Amazing Grace Author:Jonathan Kozol "Amazing Grace" is a book about about the hearts of children who grow up in the South Bronx - the poorest congressional district of our nation. — The children we meet through the deepening friendships that evolve between Janathan Kozol and their families defy the stereotypes of urban youth too frequently presented on TV and in newspapers. Tender... more », generous, and often religiously devout, they speak with painful clarity about the poverty and racial isolation that have wounded but not hardened them. "It's not like being in a jail," says 15-year-old Isabel. "It's more like being hidden. It's as if you have been put in a garage where, if they don't have room for something but aren't sure if they should throw it out, they put it there where they don't need to think of it again."
Without rhetoric, but drawing extensively upon the words of children, parents, and priests, this book does not romanticize or soften the effects of violence and sickness. "Amazing Grace" makes clear that the postmodern ghetto of America is not a social accident but is created and sustained by greed, neglect, racism, and expedience. It asks questions like - what is the value of child's life? what do we plan to do with those whom we have decided are superfluous? how tough do we dare to be?« less
I ordered this book because I'm a social worker in the South Bronx; on any given day I'm likely to pass by a location Kozol describes, and i wouldn't be surprised if I've met people he interviewed. The book has its very good points; it does capture some of the gritty reality that I see every day, that many people who read it will probably find unbelievable. FWIW, things are better her now in some respects. I do not meet people who have stories to tell about seeing people killed as a commonplace act, and my program, which includes drug testing, mostly finds marijuana. The streets are not littered with crack vials and needles any more. So some of the extreme elements are a bit dated. More importantly, when the author tries to move beyond reportage into social analysis, he seems a bit out of his league. He reports ridiculous conspiracy theories advanced by clients without comment; he can't seem to get beyond sympathizing with his subjects and the simplistic assertion that a compassionate society would meet all their needs. True enough but not the totality of what causes the situation. and not a useful truth, because society is not likely to adopt a more compassionate stance, so the book leaves one feeling rather more empty and hopeless than the actual situation deserves.
This is an outstanding book, that even though 15 years old, still speaks powerfully about the state of poverty in the most prosperous nation on earth, and it is set in New York City. The stories are profound, moving, and, surprisingly, full of hope, in a sea of despair and gloom.
Highly recommended, especially if you teach social studies or social justice classes.