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Discussion Questions

Kotlowitz, There Are No Children Here - Discussion Questions

The questions below are designed to guide your reading, stimulate your thinking, and ground your discussion of the selection during Orientation Week.

A Reading Club quiz is part of your Orientation assignment for Freshman Seminar.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why do you think the author titled his book  There Are No Children Here? What are some other possible titles?
  2. What scenes from the book made the biggest impression on you and why?
  3. We are taught that the United States is a country which provides equal opportunity for all. Do you agree or disagree with that statement?
  4. To what extent would you agree with the statement that large high rise public housing projects in our urban centers are reservations for maintaining homogeneous class and racial neighborhoods?
  5. In what ways might the lives of Pharoah and Lafeyette have been different if they had grown up in a middle class community (i.e., because they had been relocated to "scatter-site" housing located in working and middle class communities)?
  6. Why do we place such enormous importance on maintaining homogeneous neighborhoods, either by class or by race?
  7. Poverty is sometimes defined as a condition of entrapment in an environment of economic, social, educational, cultural and recreational deprivation which are interrelated and which reinforce one another. Using this definition what would you say about the community into which Lafeyette and Pharoah were born and raised?
  8. Given the dangers of every day life in the Henry Horner Homes, what coping and survival mechanisms did Lafeyette and Pharoah develop? What would you do in a neighborhood such as this to survive and to cope with daily challenges and dangers?
  9. If you had the power to change the life-chance opportunities of children like Pharoah and Lafeyette, what would you do?
  10. Why were housing projects such as the Henry Horner Homes built and why were they allowed to deteriorate and decline by the Chicago Public Housing Authority?
  11. Compare the role that the criminal justice system plays in the lives of Lafeyette and Pharoah with your own or friends' encounters with the justice system.
  12. Why are young persons attracted to gangs? Do teens join youth groups for similar reasons?
  13. Do you know someone who has been murdered? How old was he/she? What were the circumstances?
  14. Who are/were your heroes and role models? Who are the role models in the Henry Horner Homes community?
  15. Where did Pharoah and Lafeyette find community? How does this compare to how you find community?
  16. Did you find themes of commitment in this story? If so, what were they? How do they compare to your commitments?
  17. What do you understand family to mean to you? What do you think family meant to Lafeyette and Pharoah?
  18. Can there be political equality in a society which has such great disparity in the distribution of income and wealth? What do you think we can do about this contradiction and situation?
  19. Why do communities such as the Henry Horner Homes continue to exist? Are there alternatives?
  20. What do you think can or should be done so that all children/families can live in safe, secure, and decent housing?
  21. What do you think could LaJoe have done different to make a better life for her and the children?
  22. How could the tenants have dealt with the gang members?
  23. Lafayette had a difficult time dealing with Bird Leg’s death.  How was Lafayette affected by his friend’s death?  Is there anything Lafayette could have done to better deal with the death of his friend, Bird Leg?
  24. What role did the school and teachers play in the lives of Lafayette and Pharoah?  What helped Lafayette and Pharoah develop a strong bond? 
  25. How did Henry Horner Homes change from fall 1956 to summer 1987?  Why did it change like that?  What could have been done to prevent that kind of change for the worse?
  26. Why didn’t LaJoe move her family away from Henry Horner Homes?
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