A selection from Alex Kotlowitz’s masterpiece of immersive reportage There Are No Children Here, the harrowing coming-of-age story of two children in Chicago’s Henry Horner Public Housing Complex. In “The Spelling Bee,” as Pharoah returns to school, his dreams come up against the realities of his neighborhood.
Pharoah is small of stature, has a stutter, and frequently reads at night until his eyes hurt. He has his mother’s open and generous smile, and his father’s charm and keen intellect. As he enters fourth grade, he sets a solemn goal for himself: to become a spelling bee champion. Award-winning journalist Alex Kotlowitz follows Pharoah for two years, as he tries desperately to succeed at school while navigating the perils of his devastated neighborhood, a place marked by deep need and neglect, along with unrelenting violence. For Pharoah, spelling is just the beginning. This is a dramatic and groundbreaking portrait of poverty, the story of growing up in the other America.
ALEX KOTLOWITZ is the author of The Other Side of the River and There Are No Children Here, which was selected as one of the 150 most important books of the century by the New York Public Library. He lives in Chicago.
Praise for There Are No Children Here:
“An extraordinary glimpse into the lives of those struggling for survival and dignity in inner-city America.”—Chicago Sun-Times
“Alex Kotlowitz’s story informs the heart. His meticulous portrait of two boys in a Chicago housing project shows how much heroism is required to survive, let alone escape.”—The New York Times
“Kotlowitz has achieved a triumph of empathy as well as a significant feat of reporting.”—Los Angeles Times
“A powerful argument against the politics of inertia, hopelessness, and greed, and for a real war on poverty, violence, and racism in our country.”—Tracy Kidder, author of Among the Schoolchildren