Chicago boy who is doing his best to make the most of

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Chicago boy who is doing his best to make the most of his childhood in very difficult circumstances. Copyright ©2018 by SAGE Publications, Inc. This work may not be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means without express written permission of the publisher. Draft Proof - Do not copy, post, or distribute
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CHAPTER 11: Children, Social Problems, and Society 325 GROWING UP FAST: THE STORY OF NICHOLAS In 1993, the New York Times published an important series of articles titled “Children of the Shadows,” which captured the lives of 10 children growing up poor in American cities. The first article, written by Isabel Wilkerson (1993), told the inspiring story of Nicholas, an African American 10-year- old living with his family in the dangerous Englewood section of Chicago. The economic circumstances of Nicholas and his family can be expressed quite simply—they are very poor. However, his family structure and those of his mother and the other adults who care for him are very complex. Wilkerson describes a scene in which the boy is called from his fourth- grade classroom and asked to explain why no one has picked up his younger sister, Ishtar, from her morning kindergarten class. Nicholas has a hard time explaining that his mother, a welfare recipient rearing five young children, is in college trying to become a nurse and so is not home during the day; that Ishtar’s father is separated from his mother and in a drug-and- alcohol haze most of the time; that the grandmother he used to live with is at work; and that, besides, he cannot possibly account for the man who is supposed to take his sister home—his mother’s companion, the father of her youngest child (Wilkerson, 1993, p. 1). In the end, Nicholas simply says that his stepfather is supposed to pick up Ishtar, and he then gives the principal the phone number of his aunt. Nicholas’s mother, Angela, fits many of the stereotyped descriptions of welfare recipients. She is Black, a tenth-grade dropout who bore her first child, Nicholas, at age 16 and then had four more children with three differ- ent men. Angela also went through a very difficult period in which she was addicted to crack cocaine. Her mother cared for her children; Angela went through treatment and has stayed away from drugs ever since. She has been on and off welfare and has worked a long succession of jobs, from picking okra in Louisiana to waiting tables in downtown Chicago. She, like most of us, has made mistakes—the two biggest being her teenage pregnancy and her drug addiction. When the poor make mistakes, however, they seldom get a second chance, and the recovery process is long and hard. Angela and her mother are deeply religious and attend services in a tiny storefront church, Faith Temple, several times a week. The deep spirituality of many inner-city African Americans is often overlooked in the stereotypes. It is this spirituality, an Ethiopian-derived Christianity, that has kept Angela striv- ing for her goal—a nursing degree that could pull her family out of poverty (Continued) Copyright ©2018 by SAGE Publications, Inc.
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