QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
Author, Ian Lowell
Why did you write this book?
It is an important story that begged to be told. It is partly a tale of downtrodden and disadvantaged children who grew up in a Bronx, New York housing project with countless obstacles. Against very high odds, many of these same kids achieved great personal and professional success and their stories are uplifting and inspiring. Of course, given the environment we grew up in, not all were nearly so fortunate. Some of the kids I grew up with barely made it into the 1970’s before they met a very violent end. However, the book is far more than this. It chronicles the turbulent, fascinating and unique decade of the 1960’s from the perspective of someone who grew up in an inner city housing project whose experiences in many ways will be recognizable by those in other similar urban environments throughout the nation.
How would you categorize your book?
It cannot be neatly categorized because of the manner in which I chose to approach it. It has been written with an emphasis on four different genres, some sports with very significant autobiographical, historical and musical elements.
Why did you choose this approach?
It’s consistent with my vision for the book and what I would hope people would gain from reading it. The framework for the book originates from a well received story I had written of some 25 pages that forms the basis of it. The obvious difference is that the book is far more in depth.
Has your work ever been published before?
Back in 1995, a dear friend died from AIDS. Seeing this strikingly handsome and robust man days from death had a profound effect on me. I expressed this by writing about his death and AIDS. The Denver Post was gracious enough to publish it in a lengthy Op-Ed piece.
Son of Sam (David Berkowitz) has been written about extensively. Why write about him at all let alone include him in the title for the book?
I would be lying if I were to claim it in no way captured the attention or imagination of people, if even in a somewhat lurid way. To date, I do not believe anyone has written about Berkowitz in such an intimate way. I personally knew him quite well. I do not believe you will find anything like this in prior accounts of him.
Why make a Bronx housing project a significant part of a book?
It was very special to me as were so many of the people who lived there. To me, it was something more than just another Bronx housing project; it was a special place during a unique and special time. It is my hope that people who read the book will get a very definite sense of this. I believe in many ways that our experiences there were typical of what was happening throughout the country at that time.
Much of your book is about the 1960’s and accounts of seminal historical events of the period. What differentiates your book from countless others?
You will not commonly find accounts and impressions of “The Day the Music Died”, the Cuban missile Crisis or the Kennedy assassination as viewed the eyes of a young child. In addition, I believe my accounts may offer some perspectives and unique ways to view these events so that you are not simply experiencing strict historical readings that differ little from other accounts. There are also enough other elements in play throughout the book that should keep the reader engaged at all times.
What makes much of your life up until the time you were eighteen-years-old worth writing about it?
Quite frankly, I had never viewed my life as particularly interesting but when I put so much of it on paper; I was surprised to learn that my life and relationships at the time were interesting and formed a great perspective for telling this story.
Aside from the obvious disadvantage of growing up poor, was there anything significant about your childhood and upbringing?
My mother was stricken with mental illness that she was never treated for. Her illness and personality often reigned supreme in our home. It was a far different time and for the most part, mental illness was little talked about and even if she had gone for help at some point, the options were quite limited. It often wreaked so much havoc in our household but it had to be pure torture for her to live like that as well. Mental illness in an inner city housing project is hardly unheard of but it was nowhere near as common as alcoholism, drug abuse or physical and mental abuse. Furthermore, I believe my experiences were typical of many growing up in inner city environments throughout the country and it is my belief that many will be able to identify with those of us who grew up in the James Monroe Projects.
What do you hope that people who read the book will take from it?
If you lived the 1960’s, that there be will more than enough to strike a chord of fondness or recognition in many readers, as well as allowing them the opportunity learn some things that are not common knowledge. For those who were either not yet born or were too young to remember the period, that they will gain an understanding of what those times were truly like and why there is so much excitement about this period. For at least some of the events I write about, it is hoped that the reader will feel as if they were there in some sense. For instance, when I write about seeing Sly and the Family Stone playing live at the Fillmore East in 1969, I want them to feel the experience. It is also my wish that readers may gain an understanding of my life and family as well as what it was like growing up in the 1960’s in the James Monroe Houses and why that place and time were so special.