Making Choices

I often read books because I want to escape to another place or time. If I want to live in Iceland for awhile, I read Halldor Laxness. If medieval Norway, then Sigrid Undset. These authors are amazing at transporting you and giving you a sense of what it's like living somewhere else. Adrian Nicole LeBlanc is amazingly skilled too, but the place I'm getting transported by reading her book Random Family is a place I really don't want to go.

Random Family is an extremely detailed true story of ten years in the lives of an extended family living in the Bronx. They sell drugs, take drugs, commit crimes, get abused and neglected by mothers and abandoned by fathers; they have lots and lots of babies and often neglect or abuse them; they spend time in prison, visit friends in prison.

One thing that's strangely missing from their lives is decision-making. They take and deal drugs without really thinking about it and choosing to. They glide into being criminals or accomplices to crimes without seeming to give it any thought. Most strikingly, they have baby after baby.

Coco, who's the book's emotional center, has four children by the age of 20, by three different men. The fourth is born prematurely and suffers many medical problems. (I'm not done yet, but I think there's going to be a fifth.) Jessica has three kids before heading for prison in her early 20s, and then two more while there.

I think it's an interesting question whether it's ethical to bring babies into bad situations. It's a difficult question. But before a person can try to make ethical choices, she has to see herself as making choices. Coco and her relatives don't seem to be able to get to square one.

You have a choice. Such a simple and important thought, and yet not actually so elementary!


So far my talent show poll isn't confirming my hypothesis, but there's still hope. It will be up for another eight days. Come on, it'll only take a minute! See sidebar =>

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