Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, Random Family (Scribner, 2003)
Always identifying herself as a journalist, Leblanc spent a decade observing the lives of an interconnected group of Puerto Rican teens, their parents, and eventually their children, as research for Random Family. Though Leblanc spent all of those years trailing her subjects around the Bronx, visiting hospitals, prisons and welfare offices, nowhere in Random Family do we see her as a voice, a character, even a narrator. Unsentimentally, and seemingly omnisciently, Leblanc renders the characters of Random Family as multi-dimensional people caught in a relentless cycle of poverty.
While completely a work of nonfiction, the bleak and densely detailed story reads like a tragic novel of what happens to generation after generation of a family (and its many extensions) caught in a punishing cycle of poverty. Poverty, teen pregnancy, drug abuse and New York State's penal system color the lives and choices made by the books core set of subjects: Coco, Caesar, and Jessica. Detractors say the book is merely a confirmation of stereotypes others hail it as overwhelming accomplishment in reportage and humanistic storytelling.
New York Times Book Review
Open Society Institute