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The Mole People


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About the Author

Jennifer Toth is a journalist and the author of Orphans of the Living: Stories of America's Children in Foster Care and What Happened to Johnnie Jordan?: The Story of a Child Turning Violent.


``Mole people'' are the thousands of homeless people who live in the subway, railroad, and sewage tunnels of New York City. Drawing on her interviews with these tunnel dwellers, who speak candidly and demonstrate their humanness, journalist Toth pulls the reader into this nether world, revealing lives of addiction and abuse. She also portrays people who try to help, including a woman who teaches the children and a kind man known as the mayor who does all he can to help others survive. In providing a historical backround, Toth informs the reader that living underground was not always considered ``inhuman.'' Highly recommended for public and academic libraries.-- Kevin Whalen, Montville Township P.L., N.J.

Viewed as pejorative by the very folk it denotes, the term ``mole people'' describes those who live in the tunnels under Manhattan's Grand Central Station, Penn Station, Port Authority and Riverside Park. This book grows out of an article that Toth, now a reporter for the Raleigh, N.C., News & Observer , wrote in 1990 for the Los Angeles Times detailing the chilling plight of the moles. According to Lieutenant John Romero of the New York City Transit Police, ``95% are males between twenty and forty-five years old. At least 80% are mentally ill or chemically dependent.'' We learn that the life expectancy for homeless men is 45 years; most tunnel people (an estimated 5000) come from families that are frequently torn apart by drugs and violence. But what makes this book so troubling and memorable are Toth's profiles of the tunnel people: Mac, a white man in his early 50s, who hunts rats--``track rabbits''--which he cooks while reciting Thoreau; eight-year-old Julie, a Haitian who attends school, says, ``Everything I wish for I'm going to have, because I've been such a good girl;'' and Brenda, a Dartmouth dropout, who poetically laments, ``I love the loneliness of the tunnels. It's like a hug with nothing to hold you.'' A disturbing read that offers little hope of a better life for the tunnel people. Photos not seen by PW. (Oct.)

"Toth pulls the reader into this netherworld. Highly recommended." -- Library Journal "A fascinating book." -- A Bookish Affair

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