The Rat That Got Away is an inspiring story of one man’s odyssey from the streets of the Bronx to a life as a professional athlete and banker in Europe, but it is also provides a unique vantage point on the history of the Bronx and sheds new light on a neglected period in American urban history.
Allen Jones grew up in a public housing project in the South Bronx at a time—the 1950s—when that neighborhood was a place of optimism and hope for upwardly mobile Black and Latino families. Brought up in a two-parent household, with many neighborhood mentors, Jones led an almost charmed life as a budding basketball star until his teen years, when his once peaceful neighborhood was torn by job losses, white flight, and a crippling drug epidemic. Drawn into the heroin trade, first as a user, then as a dealer, Jones spent four months on Rikers Island, where he experienced a crisis of conscience and a determination to turn his life around. Sent to a New England prep school upon his release, Jones used his basketball skills and street smarts
to forge a life outside the Bronx, first as a college athlete in the South, then as a professional basketball player, radio personality, and banker in Europe.
A brilliant storyteller with a gift for dialogue, Jones brings Bronx streets and housing projects to life as places of possibility as well as tragedy, where racism and economic hardship never completely suppressed the resilient spirit of its residents. A book that will change the way people view the South Bronx.
Allen Jones, born in the Bronx, is a manager for foreign currency exchange at Dexia BanqueInternationale at Luxembourg.
Mark D. Naison
Mark D. Naison is Professor of History and African American Studies at Fordham University, where he also directs the Bronx African American History Project. He is the author of three books, including Communists in Harlem During the Depression.
"Few could have imagined the path the troubled youth would travel. Leaving behind a life of drugs and crime, Allen Jones became an international banker."—Roanoke College Magazine
"A chronicle of Jones' life, from his youth in a Bronx housing development to a career as a professional basketball player in Europe."—Columbia College Today
"The engrossing story of one Bronx housing project is told through the eyes of Allen Jones, who endured—and participated in—its grim transformation over the course of a turbulent decade."—City Limits Weekly
"Jones pursued two successful careers in Europe: professional basketball player and banker. If you met him, you might not guess he spent his teen years as a heroin dealer in New York. His memoir, written with Naison (history & African American studies, Fordham Univ.) focuses on his experiences growing up in a Bronx public housing project, playing serious basketball, ignoring school, dealing and doing drugs, and eventually lucking into a series of experiences that led to a professional basketball career in Europe. Jones credits his success to his supportive family, coaches, and neighborhood elders, but ultimately his is a tale of luck. The young Jones makes rash decisions, avoids his responsibilities, lies, and steals but also encounters many unlikely second chances. In another writer's hands, this blessed triumph-over-adversity story line might be trite and irritating, but Jones draws readers in with his direct, conversational style, and the tale is gripping even though readers know it will end well. VERDICT Recommended for memoir lovers and anyone interested in a first-person perspective on 1960s-era urban adolescence."—Library Journal
"Reading this book to my 4th grade all boys class was risky, however the learning experiences and the dialogue we had with Allen and Mark hit a chord in these urban exposed children."—Michael Napolitano, P.S. 140
"The memoir paints an earthy picture of the neighborhood in the 1950s, when the projects were home to working-class black and Latino families who pushed their children to excel, through the 1970s."—The New York Times
"It is rare to find a book that creates as much excitement among teenagers as The Rat That Got Away did at Harlem RBI. After the authors spoke with the young people in our program, every student suddenly wanted a copy of their own. The book not only talks about the real life conditions that many inner city youngsters face, it teaches them
how to use their "street smarts" to achieve success. The book is an invaluable resource and gift to anyone working with at-risk youth."—Richard A. Berlin, Executive Director
" [The Rat That Got Away] is canny and intelligent, eloquent and wise. And gripping. And terrifying. And depressing. And uplifting. The grind of ghetto life, the needlessness of racism and its extraordinary oppression. The crucial role of fathers, sports coaches and other mentors captivated me - the possibilities therein for transcending racial and class poverty. But without naivety."—Michael Rosen, author of Where Else But Home: Seven Boys and an American Journey Between the Projects and the Penthouse
"The writing style of The Rat That Got Away drew me into the book from the first chapter. Allen Jones and Mark Naison paint a vivid portrait leaving nothing to the imagination. This book allows you to journey into the street life from the safety of your own home. This is a must read for any fan of urban literature. Real people in Real life situations. It don't get no realer than this."—Shannon Holmes, author of Never Go Home Again
"[T]his remarkable individual story is the impetus for questioning why such extraordinary feats are needed for not just success, but for survival; not for just anybody, but for our society's most racialized, stimatized, and marginalized. The Rat That Got Away forces us to think about how to make this American society a more just place."—Michael Partis, Ambition Az A Writer
". . . An unsentimental portrait of the South Bronx."—The Berkshire Eagle
“The Rat That Got Away offers a fresh new way to more deeply historicize and contemporize the lived experiences
of black men in the United States. Mr. Jones's cycles of triumphant and tragedy between the mid-1960's and early
1970s provides a set of textured testimonies that ultimately contextualizes the lived experiences of black men in the
twenty-first century.—Yasser A. Payne, University of Delaware
"Allen Jones' journey from Patterson Projects to the upper tiers of European banking is unforgettable and this book is a shot from way beyond the three point line that comes up nothing but net."—William Jelani Cobb, To the Break of Dawn: A Freestylve on the Hip Hop Aesthetic
"This is a startling book. During the 1960s, thousands of young men in the South Bronx were caught up in an increasingly virulent drug epidemic that ruined many lives and communities. This book is the story of one man, Allen Jones, who escaped, or 'got away,' from this path of destruction. Jones, with the help of adults in the African-American community, used his skills as a basketball player to escape the streets of the Bronx, go on the prep school and college, and then become a pro in Europe. The most compelling parts of the book are Jones’s tales about the how the heroin trade, and its use, got such an insidious hold on so many people, promising them wealth and/or a feeling of power, but often ending in death. But the most amazing story is how family and community saved his life."—Peter Derrick, Bronx County Historical Society
"Allen Jones has teamed up with Mark Naison to write a truly remarkable book. The Rat That Got Away provides deep insight into black neighborhood life and culture during a time when African American communities were undergoing rapid change. This powerful and riveting narrative gives you a rare glimpse into the inner workings of black neighborhoods. It allows you to watch family, and a community, battle with the "streets" for the soul of their child; and in so doing, brings to life the realities of America's forgotten neighborhoods. The Rat That Got Away is a story of triumph. It is must reading for anyone with an interest in urban studies."—Henry Louis Taylor, Jr., University at Buffalo, The State University of New York
"The Rat that Got Away is that most prized of literary finds: an original story. Here is a tale of family, community, basketball and redemption—a memoir that dodges conventions and evokes a long gone, nearly forgotten era of the Bronx. Allen Jones journey from Patterson Projects to the upper tiers of European banking is unforgettable and this book is a shot from way beyond the three point line that comes up nothing but net."—William Jelani Cobb, To the Break of Dawn: A Freestyle on the Hip Hop Aesthetic
“An enlightening commentary about an African American man who should have fallen through the cracks given his early adult experiences, but did not.”—Alford A. Young Jr., University of Michigan
"Follows a boy of the streets into a man of the world."—Greg Donaldson, author of Zebratown
“Told with passion, humor, and style.”—Craig S. Wilder, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
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