Book review: ‘Invisible Child’ by Andrea Elliott

Cover of Invisible Child by Andrea Elliott.

Cover of “Invisible Child” by Andrea Elliott.

Iman Alradshid , Staff Writer

“She wakes to the sound of breathing. The smaller children lie tangled under coats and wool blankets, their chests rising and falling in the dark. A few feet away is the yellow mop bucket they use as a toilet and the mattress where the mother and the father sleep clutched. Two boys and five girls whose beds zigzag around the baby, her crib warmed by a hairdryer perched on a milk crate. They snore with the pull of asthma near a gash in the wall spewing sawdust. They cough or sometimes mutter in the throes of a dream. Only their sister Dasani is awake.” 

“Invisible Child” is a real story about an amazing, intelligent girl who lived all her childhood in extreme poverty. Dasani Coates is an 11-year-old who lived with her parents and seven siblings in a run-down homeless shelter in Brooklyn. 

Dasani’s mother named her after the bottled water that had come to Brooklyn bodegas just before she was born. From Dasani’s mother’s perspective, “Who paid for water in a bottle?” For her, it’s fancy. 

Dasani, as the writer described her: “People often remark on her beauty – the high cheekbones and chestnut skin … she has been blessed with perfect teeth.” 

The writer follows eight years of this dreamy girl. Her dreams are not like those of other girls of her age. Dasani’s dream is to keep her siblings safe. She must help them to survive a city full of hunger, homelessness, violence, drug addiction and the monitoring of Child Protection Services. 

On the fourth floor of that shelter, Dasani runs away from her circumstance. When she has a chance to look through that window, she can see across Brooklyn to the Empire State Building, the first New York skyscraper to reach 100 floors, and wonders what life looks like on the other side of the city. 

“It makes me feel like something is going on out there,” says the 11-year-old girl, never one for patience. 

Dasani went through many tragedies and challenges; every challenge made her care more about her family. And when she finally escapes city life to enroll in a boarding school, she faces an impossible question: What if leaving poverty means abandoning your family and yourself?

“Invisible Child” illuminates one of the critical issues in contemporary America through this outstanding girl’s life.