Free Study Guide for There Are No Children Here by Alex Kotlowitz

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The story is set in Henry Horner Homes (a low-income public housing project), ("the projects") and the surrounding neighborhoods in the inner city of Chicago, Illinois. The time frame of the novel is from the summer of 1987 through September 29, 1989


Major Characters

Lafeyette Rivers
He is one of two brothers who live in the projects of Chicago and who are the subject of Alex Kotlowitz’s exposé of life for the children of the run-down inner city. Lafeyette is the one who is most affected by the dying of his dreams and the loss of his friends to violence.

Pharoah Rivers
He is the other brother and the one who is most outwardly sensitive to life in the inner city. He worries whether he will grow up, is easily reduced to tears, and hides behind his youth to avoid worrisome situations. He is also the more intelligent of the two brothers and will no doubt be more successful in escaping the life he despises in the projects.

LaJoe Rivers
The boys’ mother, LaJoe is a deeply emotional person who hates the life her children must endure. She worries constantly about them and is their rock. She, too, however, feels the stress of life where she frequently hears gunfire and even has bullet holes in her apartment walls. She always finds a way to bring a little cheer into their lives even as she prepares them for the possibility of a future as bleak as they fear.

Terence Rivers
He is the older brother of Lafeyette and Pharoah and the one who is his mother’s greatest disappointment. He has, for most of his life, been her favorite, but he can’t keep himself away from the wrong crowd and finally ends up serving an eight year prison term.

A friend to both Lafeyette and Pharoah, he is an unsettling influence on them. He is sweet and well liked, but he is too often in trouble and just might pull them down with him.

Dawn Anderson
She is LaJoe’s niece and only the second member of the entire family to graduate from high school. She is their combined success story and brings disappointment when she doesn’t move out of Horner right away or get a good job.

Paul Rivers
LaJoe’s husband and the father of all her children, he is a constant disappointment to the family, because of alcohol and drug problems.

Craig Davis
A young black male who is a success story and a special role model for Lafeyette. His death at the hands of the police is devastating to the younger boy.

Minor Characters

Actually named Leonard Anderson, Porkchop is the River's boys’ cousin. He is unusually quiet and shy, but filled with a nervous energy that keeps him constantly in motion. He grins rather than talks and he is inseparable from Pharoah.

LaJoe’s best friend, she provides support when LaJoe is feeling her lowest. She also acts like a surrogate mother when the kids need her.

Bird Leg and Scooter Russell
These are two boys who die violently and have an intense impact on Lafeyette.

Jimmie Lee
He is a gang leader who holds absolute control over Horner. He is the leader of the Vice Lords and eventually receives thirty years in prison.

Urica Winder
She is a little girl who witnesses the mass murder of four family members and is nearly killed herself. She has the courage to stand up in court and testify against the two men who killed them.

LaShawn Rivers
She is the boys’ older sister and the oldest child in the family. She has three children, the youngest of which was born drug-addicted. Lafeyette feels his mother should throw her out of their house because of the drugs, but LaJoe can never reject a member of her family.

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