All God's Children: The Bosket Family and the American Tradition of Violence

Fox Butterfield, Author Alfred A. Knopf $30 (389p) ISBN 978-0-394-58286-3
Wide-ranging and somewhat unwieldy, this ambitious book tells a challenging, memorable story about race, violence and our American future. Investigating the case of Willie Bosket, whose crimes as a New York juvenile presaged a surge of youth violence and spurred much tougher prosecution of juveniles, New York Times correspondent Butterfield (China: Alive in the Bitter Sea) delved into the Bosket family background. He argues that the white Southern mentality of easily aggrieved honor has made its way through time and the descendants of slaves, transmuted into the similar hair-trigger ethos of inner-city streets. While Butterfield's thesis doesn't completely convince (what about the barrios or the wild west?), his reporting on the lives, crimes and prison experiences of Willie and his father, Butch, is painfully gripping. Finally released after reforming himself in prison, Butch couldn't handle freedom and killed himself as police pursued him. Willie, in prison for life, considers himself ``a monster created by the system.'' In an epilogue, the author warns that building prisons won't solve our crime problem, and he proposes several policies--including intervention programs to help adolescent delinquents--to prevent future carnage. Photos not seen by PW. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/02/1995
Release date: 10/01/1995
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 389 pages - 978-0-307-28033-6
Paperback - 389 pages - 978-0-380-72862-6
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