When a Heart Turns Rock Solid: The Lives of Three Puerto Rican Brothers On and Off the Streets

Timothy Black, Author . Pantheon $29.95 (421p) ISBN 978-0-307-37774-6

Employing a “sociological storytelling” method, Black, associate professor of sociology at the University of Hartford, recounts the lives of three Puerto Rican brothers living in poor, gang-dominated Springfield, Mass., whom he befriended and followed for 18 years. The book is not so much about the brothers—Julio, Fausto and Sammy—and their friends as it is about the cultural and social forces and the economic and political policies that in the latter decades of the 20th century determined the boys' fates and the fates of thousands of others. Flawed bilingual education programs doomed them to virtual illiteracy, while harsh drug laws warehoused them in a rapidly expanding prison system. While the author provided concrete forms of assistance—especially for the two younger brothers, who battled addiction—the pull of the street as well as the inadequacy of their education led to failed or marginally productive lives, even for the motivated eldest son, Julio. Extensive references to sociological literature provide a scholarly framework for understanding the dynamics at work, but tend to interrupt the flow of the story. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 05/25/2009
Release date: 08/01/2009
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 313 pages - 978-0-307-37834-7
Paperback - 421 pages - 978-0-307-45487-4
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