Ten years ago, award-winning producer Dave Isay put a microphone into the hands of two young people -- LeAlan Jones and Lloyd Newman -- living in Chicago's Ida B. Wells housing projects, and asked them to record an audio portrait of their lives for NPR.
The result was Ghetto Life 101 and a second radio documentary, Remorse: The 14 Stories of Eric Morse. LeAlan and Lloyd remain the youngest journalists ever awarded the coveted George Foster Peabody Award, and their story was made into an acclaimed book and fictionalized television drama.
Isay's project sparked the interest of another resident of the Ida B. Wells projects, an aspiring writer named Yanier "Blak" Moore.
Both of Moore's parents were murdered when he was young, and he learned to survive on the street. Moore was selling drugs by age 14. But Blak also discovered books when he was young. Despite his day-to-day struggle to survive, he developed an insatiable hunger for reading.
"Reading was a place to go when I didn't want to be where I was at," Moore tells Isay. "So I escaped. I opened up a book and climbed into the pages and disappeared. I would read by the streetlight streaming through the window, I would read by candlelight, by flashlight. It didn't make a difference -- I had to read."
In his late teens, Moore began to write poetry, non-fiction, and fiction. He completed his first novel at the age of 25 while working as a drug dealer. In between sales, he wrote the book on a word processor he had traded for three bags of crack cocaine.
A turning point came when Moore was critically wounded in a shootout. He vowed to quit drug dealing, got a job at a community center and devoted himself to writing.
His first book, a "ghetto pulp" novel entitled Triple Take, is being published on the tenth anniversary of the premiere of Ghetto Life 101.
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