Random Family

Random Family

Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx

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In her extraordinary bestseller, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc immerses readers in the intricacies of the ghetto, revealing the true sagas lurking behind the headlines of gangsta glamour, gold-drenched drug dealers, and street-corner society. Focusing on two romances—Jessica’s dizzying infatuation with a hugely successful young heroin dealer, Boy George, and Coco’s first love with Jessica's little brother, Cesar—Random Family is the story of young people trying to outrun their destinies. Jessica and Boy George ride the wild adventure between riches and ruin, while Coco and Cesar stick closer to the street, all four caught in a precarious dance between survival and death. Friends get murdered; the DEA and FBI investigate Boy George; Cesar becomes a fugitive; Jessica and Coco endure homelessness, betrayal, the heartbreaking separation of prison, and, throughout it all, the insidious damage of poverty.

Charting the tumultuous cycle of the generations—as girls become mothers, boys become criminals, and hope struggles against deprivation—LeBlanc slips behind the cold statistics and sensationalism and comes back with a riveting, haunting, and true story.
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  • Scribner | 
  • 432 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743254434 | 
  • February 2004
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Jessica lived on Tremont Avenue, on one of the poorer blocks in a very poor section of the Bronx. She dressed even to go to the store. Chance was opportunity in the ghetto, and you had to be prepared for anything. She didn't have much of a wardrobe, but she was resourceful with what she had -- her sister's Lee jeans, her best friend's earrings, her mother's T-shirts and perfume. Her appearance on the streets in her neighborhood usually caused a stir. A sixteen-year-old Puerto Rican girl with bright hazel eyes, a huge, inviting smile, and a voluptuous shape, she radiated intimacy wherever she went. You could be talking to her in... see more

Reading Group Guide

Random Family
Reading Group Guide

1. At the beginning of the book, the author writes that "chance was opportunity in the ghetto and you had to be prepared for anything." What opportunities did Jessica, Boy George, Coco, and Cesar consider significant, and how did they prepare for them? Did they have opportunities they could not see? Why?
2. Loyalty plays a crucial role in Random Family. What did it mean to each of the principal characters? How do their loyalties shape the course of their lives?
3. We are told that "For Jessica, love was the most interesting place to go and beauty was the ticket." Describe the relationship between romance and money in the lives of the book's female characters. Is this different, in degree or in kind, from the sexual economy in mainstream American life?
4. We meet Cesar as a young boy, sitting on "the broken steps of his mother's building, biding his time, watching the older boys who ruled the street." Who were his male role models? According to their example, what did becoming a man entail? How did this understanding of manhood prepare Cesar for prison? How did his definition of masculinity change over time?
5. For the teenage girls in Random Family, what are the attractions of being a mother? What sort of power and influence-real or imagined-is associated with the role?
6. Describe the role of social service agencies in Coco's life. Describe the ways in which their treatment of he see more

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