13 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful
Roy L. reviewed Amazing Grace : The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation on
Helpful Score: 3
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.
Amazing Grace is a book about the hearts of children who grow up in the South Bronx - the poorest congressional district of our nation. 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. One fourth of the child-bearing women in the neighborhoods where these children live test positive for HIV. Pediatric AIDS, life-consuming fires, and gang rivalries take a high toll. Several children die during the year in which this narrative takes place. Although it is a gently written work, 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 us questions that are, at once, political and theological. What is the value of a child's life? What exactly do we plan to do with those whom we appear to have defined as economically and humanly superfluous? How tough do we dare to be?
Heather L. (rnrhedar) reviewed Amazing Grace : The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation on
Helpful Score: 1
I could not put this book down! It was informative and touching. We hear all the time about poverty in other nations, but rarely do we think of it on American soil. People in poverty are just a statistic, one that shows that they "put themselves there." This book brings humanity to the situation; puts faces on the poor. I highly recommend this book!
I think this book would have had much more of an impact if I'd read it back in 1995 when it was first published. The cold sad truth is that these stories are now all-too-familiar in many impoverished neighborhoods around our nation including in my own city of Birmingham, Alabama. Although I have not studied the statistics, my gut tells me that the income gap between the poorest poor and the richest rich in New York City has widened substantially since this book was written. The New York Times, however, reported just this year about the number of middle class professionals, many of them white, moving into the neighborhoods described in Jonathan Kozol's book. Apparently the attraction is affordable real estate, an increasingly safe neighborhood where major crime has plummeted over the past 20 years, and a reasonable commute to jobs in Manhatten. I'm pleased to hear that the reputation of the neighborhood is changing for what appears to be the better but I would be very interested in a follow up book on the children highlighted in "Amazing Grace." Where are they today and have those precious children benefited from the enhancements and improvements in their neighborhood? My prayers may have already been answered as Kozol's newest book, Fire in the Ashes, which was published in August 2012 does just that.