Random Family:
Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx

Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
432 pages (Scribner, 2004)

Adrian Nicole LeBlanc spent 11 years tracing the lives of two families as they dealt with the realities of existence in a New York ghetto. The result is an unforgettable book that immerses the reader in a world of poverty, drug deals, broken families, and the devastating effects of nearly every kind of physical and emotional abuse. Through her young subjects, the author describes the desperation that leads to lives of crime and drugs, and shows how teenage girls looking for love end up struggling to regain their childhoods while dealing with the responsibilities of raising children.

I was surprised by the hope shown by the women in the book, and their dogged belief that things would be better; that “this time” the father would stick around to support a new baby or to care for the mother’s other children. “Random Family” speaks to their resilience, but also to the devastating cycles of poverty and pain. LeBlanc doesn’t advocate a solution, but makes an enormous contribution by showing just how ineffective current “solutions” are.