Based on a series of Pulitzer Prize-winning articles, this harrowing account of life in the urban underclass offers compelling testimony in the ongoing national debate about welfare reform. In Rosa Lee, Washington Post reporter Leon Dash vividly chronicles the hardships and pathologies of the daily life of a family in the slums of Washington, D.C. Defying simplistic conservative and liberal arguments about why the black underclass persists, Dash puts a human face on their struggle to survive despite both disastrous personal choices and almost insurmountable circumstances. The book spans a half-century of hardship, from Rosa Lee Cunningham?s bleak early life in the Jim Crow South to her death from AIDS at age fifty-nine. Rosa Lee gave birth to her first child at fourteen, was married at sixteen, and ultimately bore eight children whom she had no legitimate means of supporting. When her welfare checks proved insufficient to feed her family, she turned to prostitution and selling stolen clothes and drugs. Yet Rosa Lee maintained a flickering desire to do what was right. Two of her sons did escape the ghetto to enter mainstream life, and after Dash?s series of articles ran in The Washington Post, she made public speeches, hoping to encourage other people to avoid her destructive choices. Rosa Lee is the worthy successor to such works as Jonathan Kozol?s Death at an Early Age. It offers no easy answers, but is instead challenging, thought-provoking, and utterly unforgettable.