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.
John A. Rich, M.D., M.P.H., is the chair of and a professor in the Department of Health Management and Policy at the Drexel University School of Public Health, where he is also the director of the Center for Nonviolence and Social Justice. A 2006 MacArthur Fellow, Rich founded the Young Men’s Health Clinic in Boston and is the former medical director of the Boston Public Health Commission. He was elected to the Institute of Medicine in 2009.
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