Amazing Grace is a book 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, 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?
©1996 Jonathan Kozol (P)2010 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
Listen on dog walks, commutes and around the house. Welcome virtually any genre but southern fiction holds a special place in my heart.
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.
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