Adrian LeBlanc wanted to know everything about her subjects. Random Family is the culmination of ten years of immersive reporting on four individuals from the Bronx. Her book, subtitled Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx, reads like a novel. The reader is tossed into this world in the beginning by being introduced to Jessica, a girl who was “good at attracting boys, but less good at holding onto them.” In this world, the most relevant forms of currency other than cold, hard cash are heroin and bodies.
LeBlanc fleshes out the narco-ecosystem of drug dealers, the women who accompany them, users, cops, and those just trying to get by. She doesn’t sensationalize her material because she doesn’t need to. LeBlanc states matter-of-factly the young age at which teenagers use heroin, earn $500,000 selling dope, or get pregnant. Her reserved and simple style coupled with an anthropological approach to her subjects is sometimes delicate and at other times stark.
Much of the story centers on Boy George, a young and wildly successful dope dealer. As we watch his rise, however, we also see the traps the police lay for him. George, occupied by the day-to-day operations of his drug trade, his women, and his opulence doesn’t sense the precariousness of his empire until it comes crashing down.
Listen to LeBlanc talk about her book on NPR here.
Bio: David Xia is an intern at Guernica. Read his last recommendation of the book In the Graveyard of Empires here.