Random Family, Leblanc’s first book, is a brand of deep reporting rarely attempted anymore. It’s written like a documentary, and LeBlanc makes no judgments about the lives she presents. Political spin, statistical analyses, blame and solutions are absent. In the extraordinary book, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc immerses readers in the intricacies of the ghetto, revealing the true sagas lurking behind the headlines of gangsta glamour, gold-drenched drug dealers, and street-corner society.
As written in ‘the New Yorker … Adrian Nicole LeBlanc’s book, “Random Family,” published in 2003, was the product of more than eleven years of immersive reporting. Beginning in 1990, when LeBlanc wrote about the trial of Boy George, a heroin dealer who would become a main character in the book, she practically lived with a sprawling clan in a poor neighborhood in the Bronx. The story and the writing were praised as “fearless, unrelenting, amazingly affecting”; reviewers noted that she spent “an enormous amount of time with her subjects” and that “her research included earning a master’s degree” at Yale Law School.
LeBlanc’s subjects sold drugs, did drugs, committed murder, went to prison, had sex, fell in love, got pregnant, fed their children. They shared ambitions and fears with a writer who was by their side for a decade. The book that resulted is an urban epic focussed on Boy George, the successful and brutal young drug dealer of the trial; Jessica, a vibrant teen-age beauty, and one of Boy George’s girlfriends; Cesar, Jessica’s rambunctious younger brother; and Coco, Cesar’s first love. LeBlanc also writes about the social issues—benefits administration, prison systems, public housing, addiction, teen pregnancy—that, in large part, dictate the circumstances she witnessed.
“Random Family” is so authoritative and enthralling that the writer recedes far into the background. And yet, she was there. LeBlanc says … “I do believe the book documents a certain moment of the destruction created by the war on drugs—the beginning of the devastating impact mass incarceration has on families living in poverty. History will judge us harshly on the racism and willful passivity involved.”