“Invisible Child” by Andrea Elliott is a New York Times article that followed an 11 year old girl named Dasani and her family through the Auburn Family Residence. Auburn place houses many families to keep them from being homeless; however, the conditions are far from humane. Dasani resides in a 520 square foot room with her seven siblings and parents and struggles to maintain her appearance outside the shelter so that people won’t know where she comes from.
When I was initially assigned to read this article, I expected it to be like the typical dystopian literature that was read and discussed in class. I thought I would be reading about more technological control or state guardians dictating the lives of individuals within the society. However, to my surprise, it ended up being a nonfiction piece and it was really eye opening. I was furious reading about various things that went on in this shelter, such as the rodent-infested living conditions. Even in the bathrooms, there were predators that followed the residents in there and harassed them. The sad part about all of this was that the building itself received a million dollars that should have went into renovating and making it a better place, but instead, the staff who treated the residents horribly ended up getting a raise. As all of these issues and daily life of Dasani and her family were outlined, I ended up realizing that this, in a broad sense was a dystopia.
This article, in a way, reminded me of Nineteen Eight-Four by George Orwell, where the citizens were very poor and ruled by Big Brother and the Party. In this real life scenario, the people living in Auburn Residence were extremely poor and were controlled by the staff that was supposed to be there to help them and make sure that they were safe. However, the staff ended up taking advantage of them and harassed them because they knew that the residents were vulnerable and could not stand up for themselves. In Nineteen Eight-Four, the Party took advantage of the citizens by instilling fear in them through constant surveillance. The citizens were not free to do what they wanted and if they did something that was not allowed, the Party would step in and punish them. This was almost the same scenario in “Invisible Child” because the staff put a restriction on various things such as residents not being able to have a microwave. Due to this, if they were caught with any of the restricted item, the staff would “punish” them by confiscating that item and even going as far as to give someone keys to the residents apartment and having them take whatever they wanted. This was a big punishment because the residents were very poor and to have something be taken away from them that they worked hard to get; it’s just cruel.
One of the things that frustrated me the most about reading this article was the children that was affected living in this condition. They had no control being born into a family that used drugs and did not manage their savings better to move out of this shelter. They were the victims in all of this and instead of their parents trying harder to get them out, they had the mentality that since they were raised in shelters, that that was the life they were predetermined to live. Dasani’s mother even encourages her to fight and takes no action of discipline when Dasani is suspended from school. Dasani’s mother did not pay much attention to the fact that her daughter was doing well in school, she just cared about the next welfare check that would come.
Overall, Auburn Family Residence is completely corrupt and it reflects a dystopia. It is supposed to be a temporary place for people to live and feel safe, but instead it was far from that. Families lived in poverty and struggled to make ends meet. On top of that, the staff that was supposed to be helping these families ended up seeing an opportunity to take advantage of them by controlling many aspects of their lives. This shelter was not a temporary home, it was a nightmare.