Breathing Room

Southeast Library

Breathing Room

Breathing roomBreathing Room is a novel about life in Washington, DC in the late 20th century.  When the Southeast Book Club met last month to discuss and critique this book, the group was excited about reading a book with a familiar setting. Club members felt connected to the street names, popular points of interests and public buildings referred to in the book, which connected our readers to the text.

There was much to say on the plight of the African American youth in the east side of the city. These youths were seen as being trapped in a community that is unable to take off on its own. The book paints a sorry picture of a community ravaged by crime, violence, drugs, poor parenting, poverty and a corrupt police. The author uses the death and story of a youth, Reebok, to illustrate this point. Reebok is a 16-year-old at-risk and disadvantaged youth with parents heavily on drugs. He resorts to selling drugs to support himself and his younger siblings. He seems to be succeeding until his mother steals a chunk of his merchandise worth about $4,000 for her own personal use. As he struggles to repay his supplier, Brotherman, he falls in to the hands of rogue cops who insist on taking a percentage of his earnings from the sale.

Throughout the book, youths face an uncertain future and have to fight daily in an unfriendly neighborhood for survival and the efforts and struggles of their social workers who fight to keep them off the streets and provide with them with vocational rehabilitation.

We also discussed the stories of Moxie and Norma, two best friends but are different in their beliefs and world views. We debated on whether Norma was justified in her adulterous relationship with Woody while married to Lawrence and whether Moxie’s reaction was too judgmental.

The book was generally perceived by all to be a good representation of life in D.C.

The club will next meet on April 23 to discuss Zeitoun by Dave Eggers