Amazing GraceWithin the next few pages here I intend to address two issues. First I will try togive a personal review of what I saw this book to hold, and second I will try explain therevelence which this book has to the field of Public Administration.
First try to picturechildren in a slum where the squalor in their homes is just as bad as that which is in thestreets. Where prostitution is rampant, thievery a common place and murder and death adaily occurrence. Crack-cocaine and heroin are sold in corner markets, and the dead eyesof men and women wandering about aimlessly in the streets of Mott Haven are all tocommon. , Their bodies riddled with disease, disease which seems to control theneighborhood. This is Mott Haven, in New York City’s South Bronx, the outback of thisAmerican nation’s poorest congressional district, also the setting of Jonathan Kozol’sdisturbing representation of poverty in this country. The stories, which are capturedAmazing Grace, are told in the simplest terms.
They are told by children who have seentheir parents die of AIDS and other disease, by mothers who complain about teenagersbagging dope and loading guns on fire escapes, by clergy who teach the poor to fightinjustice and by police who are afraid to answer 911 calls. Kozol seems to be disparageabout the situation of the poor in American today, especially when more and more thepoor are blamed for being poor. Kozol’s portrait of life in Mott Haven is gentle andpassionate. Even though rats may chew through apartment walls in the homes of MottHaven, the children still say their prayers at night. What seems to bother Kozol is thatmany people do not even want to look at this picture of America, but in Amazing Gracehe dares us to recognize it does exist. Kozol spent a year wandering through Mott Haven and its neighboringcommunities; visiting churches, schools, hospitals, parks, and homes.
Talking with parentsand kids, social workers, religious leaders, and principals and teachers; struggling to tryto understand how these children and parents cope with poverty and violence. Kozol trysto determine how their fellow citizens can tolerate, even demand policies that guaranteemisery and death for those living a few subway stops north of glitzy midtown Manhattan. Perhaps nothing can halt the tides of social policy where citizens of this nation areallowed to live in such conditions. If on the other hand anything can, it may be Kozol’sforecasting visions and the openness and humanity of the remarkable people whose?amazing grace? he so vividly shows us.
In his book, Kozol tells the stories of a handful ofchildren who have–through the love and support of their families and dedicatedcommunity leaders not yet lost their battle with the perils of life in America’s mosthopeless, helpless, and dangerous neighborhoods. A profile of the impoverished people of Mott Haven, South Bronx, reveals to thereader difficult lives these people must live. Also, Kozol in implicitly posing questionsabout the value of such children to an unsupportive nation. Amazing Grace reveals thehearts of children who grow up in the SouthBronx–and has produced, perhaps, the mostaffecting book in trying to portray the problems faced by poor Americans. Many people would like to believe in the phrase, NIMBY(Not in My Back Yard),when thinking of the poor and destitute in America. I believe that in his book AmazingGrace, Kozol has made the important point that poor children that have no opportunitiesfor an education and the hope it can give them don’t just live in the ghettos of the innercity.
They can be found in every state, in every city, town and rural area. You don’t haveto go to New York to find them, it is just a matter of paying attention to your ownbackyard. As I read this book I thought about all of the creative and brilliant ideas that Ihave been expose to over the years and how I would not have the chance to benefit fromthem if I were a poor child, not given the chance to properly learn and grow, like thoseof Kozol’s book in Mott Haven. As a country, we don’t seem to understand yet that eachperson, regardless of who they are or where they came from, has something to teach us. Ifthe children and adults like those Kozol describes had the chance to write, sing, doscientific experiments, start businesses, just imagine what we could gain. I was thoroughlymoved by the stories of the people in Amazing Grace.
I can see hoe it might be possibleto see this book as manipulating and only telling on part of the story. It could be arguedthat this book unfairly blames the government, society and particularly New York MayorGuilliani for the problems in the Bronx. There was little discussion about how much of thesituation was owned by the people in the story. Regardless you would still have to feelbadly for the people in the book, especially the children. The fact remains that the children in this book defy the stereotypes of urban youthtoo frequently presented by the media. They are tender, generous and often religiouslydevout, they speak with eloquence and honesty about the poverty and racial isolation thathave wounded but not hardened them, such as Anthony did through out the book.
Thebook does not romanticize or soften the effects of violence and sickness. I believe thatKozol says at one point something like, one fourth of the child-bearing women in theneighborhoods, where these children live, test positive for HIV. He also tell us thatPediatric AIDS, life-consuming fires and gang rivalries take just as high a toll on thissociety of Mott Haven. Several children, some 23, die during the year in which thisnarrative takes place. I believe that Kozol has written a amazing piece of work here. Amazing Grace asks questions that are at once political and theological.
What is the valueof a child’s life? What exactly do we plan to do with those whom we appear to havedefined as economically and humanly disadvantaged? How cold, how cruel, how tough –do we dare be? Why do we not seem to be able to fix it?Book Reports