All God's Children
Inside the Dark and Violent World of America's Street Families
By (author) Rene Denfeld
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All God's Children by Rene Denfeld
Book DescriptionIn May 2003 the body of nineteen-year-old Jessica Kate Williams was found by a railway track in Portland Oregon: beaten, broken and horribly burnt. But the terrible chain of events that led to her death had been put in place almost a decade before. James Daniel Nelson first hit the streets as a teenager in 1992, joining a clutch of runaways and misfits who camped out together in a squat under a Portland bridge. Within a few months the group - they called themselves a 'family' - was arrested for a string of violent murders. While Nelson sat in prison, the society he had helped form grew into a phenomenon. In 2003, almost eleven years after his original murder, Nelson, now called 'Thantos', got out of prison, returned to Portland, created a new street family, and was ready to kill again. In this dark and compelling portrait of one of America's most frightening subcultures, Rene Denfeld draws on material gathered over a decade spent with the 'families', revealing the dark side of an American ideal, and the extremes to which desperate teenagers (the majority of whom hail from loving middle-class homes) will go in their search for a sense of a belonging.
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Book DetailsISBN: 9780099512677
(195mm x 130mm x 20mm)
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 7-Jun-2007
Country of Publication: United Kingdom
Books By Author Rene Denfeld
Enchanted, Paperback (March 2015)View all books by Rene Denfeld
A powerful and hauntingly beautiful novel set on death row - as if THE GREEN MILE or THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION were written by Cormac McCarthy.
US Kirkus Review » An up-close journalistic investigation of street families: groups of young adults who live on the seamy outskirts of dozens of American cities and towns. Denfeld (Kill the Body, The Head Will Fall, 1997, etc.) traces the violent career of James Nelson, a street kid who committed murder at age 16. Paroled after a decade in prison, Nelson headed straight back to the streets of Portland, Ore. Younger teens were attracted to him, and together they formed the Thantos Family. Denfeld shows that street families live according to their own internally coherent codes of conduct: Gender roles are rigid, and if you gossip, flirt, snitch or challenge authority, consequences come swiftly. The author does a remarkable job of humanizing the youth who joined the Thantos Family. The most pathetic of them is Jessica Williams, severely developmentally disabled by Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. In her 20s, Jessica fell in with Nelson, though she continued intermittently to go home to her worried adoptive parents. Eventually, deciding to punish her for various made-up infractions, three members of Jessica's street family finished off an hours-long beating by knifing her, stomping on her chest, dousing her with lighter fluid and torching her. Many of the minors involved in her murder are, or soon will be, paroled, and the author predicts a bleak future: They "will take their old school credits-and prison experiences-back to the streets, where they will become the street fathers and mothers of new families, just as James Nelson did." Denfeld excels at character development, but her pacing is weak, providing little of the narrative tension one would expect from a drama that climaxes with a gruesome murder. The Thantos Family's story also cries out for more careful thinking. Suggesting that street kids are "representative of a society where young adults are encouraged to immerse themselves in fantasy games" is not the same as sustained analysis. A gripping tale hampered by middling execution. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Rene Denfeld
Rene Denfeld is the author of two previous books, including the international bestseller, The New Victorians. She has written for numerous publications, including The New York Times magazine. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her partner and three children.
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