Maria Markos

 Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago

          For my Hot Button Website, my group read Our America, a documentary by two young boys growing up in the South Side of Chicago, what’s the boys referred to as the “ghetto”.  LeAlan Jones and Lloyd Newman start their story as two eighth graders doing a documentary of what it’s like to grow up in the projects. This book made me cry, laugh, and I was amazed at how smart and grown up these two kids were. They take you through the streets of Chicago like you have never seen before. Jones and Newman show the reader what it’s like growing up in the poor neighborhoods and how fast young children have to grow in order to survive.

LeAlan has never met his father, his mother is diagnosed with bipolar disorder and his grandmother has full custody so he and his sisters won’t get lost in the system. After he has an interview with his grandma, he tells the reader how he loves her but can’t show it because it’s a sign of being “soft” and that’s something you just don’t do in the projects.  We learn about the five year old that got thrown from the fourteenth floor of a building by two young kids for not stealing candy for them.  We see what environment those boys lived in and how at kindergarten they were already doing crack. Just the idea of a six year old doing crack is sickening.

Jones and Newman are two very bright boys that understand why most of the kids growing up in the ghetto act the way they do. They tell us about how politicians keep talking about change but nothing ever gets changed, “politicians keep sweeping the dirt under the rug and it just keeps piling up.” For a sixteen year to see this and understand that the problem begins with the politicians, it shows how bright and determined these kids are but they just need someone to believe in them.   Its scary knowing that if you walk outside at the wrong time you might end up getting shot to death. That is the environment that both boys are being raised in but they are determined to get out and make life better for their families and themselves. They have come a long way from the projects and from what everyone expected from them. Jones and Newman beat all odds to survive in the “war zone” that they lived in.

Juan J. Martinez


            I have known despair, violence and poverty growing up in Mexico, a much poorer country than the United States. But the reading of the book Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago, shocked me, even after all this years that I have lived here. What I witnessed in my natal country is minimal compared how these people lived their lives. What is even more upsetting is that nothing has changed. Today the numbers of people that are disfranchised are greater. How is this possible in a country so rich, and still have people living like that? The young protagonists of the book give an answer to the solution of such a problem.  Remarkable young men who wanted to get out of there, dared to dream on a better life. They of course besides being intelligent were lucky to have each other, and the support of some older wise people. Their capacity to talk about everything, anything to turn it inside out, backwards, at such young age is admirable. And that I believe save them from being another statistic. It makes me wonder what if, I mean there are so many intelligent people living under the same conditions; all they need is an opportunity. I feel positive about many of them making the necessary adjustments to a better life. I was there too, similar conditions, but I was alone and very lucky. Gone are twenty, thirty young people I used to see, some I knew others not really. I am still alive and doing well, thanks to the breaks that came my way. So I find the stories told in this book close to my heart. I feel strong and confident enough to give advice and help some of those that need help. After all we are human beings and we need to help each other no matter what.


Maria Zermeno

Our America 
    I read this book Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago for my EDFN 305 class.  This book talks about the environment were two African American young man live and they  talk about many of their experiences living for many years and how their families and friends live in this ghetto projects in the area of Chicago. 

   Personally I don’t have the habit to read books, just when I need to do for school or my job. But, when I stared reading this book, it was very interesting that I wanted to finish the same day but because I have many tasks to do, I wasn’t able to read the book in one sitting. It took me a couple days to finish reading this book. Every time when I read the books I move forward to this time and my emotions come out. My feeling was sad, frustrated and angry at the same time. I heard stories about those living in these projects sell drugs, kill people and more. But, when I read this story and who are the authors who live there and give many details that media omitted and people never learn about what really happened I can explain what my feelings was and I read the story.

            I cannot believe that in this Country that we our first potency and we have this kinds of issues in our communities. Thinking from the time today those projects are worse makes me feel scared and worried about the children who will grow up to be our future generation. The society and the government need to study all those cases and do something to make living conditions better in these areas. I believe the representatives of each community know these problems and they don’t do anything to change things. Like when Eric died, all the officials and diplomatic representative were there, but no one made any difference towards these issues.

            It’s scary to think about the future that we expect these children to grow up in, where the streets of their neighborhoods are to dangerous to walk to school in. No one wants to take responsibility for big problem here. I would like to see what solutions the diplomatic representatives and the President Obama can bring that change the life of these children. I think these people have a lot things to do but they don’t care what happened with these poor people issues, because they live in good neighborhoods and have a very substantially salary that I don’t think they care to bring some changes.


Our America

Teresa Martinez 

  “Growing up in the ghetto is fun, but it’s dangerous” (47.) Our America is a book about to young boys ages thirteen and fourteen. Boys name are LeAlan and Lloyd. The boys are given opportunity to record a week in their lives. The week became longer when a child was murder and they want to come to the reasons why it happens. The book is set in their lives in the Southside of Chicago.

Before I read this book, I thought I knew about living in a “Ghetto.” As I was reading I could relate to many issues the boys had; nevertheless, some of thing they went through I could never imagine. For example when a five year old was thrown out of a fourteen-story window because he did not want to steal candy. The boys who threw him were only ten and eleven years old. This broke my heart I could not believe this had happen. I started think of my own son and my future students when I read this.

The boys who threw the five year old, threw him from a vacant apartment in the Ida Bees project. I started wondering about why was this apartment vacant and how did they get in? I started to think what if, one of my future students live in a low-income high-rise. I am not sure what I would do with students like this.  Lloyd and LeAlan interviewed the principal. The principal talked about how hard it is have students like this. She said she worry about them daily. This why I really enjoyed the book because they did not sugar-coat any of the book.

I believe everyone should read this book. Most people believe things like this only happen in other countries or in places like L.A.  But it is not it is happen right here in Chicago. Our youth are being robbed of their childhood. Llyod and LeAlan also talked about how young adults raising their children or their siblings. This something that I know I will have to deal with.

The pictures in the book were great. John Brooks was enrolled in an afterschool photography class and won a competition for his picture to be published in this book.   

This book was a fast and great read. I absolutely loved it.  The only thing that disappointed was it did not have a fairy tale ending. I wanted Llyod and LeAlan to be successful in their careers. LeAlan is in college, which is great. Llyod I am not sure if he still in high school or if did not pursue college.