Kill the Poor

Institute History


Jo-Jo Peltz has retreated from the world. He lives alone, in a crummy one-room apartment in New York's East Village. He makes a living selling papers at his family's Times Square newsstand. To the distress of his family, he doesn't seem to want anything out of life. Except maybe one thing . . . Annabelle is a beautiful, headstrong French girl who dances at the Gotham Burlesque next door to the newsstand. She has run away to New York and has no intention of going back home. When the immigration authorities close in, she turns to Joe for a green card. The two are quickly married. And in a move calculated to clinch the deal, Annabelle is soon pregnant.

Desperate for a place to live, Joe and Annabelle wind up with a piece of a homesteading project on the Lower East Side. Not just any neighborhood, it is the very block to which Joe's grandparents came when they immigrated to America in 1903. It's not a foreign planet to Joe. He used to buy dope here in his druggy days, run the mean streets. And the place is still haunted by the stories his grandmother told him over and over again when he was a child. Entering this world, Joe embarks on a transforming journey, contending with the ghosts of his own and his family's past, while dealing with everything that is worst and best in the soul of urban America. He encounters gentrifiers, homeboys, dealers, junkies, police, and neighborhood people simply bent on staying alive in a world where killing poverty pits each camp against all the others. And in his struggle to build a home for himself and his family, Joe finally confronts the man who is both his rival and his doubleā€”a conflict that relentlessly leads to arson and death.

It is a harrowing journey, literally a trial by fire, through which Joe finally grows up and discovers, with Annabelle, the profound love at the heart of what began as a marriage of convenience.

As incendiary as it is ultimately, tragically humane, KILL THE POOR finds surprising humor and magical beauty even as it confronts the violent reality of our nation's urban frontier.

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