Item description for Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation by Jonathan Kozol...
Overview A profile of impoverished children in Mott Haven, South Bronx, reveals their difficult lives and poses questions about the value of such children to an unsupportive nation. Reprint. 125,000 first printing.
Publishers Description The children in this book defy the stereotypes of urban youth too frequently presented by the media. Tender, generous and often religiously devout, they speak with eloquence and honesty about the poverty and racial isolation that have wounded but not hardened them.
The 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.
A gently written work, Amazing Grace asks 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 cold -- how cruel, how tough -- do we dare be?
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JONATHAN KOZOL is the National Book Award winning author of Death at an Early Age, The Shame of the Nation, and Savage Inequalities. He has been working with children in their inner-city schools for more than 40 years."
Jonathan Kozol currently resides in Boston, in the state of Massachusetts.
Reviews - What do customers think about Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation?
A compelling eye-opener Sep 10, 2007
Kozol's Amazing Grace is a true eye-opener. After reading it, I feel that I had nothing close to an accurate image of the conditions of poverty that people still live in in some of the inner city neighborhoods. The reality Kozol awakens us to shatters the illusion America holds of "equal opportunity for all," and the book is an indictment of a far-too-unaware society run by politicians who must think about quick fixes (prisons, tax cuts) that try to please voters or address problem symptoms rather than causes (terrible schools, decrepit surroundings, congestion of the homeless, and the not-always subtle discrimination that continues in society). A truly important book, which will challenge any readers who are supportive of Rudy Giuliani to defend his startling insensitivity to the issue, displayed by his cutting of funding of public services that are so crucial to many people Kozol writes of.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind Aug 20, 2007
Jonathan Kozol has dedicated his work on bringing light to the inequalities that exist within our nation. These inequalities are best seen, unfortunately but not unexpectedly, along racial lines. "Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation" is a book with a lot of questions, a lot of shocking information, but not a lot of answers; if only because the answers may not exist. It is a stunning look at the deep disparity between rich and poor within our nation.
Kozol focuses on the South Bronx ghetto of Mott Haven, the poorest borough in New York, clearly segregated from the middle and upper classes, where two-thirds of the population are Hispanic and one-third African-American. Through interviews with school children, teachers, ministers, and community members, Kozol paints a bleak picture of the equally bleak lives led by those who live in this area. He recounts stories of buildings where wires have been eaten through by rats that are the size of squirrels, of drugs being bought and sold openly on the streets (although the drug dealers have enough respect to break when school lets out), and of families too numerous to count who are being killed off one by one by AIDS. The way these children see the world is frightenly dead-on; they know when they're not wanted because it's proven to them everyday in the way they have to live.
"Amazing Grace" is not an easy read due to its topic matter. Kozol's style is matter-of-fact, made up of usually uninterrupted comments by those he's interviewed, sometimes with his questions thrown in, and his own comments and hypotheses as to how this can go on. But Kozol doesn't necessarily have answers or even blame. Surely, some blame has to go to a system that keeps the poorest people with the least chance for success segregated from others, a separation of the haves and have nots to the greatest degree. And certainly others would place the blame on the poor people themselves. Perhaps it's a combination of a lot of factors, not one or the other, but what is certain is that too little is being done (or maybe can be done) to make a difference before it is too late.
An important book Jun 25, 2007
It is a book about children. Children who live in Mott Haven, one of the poorest neighbourhoods in the South Bronx. I have almost never read anything that has moved me and at the same time disturbed me as this book has. Jonathan Kozol has with great care and sensitivity interviewed children living in this place that's both crime ridden and run down. Most of these kids start off as being trusting and innocent but grow into becoming more and more disillusioned about their surroundings and hope for survival. The HIV and AIDS virus has really hit hard in these places and this is connected to the large amount of the population that abuse heroin. The heroin has such self-mocking names as "Jungle Fever", "Black Sabbath", "DOA"(dead on arrival), and "True Power". Many of the children are born to addicted mothers, some of who are in jail, already contracting the disease in utero. First time mothers have an average age between 16 and 17, while grandmothers can be in their late thirties and great great grandmothers in their late 50s.
Its incredible how close Jonathan Kozol manages to come to these kids. They really take him in and open up their hearts. They share with him their stories. These stories are full of horrible and painful things that are so far from the realities that we experience here in modern day big city Stockholm. The segregation in these South Bronx neighborhoods is total, whether it's the schools, hospitals, or prisons. And almost always the kids receive the short end of the stick. Children tell of how they see murders on the street, get attacked by rats, how some are killed or burned from household fires, how some eat cold oatmeal out of the box for dinner, many of the kids live with chronic asthma due to anxiety, others live with mothers dying of AIDS, and often have classrooms that are decrepit and completely rundown. There are less qualified doctors and teachers here than anywhere else in the state of New York. There have been major tax cuts in the city that have hit these citizens hardest. Like cuts in sanitation that has resulted in mountains of garbage lining up inside buildings drawing hordes of rats. Cuts in maintenance of buildings that leave elevators broken, often resulting in playing kids falling down the elevator shafts and dying. The police refer to some of the housing projects to as "death camps" because so many drug dealers and addicts dominate them. The tax cuts have also led to many social workers losing their jobs as well as closing of several youth centers that allow kids safe places to be while their parents work. Prostitution is also common among the women. Mostly serving the truck drivers who drive through the neighborhood to deliver goods to the Hunts Point market that is close. They turn tricks for 3 to 5 dollars that go to feeding their addictions. This happens all hours of the day and night, even when the children can see. Many times when the children or adults are asked how they manage to survive they mention their faith in god and heaven. That the place that they are in now is more reminiscent of hell, but this is not where they will end up.
As a atudent of theology I cannot help but see this book as a strong wake up call. The gospels of the New Testament took the part of the poor, saying the last shall be first and the first shall be last. In the Christian nation of America that prints "In god we trust" on their coins-this is how they treat the poor. One priest who works in the South Bronx took a little kid with him when he had to drive to Queens to do some errands. There he took him to Burger King to eat. The kid had never been outside of the Bronx before. The priest later learned from the kid's teacher that he wrote an essay in school about their lunch called "My trip to Burger King"-the same way a rich kid might write about a trip he made to Florida. Most of these kids never get any Christmas or birthday presents. They don't even have their own rooms. Sleeping on sofas or on mattresses on the floor. One child says, " it feels like I'm hidden", and this is a good observation. Nobody wants to be reminded of what these children are going through. Therefore their stories are seldom, if ever, heard. This is why Jonathan Kozols book is so important. Only a short distance away just across 96th street lies the park avenue apartments that houses some of the wealthiest people in the nation, households with an average income of 300,000 dollars a year. Toward the end of the book the author talks to an old poet living in the Bronx and the start to discuss the Nazi holocaust and the concentration camps. How there are certain disturbing parallels to what happened then and whats happening now. How the outcasts and those human beings viewed as being "superfluous" are quarantined. "Its not the same" he says, "but there are some similarities. There is the feeling of eclipse. There is the likelihood of death for many. There is a sense of people watching from the outside but seeming paralyzed and doing nothing. And then there are the miracles."
Amazing Grace: Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation, The May 7, 2007
I ordered a series of books for my daughter. Excellent email response, timely receipt and accurate updates of the order. More than what I expected. The materials were in good condition on arrival. Very satisfied with the service.
Forgotten Children in the South Bronx Jan 4, 2007
Jonathan Kozol's 1995 book, "Amazing Grace," is intriguing, yet infuriating. While I was drawn to the subject, a study of the children of New York City's South Bronx neighborhood, I was put off by the "Note to the Reader" at the front of the book, which warns that some names have been changed (I can live with that) but also that "conversations have been condensed" and "some events have been resequenced," which leaves me wondering what parts of which conversations with whom have been resequenced (a word that Microsoft Word 2003 does not even recognize) and when? Because the book is presented in a chronological order, one would assume a natural progression: as a general rule, time goes by, seasons change, and children mature. In real life we don't get the chance to resequence.
The book is basically a series of conversations, with Kozol playing the unbiased questioner, who lets his characters, excuse me, interviewees, write his book for him. Very rarely is his voice heard; he only allows some sadness, and some delight, filter through. Statements are made, facts are reported, but one must keep referring to the Notes at the back of the book to substantiate the facts, and check the dates, because we just never can be sure what has been resequenced. It would almost have been more efficient to include the notes in the body of the book, so one does not have to continually flip back and forth from the text to the notes.
The children in the book are lovely, and it is their amazing grace shining through the constant sorrow that gives this book its title. Although it is true that we are all equal, in truth we are all different, and Mr. Kozol's skin color, clothing, speech and demeanor mark him as a stranger in this strange land called the Bronx. (The villain of the piece is actually New York's master builder, Robert Moses, who cut a deep swathe, the "Cross Bronx Expressway," through the heart of the neighborhood and created a slum where there had once been a thriving community.) And because Mr. Kozol is a foreigner, indeed he wears the skin and clothing of The Powers That Be, one must wonder if his conversations with the children and parents are indicative of their true feelings, or are they just telling him what they think he wants to hear?
Mothers and grandmothers are the true heroes of the piece; guiding their precious children (including one, here called, "Precious," although who knows if that name has been changed) through a drug- and crime-infested hell, while fathers, sons and daughters bounce from hospitals to prisons to the cemetery. HIV-infection is a very real force here, although since the book is now 12 years old I do not know what effect the disease has on the community today.
The book's structure is flawed, but the story is inspiring, and makes the reader question how the children can be saved. Is it the obligation of the City government, which seems to have done a fine job relocating its "problem children" from their visibility in homeless shelters in Manhattan to the far, far away, out-of-sight, out-of-mind Bronx? Is it to be solved by mentoring, one-on-one, as 13-year-old "Anthony" is guided in his education by an older gentleman, a writer and poet? Should Kozol have just picked up Precious and adopted her into his Massachusetts family life, thus rescuing her from her certain tragic fate?
And those of us who are teachers, what is our role? Kozol seems to leave us in despair, as if there is nothing that a human being can do to turn this tide. We have to hope that the influence of an inspired teacher could make a dent in the defenses that these children have built up, like a shield, to guard them from the hard knocks of their hard lives. Maybe a teacher can, because if we didn't believe that such a thing was possible, we might as well turn in our chalk and go home.