Plug: This American Life’s Harper High School series

I’ve rekindled my love for the great storytelling that takes place on This American Life, and recently listened to parts one and two of the episodes about Harper High School. TAL spent five months at this Chicago school, where last year, 29 current and recent students were shot. As TAL explains, “We went to get a sense of what it means to live in the midst of all this gun violence, how teens and adults navigate a world of funerals and Homecoming dances” (

The episodes are not easy to listen to, but I suggest you do. They’re timely, for one thing, and for me they really helped explain how difficult it is for kids living in poverty to make any other choice than to be in a gang and get involved in gang life. In fact, you’ll learn in the first episode that kids don’t choose to be in gangs: the choice is made for them.

Give it a listen.