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Wrong Place, Wrong Time: Trauma and Violence in the Lives of Young Black Men

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Medical school taught John Rich how to deal with physical trauma in a big city hospital but not with the disturbing fact that young black men were daily shot, stabbed, and beaten. This is Rich's account of his personal search to find sense in the juxtaposition of his life and theirs. Young black men in cities are overwhelmingly the victims—and perpetrators—of violent crime Medical school taught John Rich how to deal with physical trauma in a big city hospital but not with the disturbing fact that young black men were daily shot, stabbed, and beaten. This is Rich's account of his personal search to find sense in the juxtaposition of his life and theirs. Young black men in cities are overwhelmingly the victims—and perpetrators—of violent crime in the United States. Troubled by this tragedy—and by his medical colleagues' apparent numbness in the face of it—Rich, a black man who grew up in relative safety and comfort, reached out to many of these young crime victims to learn why they lived in a seemingly endless cycle of violence and how it affected them. The stories they told him are unsettling—and revealing about the reality of life in American cities. Mixing his own perspective with their seldom-heard voices, Rich relates the stories of young black men whose lives were violently disrupted—and of their struggles to heal and remain safe in an environment that both denied their trauma and blamed them for their injuries. He tells us of people such as Roy, a former drug dealer who fought to turn his life around and found himself torn between the ease of returning to the familiarity of life on the violent streets of Boston and the tenuous promise of accepting a new, less dangerous one. Rich's poignant portrait humanizes young black men and illustrates the complexity of a situation that defies easy answers and solutions.


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Medical school taught John Rich how to deal with physical trauma in a big city hospital but not with the disturbing fact that young black men were daily shot, stabbed, and beaten. This is Rich's account of his personal search to find sense in the juxtaposition of his life and theirs. Young black men in cities are overwhelmingly the victims—and perpetrators—of violent crime Medical school taught John Rich how to deal with physical trauma in a big city hospital but not with the disturbing fact that young black men were daily shot, stabbed, and beaten. This is Rich's account of his personal search to find sense in the juxtaposition of his life and theirs. Young black men in cities are overwhelmingly the victims—and perpetrators—of violent crime in the United States. Troubled by this tragedy—and by his medical colleagues' apparent numbness in the face of it—Rich, a black man who grew up in relative safety and comfort, reached out to many of these young crime victims to learn why they lived in a seemingly endless cycle of violence and how it affected them. The stories they told him are unsettling—and revealing about the reality of life in American cities. Mixing his own perspective with their seldom-heard voices, Rich relates the stories of young black men whose lives were violently disrupted—and of their struggles to heal and remain safe in an environment that both denied their trauma and blamed them for their injuries. He tells us of people such as Roy, a former drug dealer who fought to turn his life around and found himself torn between the ease of returning to the familiarity of life on the violent streets of Boston and the tenuous promise of accepting a new, less dangerous one. Rich's poignant portrait humanizes young black men and illustrates the complexity of a situation that defies easy answers and solutions.

30 review for Wrong Place, Wrong Time: Trauma and Violence in the Lives of Young Black Men

  1. 4 out of 5

    Meg

    I found this book tremendously moving and insightful. It made me wish I knew the author.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ellen Clayton

    As a teacher in the inner-city, this book was important in shaping the way I see violence in my students' lives. The idea of respect is one that I see play out in the classroom and in relationships, but this book helped flesh out what it really means on the streets. The book is well-written and captivating. As a teacher in the inner-city, this book was important in shaping the way I see violence in my students' lives. The idea of respect is one that I see play out in the classroom and in relationships, but this book helped flesh out what it really means on the streets. The book is well-written and captivating.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Joanne Greene

    I picked this book because the topic was interesting. The book itself was a hard read because of the way it was written. It jumped from story to story, and it seemed disjointed at times because of the jumping between the different stories. I would have enjoyed it more if it had focused on one person at a time and told that person's story all the way through and then told the next one. Still, the book was interesting and shared an interesting perspective on race and inner-city violence that is of I picked this book because the topic was interesting. The book itself was a hard read because of the way it was written. It jumped from story to story, and it seemed disjointed at times because of the jumping between the different stories. I would have enjoyed it more if it had focused on one person at a time and told that person's story all the way through and then told the next one. Still, the book was interesting and shared an interesting perspective on race and inner-city violence that is often overlooked by the news and research on the subject of race and violence.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Dani

    Tough read emotionally but great testimonies of young men affected by violence through the lens of a doctor. Author does a lot to make this less of a case study and more of a narrative by leading us through his thoughts.

  5. 5 out of 5

    counter-hegemonicon

    As always I was nervous that a book like this would devolve into “hood zoology” but the narratives were insightful and moving. The author could have been an excellent writer of fiction had he not been drawn to the medical life. What a loss!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Chad Broughton

    I applaud John A. Rich’s in-depth research, his humanist sensibility, and his practitioner work. Wrong Place, Wrong Time successfully conveys the complex humanity of young black men caught up in violent neighborhoods, and asks us to think beyond the simplistic categories of innocent/guilty, treatment/punishment. If you read the book, as I did, for insight into trauma, however, you’re likely to be disappointed. Aside for Chapter 3, which explores why young men engage in violence, and Chapter 6, w I applaud John A. Rich’s in-depth research, his humanist sensibility, and his practitioner work. Wrong Place, Wrong Time successfully conveys the complex humanity of young black men caught up in violent neighborhoods, and asks us to think beyond the simplistic categories of innocent/guilty, treatment/punishment. If you read the book, as I did, for insight into trauma, however, you’re likely to be disappointed. Aside for Chapter 3, which explores why young men engage in violence, and Chapter 6, which looks into the emotional life of traumatized youth, there is little more than stories here—many of them adding little or no value, in my view. The stories—and don’t get me wrong, I love stories—are sometimes interesting, and reasonably well told (if sometimes self-indulgent and overly descriptive), but often do not contribute at all to the topic hand, trauma. If a reader has never read a book about urban poverty like Our America, On the Run, or There are No Children Here (or watched The Wire, for that matter), the narratives may have more impact and resonance, perhaps. And perhaps my expectations were too high given the glowing reviews and the fact that Rich is a doctor. But, frankly, I was disappointed by the near absence of medical, psychological, and sociological science on what’s advertised in the subtitle, “trauma and violence.” In that sense, it’s a thin book, and I can’t say it was worth the time. That said, I was impressed by the man himself, and have no doubt that Dr. Rich is a first-rate practitioner and a compassionate and tireless advocate for the young men with whom he works. Our cities need more people like him.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Vilo

    After seeing many young black men cycle through the health system, Dr. John Rich began to investigate their stories and learned to see behind the stereotypes of "animals" who are "out of control" to find out how the world seems to these young people. He points out that there are many news articles about the many young men who die but few about those who live, traumatized. In fact, there are no studies of the PTSD that these street warriors live with--often from seeing violence around them from t After seeing many young black men cycle through the health system, Dr. John Rich began to investigate their stories and learned to see behind the stereotypes of "animals" who are "out of control" to find out how the world seems to these young people. He points out that there are many news articles about the many young men who die but few about those who live, traumatized. In fact, there are no studies of the PTSD that these street warriors live with--often from seeing violence around them from the time they are toddlers. A young man who does manage to get out of the street life talks about how hard it is to be good--how unrelenting, day after day, to keep getting up, working hard, staying out of trouble, especially when you have not been brought up to live that way. And yet, it beats the alternative. There are no easy solutions, but beginning to understand is the first step.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    A plainwritten, important look at the life of several black men in Boston, through the lens of a doctor. Very timely for me, as I worked on Susan Straight's new novel, which focused on the lives of very similar young men. The honesty of the author, combined with the emphasis on the voices of the young men included, make for a compelling and essential read. Particularly important is the consideration of language and how we all use it to talk about different communities. Rich sites the work of Dr A plainwritten, important look at the life of several black men in Boston, through the lens of a doctor. Very timely for me, as I worked on Susan Straight's new novel, which focused on the lives of very similar young men. The honesty of the author, combined with the emphasis on the voices of the young men included, make for a compelling and essential read. Particularly important is the consideration of language and how we all use it to talk about different communities. Rich sites the work of Dr Sandra Bllom, "who argues that rather than see these young people as sick or bad, we should understand that they are injured." And thus in need of help, both helping themselves and being helped by others.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Christina

    Didn't really shed any new light for me. The violence explored is the violence of desperation and hopelessness and while the individual stories and voices are interesting, if you're already aware of how people in desperate situations will do anything to get out of them, you've already got what the author has to offer. Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx was better, or as least gave me more to think about since I read it first. Didn't really shed any new light for me. The violence explored is the violence of desperation and hopelessness and while the individual stories and voices are interesting, if you're already aware of how people in desperate situations will do anything to get out of them, you've already got what the author has to offer. Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx was better, or as least gave me more to think about since I read it first.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Just like "Promises I Can Keep" explains to the middle class why residents of impoverished neighborhoods don't shy away from teenage and/or single motherhood, this book explains why the guys in those same neighborhoods don't shy away from drugs and violence. It explains why they spend money on expensive clothes and sneakers, and why they take the risks they do. Excellent read for anyone that thinks that they have the right to judge the behaviors of young people who live their whole lives in thes Just like "Promises I Can Keep" explains to the middle class why residents of impoverished neighborhoods don't shy away from teenage and/or single motherhood, this book explains why the guys in those same neighborhoods don't shy away from drugs and violence. It explains why they spend money on expensive clothes and sneakers, and why they take the risks they do. Excellent read for anyone that thinks that they have the right to judge the behaviors of young people who live their whole lives in these communities.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jooyoung

    This book is a detailed ethnography of young black men who suffer from various traumatic injuries. The book challenges popular stereotypes about "deserving victims" and also re-humanizes young people who get caught in the cross-fire of urban street violence. John Rich is an inspirational public scholar and his ideas for improving health care are right on the money. In my humble opinion, this book should be required reading for anyone interested in gun violence in the US. This book is a detailed ethnography of young black men who suffer from various traumatic injuries. The book challenges popular stereotypes about "deserving victims" and also re-humanizes young people who get caught in the cross-fire of urban street violence. John Rich is an inspirational public scholar and his ideas for improving health care are right on the money. In my humble opinion, this book should be required reading for anyone interested in gun violence in the US.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nikhil P. Freeman

    Dr. Rich, through this work, focused on the affects of trauma in the lives of young Black men from the underclass. Violence as a tactic for respect and as a path to identity is examined, but the side effects of trauma, the emotional wounds, the persistent injury in the lives of these men is addressed.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kristin

    A great book! (Disclaimer that the author is a friend and former colleague.) The book examines the other side of violence - the real life victims and their stories; not always what you think. The various characters move the book along making it quite readable and thought-provoking.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Phoebe

    Really excited to have this author as my professor! The book clearly lays out complicated issues and his perspective as an M.D. who is very involved in the local community adds a lot. I'd be interested to see if the same phenomena that he describes in Boston are true of DC and Philly. Really excited to have this author as my professor! The book clearly lays out complicated issues and his perspective as an M.D. who is very involved in the local community adds a lot. I'd be interested to see if the same phenomena that he describes in Boston are true of DC and Philly.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Vera Hannaford

    I read an excerpt of this book on Delanceyplace, recently, and I knew I have to read this book. It takes the violence and the mayhem that I read about daily and put it in the voices of those directly affected.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sara Gran

    Excellent and important. A moving study of how trauma is interlinked with violence. Anyone interested in trauma or inner-city violence (or both) must read this book.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Joshua

    Good book, was well written.

  18. 5 out of 5

    John

    I am going to practice writing coherent book reviews so I can write them. I suck at them. Read this book. Read it.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kate

  21. 5 out of 5

    Theresa

  22. 5 out of 5

    Hayley

  23. 4 out of 5

    Chuck Williams

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

  25. 4 out of 5

    Danny

  26. 5 out of 5

    Carolina Quiroa

  27. 4 out of 5

    Steven-Emmanuel Martinez

  28. 5 out of 5

    M

  29. 4 out of 5

    Elaina Joseph

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kate

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