shanties, Chicago Housing Authority ended up building black ‘ghettos’. Better houses were concentrated in the urban regions.
This is unequal distribution of resources on the merit of class. This is one factor that justifies that fact that U.S does not grant equal opportunities to all as many may think (Alex, 1992, p.10). When LaJoe, her siblings and parents moved to Henry Horner Homes, the situation seemed different although this did not last long. They landed into a good house and a spacious five bed- roomed house.
This made LaJoe hope that her life would be different from the one in shacks and shanties in the South (Alex, 1992, p.10).But the situation suddenly changed when the Institute for Illinois technology was to be built. These houses were demolished to create room for the institution.
Another indicator of unequal opportunities in the U.S is depicted by the unequal rights to life among the poor and the rich. The poor lived in isolation and alienation as depicted the police shootings in the streets of Chicago (Alex, 1992, p.25).
According to the author, the government stopped painting Chicago’s slums houses (Alex, 1992, p.28). The White House and Chicago, as described in the story, show that there are unequal opportunities in U.S. At some point Lafeyette told LaJoe that he would one day have his own white house (Alex, 1992, p.99). The situations in these two locations as indicated by the author were two extremes.
Houses in the Chicago black ‘Ghetto’ as described by the author were in bad shape as compared to urban dwellers. Urban dwellers’ houses had luxurious facilities like swimming pools and spacious rooms.
The room in which LaJoe lived while in Chicago was congested, dirty, unfurnished and infested with insects. They were hazardous for human living. This is not the condition that prevails in U.S’ rich homes. That is why Lafeyetee always wished to move out of Horner and occasionally blaming his mother for their devastations in the slums (Alex, 1992, p.100).
The writer of the book also says that in the public residential houses, the hot line numbers were never answered by the police. The author creates a scenario of unequal opportunity in that the poor people in the slums did not receive some of government services like communication systems.
The situation was worsened by the fact that communication systems in the houses were not in good condition. Unlike for the rich and those in authority who would be attended to immediately. The poor rarely felt the presence of government by the people and for the people (Alex, 1992, p.99).
Meaning of poverty as indicated in ‘There are no children hear’
Poverty can have adverse effects on anyone’s growth and it can transform an individual into unexpected characters and personalities in the society. Poverty is mainly fostered by interrelated factors that come from the society that one grow in, educational factors, cultural, economic and recreational facilities and the extent to which one accesses this factors.
According to the author, LaJoe grew up knowing that there exist the term ‘banks but in her reality such a facility did not exist. There was no movie theatre where residents of the city would spend time in and temporarily escape the harsh realities that they were facing. He also says that there lacked library facilities (Alex, 1992, p.12).
Scholarly, one can easily question the essence of having a library in a city where people have no money or do not even have enough for their stomachs. These are some of the challenges that residents wallowing in poverty face.
He further says that a program, ‘Better Days for Youth’ that aimed at reinforcing the situation in Chicago would only accommodate twenty eight children for every session (Alex, 1992, p.12).According to the book, 1949 saw the Congress harnessing efforts to construct 810,000 low-rent housing for the poor. But another question that arises is the number of people that would afford to pay the required rents if in Chicago. This is because affording food in the shacks was a nightmare. This is also a sign of poverty (Alex, 1992, p.22).
The buildings that Chicago Housing Authority built were of low quality and with inadequate communication facilities. There were no elevators on the storey buildings, and garbage lay all over. LaJoe had such awful memories of her early days. The level of insecurity in the city was worse.
The author records that in 1975, an unknown person murdered LaJoe’s sister while in bath tub. When her oldest brother heard about the incident, he also got heart attack and died. This shows the poverty level in which LaJoe’s family was sailing through (Alex, 1992, p.24).
Poverty is also displayed by the limited space between the blocks of the buildings in Chicago slums. There was no space for such facilities as basket ball pitches, a situation that promoted criminal activities among the city dwellers. This also increases the levels of police shootings in the city.
Bullets would find one even in the corridors outside the house. Cleaning the room and furniture was the only way to destruct LaJoe (Alex, 1992, p.26). The room in which LaJoe lived was also so small to accommodate the nine of her family. The writer of the book says that when Pharaoh’s father was in, he could only sleep on the couches. This is also an indicator of poverty (Alex, 1992, p.25).
Poverty makes people live in sub-standard humane conditions. LaJoe’s family faced so many challenges in the building they were living in. Insects and maggots feasted on the children (Alex, 1992, p. 27). There was no proper drainage system and limited water allocation system (Alex, 1992, p.28).
Culturally, poverty in the book was depicted by the fact that LaJoe believed that since her parents had lived in the same poor conditions, then she was subject to live under similar challenges and so her children. Such believes limit individuals from maximizing their ability to have a prosperous life contrary to their background roots.
Recommendation and conclusion
If I had the power to change the life course of children’s life like Pharaoh and Lafeyette, I would ensure proper allocation of resources to those who live in the slums. Such resources would include having better houses, surrounding, drainage system, recreational facilities and also bringing educational facilities close to them.
They would not have to pay for their education; rather I would ensure free education system is in place so as to accommodate those who have financial problems in education programs. More so, is to create employment opportunities for the jobless in order to reduce criminal cases.
Alex, K. (1992). There are no children here. New York: Anchor books.