Invisible child Poverty, survival, and hope in an American city

Andrea Elliott

Book - 2021

"Invisible Child follows eight dramatic years in the life of Dasani Coates, a child with an imagination as soaring as the skyscrapers near her Brooklyn homeless shelter. Born at the turn of a new century, Dasani is named for the bottled water that comes to symbolize Brooklyn's gentrification and the shared aspirations of a divided city. As Dasani grows up, moving with her tightknit family from shelter to shelter, her story reaches back to trace the passage of Dasani's ancestors fr...om slavery to the Great Migration north. By the time Dasani comes of age in the twenty-first century, New York City's homeless crisis is exploding amid the growing chasm between rich and poor. In the shadows of this new Gilded Age, Dasani must lead her seven siblings through a thicket of problems: hunger, parental addiction, violence, housing instability, pollution, segregated schools, and the constant monitoring of the child-protection system. When, at age thirteen, Dasani enrolls at a boarding school in Pennsylvania, her loyalties are tested like never before. As she learns to "code-switch" between the culture she left behind and the norms of her new town, Dasani starts to feel like a stranger in both places. Ultimately, she faces an impossible question: What if leaving poverty means abandoning the family you love?"--

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Subjects
Genres
Biographies
Published
New York : Random House, an imprint and division of Penguin Random House LLC [2021]
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
pages cm
Bibliography
Includes index.
ISBN
9780812986945
0812986946
Main Author
Andrea Elliott (author)
  • "A house is not a home": 2012-2013
  • The Sykes family: 1835-2003
  • Root shock: 2003-2013
  • "That fire gonna burn!": 2013-2015
  • Dasani's departure: 2015
  • "To endure any how": 2015-2016
  • Dasani's way: 2016-2021.
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* In December 2013, New York Times reporter Elliot published a five-part series about Dasani, an 11-year-old girl living with nine family members in a one-room apartment within a New York City homeless shelter. Elliot's empathetic and detailed reporting sent shock waves through Mayor Bloomberg's government welfare offices, and brought fleeting celebrity to Dasani, who appeared on front pages of newspapers and guest-starred at political events. Having maintained her close relationship with Dasani's family, the author here fills in the past eight years, updating readers on Dasani, her parents, and her seven siblings. The result is a heartbreaking story of a family struggling to do its best while dealing with systemic racism, bigotry, mind-boggling bureaucracy, and criminal indifference. Elliot was allowed intimate access to the family and personally witnessed the events she describes, ranging from amazing opportunities and times of prosperity to abject poverty and the ultimate fracturing of the family. With compelling storytelling, Elliot dives deep into the history of social welfare, keeping everything focused on how political decisions directly affect families like Dasani's: statistics and policies become personal; child protection agencies emerge as horrific entities. Yet kind, honest people do emerge, and family bonds persevere. This important book packs a real gut punch. Copyright 2021 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* In December 2013, New York Times reporter Elliot published a five-part series about Dasani, an 11-year-old girl living with nine family members in a one-room apartment within a New York City homeless shelter. Elliot's empathetic and detailed reporting sent shock waves through Mayor Bloomberg's government welfare offices, and brought fleeting celebrity to Dasani, who appeared on front pages of newspapers and guest-starred at political events. Having maintained her close relationship with Dasani's family, the author here fills in the past eight years, updating readers on Dasani, her parents, and her seven siblings. The result is a heartbreaking story of a family struggling to do its best while dealing with systemic racism, bigotry, mind-boggling bureaucracy, and criminal indifference. Elliot was allowed intimate access to the family and personally witnessed the events she describes, ranging from amazing opportunities and times of prosperity to abject poverty and the ultimate fracturing of the family. With compelling storytelling, Elliot dives deep into the history of social welfare, keeping everything focused on how political decisions directly affect families like Dasani's: statistics and policies become personal; child protection agencies emerge as horrific entities. Yet kind, honest people do emerge, and family bonds persevere. This important book packs a real gut punch. Copyright 2021 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

A Pulitzer Prize—winning investigative reporter for the New York Times, Elliott wrote a five-part series in 2013 about Dasani, an 11-year-old living in a homeless shelter in New York. A blistering account of a child and a family caught up in the churn of race, poverty, gentrification, and substandard schooling, it received a record-breaking three million hits and inspired 22,000 tweets. Here, Elliott expands the series with material bringing Dasani up to age 18. Copyright 2021 Library Journal.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Expanding on her five-part series on child homelessness that appeared in the New York Times in 2013, this absorbing debut by Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Elliott follows Dasani, the oldest of eight siblings, between 2012 and 2020. She also traces Dasani's ancestors, who left North Carolina during the Great Migration and settled in Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. Excluded from benefiting from the GI bill, Dasani's veteran grandfather ended up in public housing in Fort Greene. It is here in Fort Greene, a neighborhood undergoing gentrification, where Dasani and her family find themselves in a homeless shelter, always on a waiting list for affordable housing. Elliott documents the toll of poverty on Dasani's parents, who both struggle with opioid addiction and navigate housing insecurity, moving from one shelter to another. Uncovering the invisibility of child homelessness in New York City, Elliott tells how the city's school system, the largest in the United States, is also one of the most segregated. Life changes for Dasani when she is accepted to a boarding school in Pennsylvania, but at what cost to her fractured family? VERDICT An unforgettable account, both heartrending and heartbreaking, of structural racism and inequality. Like Matthew Desmond's Evicted, Elliott's tour de force is destined to become a classic.—Stephanie Sendaula, Library Journal Copyright 2021 Library Journal.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Expanding on her five-part series on child homelessness that appeared in the New York Times in 2013, this absorbing debut by Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Elliott follows Dasani, the oldest of eight siblings, between 2012 and 2020. She also traces Dasani's ancestors, who left North Carolina during the Great Migration and settled in Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. Excluded from benefiting from the GI bill, Dasani's veteran grandfather ended up in public housing in Fort Greene. It is here in Fort Greene, a neighborhood undergoing gentrification, where Dasani and her family find themselves in a homeless shelter, always on a waiting list for affordable housing. Elliott documents the toll of poverty on Dasani's parents, who both struggle with opioid addiction and navigate housing insecurity, moving from one shelter to another. Uncovering the invisibility of child homelessness in New York City, Elliott tells how the city's school system, the largest in the United States, is also one of the most segregated. Life changes for Dasani when she is accepted to a boarding school in Pennsylvania, but at what cost to her fractured family? VERDICT An unforgettable account, both heartrending and heartbreaking, of structural racism and inequality. Like Matthew Desmond's Evicted, Elliott's tour de force is destined to become a classic.—Stephanie Sendaula, Library Journal Copyright 2021 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

"A child's homelessness is hidden," writes New York Times investigative reporter Elliot in her stunning debut, which chronicles eight years in the life of Dasani Coates, starting in 2012, when Coates was one of 22,000 homeless children in New York City. With compassion and curiosity, she uses the story of Dasani to make visible the cycles of poverty, inequity, and resilience that plague families across the United States. Elliott skillfully portrays Dasani's experiences, from age 11, living in a rat-infested shelter, "freighted by... forces beyond her control," including hunger, drug abuse, and the pervasive threat of being separated from family by child protection services. As Dasani gets older, she confronts the dilemma of whether to keep her family together, or leave them for a free boarding school that "educate children in need," and promises a better future. Woven into Dasani's tale is her scrupulously reported ancestral lineage, which allows Elliott to unveil the story of a country grappling with an enduring legacy of slavery, racism, and destitution. As Dasani's mother says of their family's fate, "It's a cycle.... just coming back around." Though the narrative centers on the inevitability of these cycles, Elliott manages to incorporate moments of profound hope and togetherness throughout. This is a remarkable achievement that speaks to the heart and conscience of a nation. (Oct.) Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

"Invisible Child follows eight dramatic years in the life of Dasani Coates, a child with an imagination as soaring as the skyscrapers near her Brooklyn homeless shelter. Born at the turn of a new century, Dasani is named for the bottled water that comes to symbolize Brooklyn's gentrification and the shared aspirations of a divided city. As Dasani grows up, moving with her tightknit family from shelter to shelter, her story reaches back to trace the passage of Dasani's ancestors from slavery to the Great Migration north. By the time Dasani comes of age in the twenty-first century, New York City's homeless crisis is exploding amid the growing chasm between rich and poor. In the shadows of this new Gilded Age, Dasani must lead her seven siblings through a thicket of problems: hunger, parental addiction, violence, housing instability, pollution, segregated schools, and the constant monitoring of the child-protection system. When, at age thirteen, Dasani enrolls at a boarding school in Pennsylvania, her loyalties are tested like never before. As she learns to "code-switch" between the culture she left behind and the norms of her new town, Dasani starts to feel like a stranger in both places. Ultimately, she faces an impossible question: What if leaving poverty means abandoning the family you love?"--

Review by Publisher Summary 2

A Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter follows eight years in the life of a young girl in Brooklyn as her family navigates the world of homeless shelters, violence and addiction, as well as her eventual enrollment in a Pennsylvania boarding school.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

PULITZER PRIZE WINNER • A “vivid and devastating” (The New York Times) portrait of an indomitable girl—from acclaimed journalist Andrea Elliott “From its first indelible pages to its rich and startling conclusion, Invisible Child had me, by turns, stricken, inspired, outraged, illuminated, in tears, and hungering for reimmersion in its Dickensian depths.”—Ayad Akhtar, author of Homeland ElegiesONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The New York Times • ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The Atlantic, The New York Times Book Review, Time, NPR, Library JournalIn Invisible Child, Pulitzer Prize winner Andrea Elliott follows eight dramatic years in the life of Dasani, a girl whose imagination is as soaring as the skyscrapers near her Brooklyn shelter. In this sweeping narrative, Elliott weaves the story of Dasani’s childhood with the history of her ancestors, tracing their passage from slavery to the Great Migration north. As Dasani comes of age, New York City’s homeless crisis has exploded, deepening the chasm between rich and poor. She must guide her siblings through a world riddled by hunger, violence, racism, drug addiction, and the threat of foster care. Out on the street, Dasani becomes a fierce fighter “to protect those who I love.” When she finally escapes city life to enroll in a boarding school, she faces an impossible question: What if leaving poverty means abandoning your family, and yourself? A work of luminous and riveting prose, Elliott’s Invisible Child reads like a page-turning novel. It is an astonishing story about the power of resilience, the importance of family and the cost of inequality—told through the crucible of one remarkable girl.  Winner of the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize • Finalist for the Bernstein Award and the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award