A Hope in the Unseen: An American Odyssey from the Inner City to the Ivy League

( 79 )

Overview

It is 1993, and Cedric Jennings is a bright and ferociously determined honor student at Ballou, a high school in one of Washington D.C.’s most dangerous neighborhoods, where the dropout rate is well into double digits and just 80 students out of more than 1,350 boast an average of B or better. At Ballou, Cedric has almost no friends. He eats lunch in a classroom most days, plowing through the extra work he has asked for, knowing that he’s really competing with kids from other, harder schools. Cedric Jennings’s ...
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A Hope in the Unseen: An American Odyssey from the Inner City to the Ivy League

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Overview

It is 1993, and Cedric Jennings is a bright and ferociously determined honor student at Ballou, a high school in one of Washington D.C.’s most dangerous neighborhoods, where the dropout rate is well into double digits and just 80 students out of more than 1,350 boast an average of B or better. At Ballou, Cedric has almost no friends. He eats lunch in a classroom most days, plowing through the extra work he has asked for, knowing that he’s really competing with kids from other, harder schools. Cedric Jennings’s driving ambition–which is fully supported by his forceful mother–is to attend a top-flight college.

In September 1995, after years of near superhuman dedication, he realizes that ambition when he begins as a freshman at Brown University. In this updated edition, A Hope in the Unseen chronicles Cedric’s odyssey during his last two years of high school, follows him through his difficult first year at Brown, and now tells the story of his subsequent successes in college and the world of work.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A beautiful book of a heroic American struggle."
--David Halberstam in USA Today

"[An] extraordinary, formula-shattering book."
--New York Times Book Review

"A story of sheer human grit that should be read by others as example and inspiration."
--Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post Book World

"Absolutely gripping.  A sort of suspense novel of the human psyche. . . . It's beyond good, it's really extraordinary."
--Walter Kirn, National Public Radio

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780767901260
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/28/1999
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 155,943
  • Lexile: 1080L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.84 (d)

Meet the Author

Ron Suskind is a staff writer for the Wall Street Journal. In 1995, he won the Pulitzer Prize in Feature Writing for a two-part series about the high-school years of Cedric Jennings. Suskind and his family live in Washington, D.C.
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Read an Excerpt

The next morning blooms into a radiant, cloudless day, as it ought to be. Freshmen arrive for orientation, ferried by a grand procession of proud parents.

Barbara, tired from the drive, gets a late start and, before long, the day feels harried. It's nearly noon by the time they get to College Hill, a steep slope on top of which Brown sits like a cloud city above the gritty ethnic enclaves, legendary Italian restaurants, and aging factories of Providence. "I wanted to get this all done early. Now look," she says, sitting in the van near the Brown student union as Cedric, looking at a checklist in his orientation packet, slips out to go get his temporary student ID. "Don't be all day, Lavar," she calls after him, all business, "I gotta get back home."

Cedric has drawn a desirable dorm, Andrews Hall. It's a three-story brick horseshoe on the quieter Pembroke side of campus that was renovated over the summer and now boasts fresh carpeting and new paint. From the Andrews parking lot, they unload the van swiftly, with Cedric helping on this end. While Barbara glances tersely at other parents--mostly white, of course--unloading Lexuses and Range Rovers and Volvo wagons, she notices that Cedric seems to be increasingly relaxed--smiling at some of the other incoming freshmen and offering unsolicited greetings.

"These dorms are nice," Barbara notes over her shoulder to Cedric, who is dragging a trunk full of linens behind her across the second-floor hallway carpet. Remembering Cedric's complaints about last summer's dorms, she adds, "And a lot nicer than MIT, ain't it?"

"Lot nicer," he says, almost shouting. "This place is nothing like MIT."

A small paper square taped to the door of room 216 says "Cedric Lavar Jennings and Robert Burton." Cedric fumbles with the key and opens the heavy wooden door.

"Wow," he says.

"Hmmm, very nice," Barbara confirms.

His roommate, Rob, has already been here, settled in and gone. Barbara moves to the empty bed and starts unpacking while Cedric goes back downstairs for the rest. She carefully places a dozen new pairs of underwear, a dozen new pairs of socks, and six new T-shirts (clothes bought with money she didn't have to spare) onto closet shelves, and she begins a ritual that she figures is being repeated at this moment in hundreds of rooms across the campus: a mother making her child's bed for the last time. It's not like Barbara made his bed back home, she muses, but it doesn't matter. She made a thousand beds before she was twenty, and now she meticulously presses flat a fold of sheet, tucking it tight. Cedric returns, carrying his CDs, and crosses the room to check the unfamiliar titles in Rob's collection as Barbara lays the blanket and smoothes it.

With the van unpacked and their stomachs growling, Barbara decides they should walk to one of the dining halls for lunch. Soon, she and Cedric are strolling the campus, through archways and across neatly edged rectangles of thick grass.

While Barbara is delighted that Cedric, so tightly wound yesterday, is now buoyantly bouncing as he walks, an unwanted self-consciousness is welling up inside her. She'd rather not notice the cars other parents are driving, the clothes they're wearing, and the ease with which they move. She knows, of course, that the typical Brown parents probably went to college and on to some professional status that their offspring, by virtue of this Ivy League acceptance, are now bounding toward. Here, it's a day for her to be proud, but she can't help staring at them--these smiling, polished people--and overhearing their jaunty melody of generational succession: a child's footsteps following their own, steps on a path that leads to prosperity's table and a saved seat right next to Mom and Dad.

Barbara, watching Cedric demolish a ham sandwich at the dining hall, tries to figure out what she brings to this place, where she fits. It's her day, too, she resolves, looking across a dining hall filled with effusive, chatty parents and freshmen, though her song is flat and elemental--an old, familiar harmony, really, about sacrifice and denial and a child venturing where the parent never could.

"Really is a whole 'nother world up here," she says quietly across the table as Cedric reaches for her untouched sandwich, barely noticing that she's there. In that instant, she realizes how afraid she is that she might lose him.

It's almost two o'clock when they head back to the dorm. Near the new, soaring brick medical school, Cedric spots a bumper sticker on a parked car: "Your Honor Student Was Beaten Up By My Kid" it says, a play on the honor student bumper stickers that are especially popular in the inner cities.

"That car must be from D.C.," he jokes, and Barbara puts her arm around him as they laugh.

A tall, thin Caucasian girl with hazel-blue eyes, a row of earrings, and a shaved head strolls by. "Isn't that awful," Barbara murmurs to Cedric after the girl passes. "Must be chemotherapy." He nods sympathetically.

A few blocks ahead, passing a lovely Victorian house just north of Andrews dorm, Barbara admires the wide, circular porch and an apple arbor alongside it. "That fruit could feed a lot of hungry people," she says as they walk the last few feet to the dorm. Inside Cedric's room, they're puttering around when the door opens. It's a smallish white boy with dark hair, a faint Van Dyke beard, and sandals.

"You must be Rob," says Cedric with a wide smile.

"You must be Cedric," he echoes back in a soft, cheery voice.

Barbara nods a hello at him and rises from Cedric's bed. She knows that the time has come. In a moment, she and Cedric go down the elevator and outside and begin walking the last block to the van. She doesn't want to lead and senses that he doesn't either, so their pace slows until they're almost weaving--like they're not going anywhere, really. But as he looks down at his feet, she's able to glimpse the side of his face without him knowing. And Barbara Jennings can't help but hear echoes of her earlier self, holding a baby a little too tight, saying, "I'll save you, and me, too."

At the bumper of the van, he looks up.

"You be good, okay?" she says.

"Yeah . . ."

"Come here," she finally says, holding her arms out wide, and the two fall together as she presses her cheek hard against his.

"Trust in God, let Him guide you," she whispers.

"I will, Ma."

They hug for a good, long time. She's not been a mother to show him much physical affection in these latter years. The situation demanded strength. She had to be a father, too, as best she knew how, and maybe that hardened her touch. So, as they pull apart, she finds that her cheeks are flushed. She shakes it off.

"Okay, now," Barbara says. She reaches into the back seat and gives him a Frito-Lay assortment pack, uneaten from the trip. He nods. She gets into the front seat and waves once, and Cedric begins ambling down the hill toward the dorm.

"Wait!" She spots his deodorant in the space between the seats and yells through the open window. He runs the few feet back to get it.

"All right, 'bye," she says, and he turns, briskly walking back to the dorm as she watches him in the rearview. He doesn't look back.

Barbara is quiet as the van eases into gear and drifts onto the quiet street. She told herself she wouldn't cry, so she tries to occupy her eyes, looking at things she passes by. That Victorian would sure be nice, she thinks to herself, heading past the wraparound porch.

But something's wrong. She snaps to attention. The money!

Next thing, she's back in the dorm parking lot and then running up the stairs, taking them two at a time.

The door to room 216 bursts open. "I forgot this," Barbara says, panting, and squeezes three neatly folded twenties into her son's hand. Already, though, the room belongs to Cedric Lavar Jennings, a Brown freshman, and that nice white boy on the other bed. She feels suddenly unsure. Cedric is smiling broadly but like he's looking right through her. "Well, good-bye Lavar," she says simply and slips out. Doesn't hug him this time. She'd think a lot about that later.

It takes a moment for the heavy oak door to swing on its hinge. And when it slams, it's like a thunder clap, leaving her alone with the smell of fresh paint.

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Reading Group Guide

1. At Frank W. Ballou Senior High, students learn a daily lesson: "distinctiveness can be dangerous, so it's best to develop an aptitude for not being noticed." To what extent does Cedric Jennings heed this lesson? What are the steps he takes to avoid attention from the "crews"? What are the ways in which he defies them? How would members of your book group have responded in Cedric's situation?

2. Teachers and administrators at Ballou, frustrated with the lack of positive role models for students, erect a giant "Wall of Honor" to commemorate those students who manage to maintain a B average or better. Principal Washington offers $100 checks to students who score straight A's. Why do these measures backfire? How else might the teachers and administrators more effectively boost good students' self esteem?

3. In many ways, Phillip Atkins represents the path not taken by Cedric. Phillip has employed his wit and intelligence not for grades but for popularity, humor, and social skills. What are the sacrifices each one makes to stay on his path? What are the rewards? How do these sacrifices and rewards change over time?

4. Phillip's father, Israel Atkins Sr., advises his children to "set goals so they're attainable, so you can get some security." What do you think about this "shoot low" strategy? What are its strengths and weaknesses, especially when applied to youths living in impoverished and crime-ridden communities?

5. Why do you think Bishop C.L. Long's brand of Apostolic Pentecostalism is so successful among the poor and lower middle class blacks of southeast Washington, D.C.? How do his church and his preaching address their needs? How does his fundraising technique prey on their particular fears? Does it bother you that he drives a Cadillac, and later, a Rolls Royce, or do you feel he deserves such material rewards for his hard work?

6. Mr. Taylor misquotes Hebrews II:I as "the substance of faith is a hope in the unseen." How does his misquotation inspire Cedric more than the actual words of the Bible? What other people throughout history have been motivated by a hope in the unseen? What kind of place is Cedric hoping for? Does he ever find it?

7. How does Cedric feel about his father at the beginning of the book? How do his feelings change through the course of the book? What role does his father play in the formation of Cedric's drive to succeed?

8. Why does Clarence Thomas advise Cedric to avoid Afro-American studies and ethnic identity groups while at Brown? Do you agree with Thomas? To what extent does Cedric heed his words? What do you think Cedric's attitude toward the subject would have been had he come of age when Clarence Thomas did?

9. How are the challenges faced by Cedric at Ballou different from those faced by his female academic rival, LaCountiss Spinner? How have Cedric's difficulties strengthened his ambitions?

10. What are some of the ways in which Cedric's dorm unit is like a foreign land to him? How does he decipher its codes?

11. What are some of the challenges that Brown poses to Cedric's identity as an urban black? What sort of balance does Cedric strike between "selling out" to the white establishment, and succeeding on his own terms? How does he manage to negotiate a truce between fitting in and being himself?

12. How is Zayd Dohrn actually better equipped than his radical, activist parents at negotiating the racial divides of today? Why do you think he is the first Brown student Cedric opens up to?

13. Cedric overhears a white professor, in discussing affirmative action, saying, "Are we really doing a service to young people to boost them above their academic level and then not offer the services they need? Because who really can? There's no choice but laissez-faire, sink or swim. They should be going to middle-rung universities." Do you agree? Does Cedric receive any special support services at Brown? Is he offered too many breaks? Not enough? Would he have been better served at a middle-rung university?

14. How do the same behavioral patterns that kept Cedric alive and intact at Ballou backfire at Brown? How does he learn to "unfold" and open himself up to his new community?

15. What kind of transformation did Cedric's faith undergo as a result of his first year at Brown? How has his faith helped him in the past? How will it help him in the future?

16. Ninety-two-year-old Miriam Korb remarks to Cedric, "I sure would like to meet your mother. She must be quite a woman." Do you agree? How so? How would you describe Barbara Jennings' relationship with her son? On the eve of eviction, Barbara confesses to Cedric that she's "let you down again, Lavar." How has she let him down in the past? How has she saved him in the past?

17. In the Author's Note, Ron Suskind says he hopes readers will adopt "the ideal that racial distinctions can be bridged by shared understanding." To what extent do you think the racial divide in America can be bridged? Has Suskind, a white man in his thirties, crossed that divide?

18. The book never mentions Cedric's numerous interactions and interviews with the author. What sort of effect might Ron Suskind's research have had on his subjects, particularly Cedric? Why do you think Suskind chose not to include himself in the book? Do you wish he had?

19. One third of the book is told from the perspective of characters other than Cedric. What is the effect of changing the narrative voice? Why might the author have done so?

20. Evaluate the public schools in your community. How would Cedric have fared with your neighborhood teachers? How has A Hope in the Unseen affected your perception of your local public-education system?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 79 )
Rating Distribution

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(32)

4 Star

(35)

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(6)

2 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 79 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 23, 2014

       Adrian Garcia AP Lang & Comp. 10/23/14  ¿A Hope in the U

       Adrian Garcia AP Lang & Comp. 10/23/14

     “A Hope in the Unseen” is an amazing novel written by Ron Suskind.  Ron being a Wall Street Journalist follows a young Man by the name of Cedric Jennings.Cedric is attending Ballou High School, one of the worst schools in his district in the Southside of Washington D.C.  It follows him through the last two years of his high school and his first year attending Brown University, an Ivy League school. You see Cedric breaking away from the dangerous Southside to make it to a college. Having no father, little money, and a single mother to raise him, he manages to make it to an Ivy League college. Where the atmosphere is different from where he came from, you see him developing into a man, a man who sees things and thinks differently about people, ideas, and experiences. You see a new person.
       
    The book should deserve an overall five star rating. Suskind, being a Pulitzer prizewinner and a journalist, he knows how to attract young readers with a book that compares to the struggling life of kids attempting to reach a good college. Suskind also gives advice. The advice to have Hope, reason being you may struggle a lot but you keep on going.  Which makes me kind of inspired by Cedric. I may not    have the same struggles but I understand his struggle with himself. I keep on going no matter what happen in life. My favorite chapter of this book was 14. In this chapter Cedric becomes a new man and starts to see and understand more than he did when he was a high school student. Basically the part I was waiting for in the book where Cedric changes.  

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 23, 2014

    A Hope in the Unseen written by award winning writer and journal

    A Hope in the Unseen written by award winning writer and journalist Ron Suskind. The story follows a young man named Cedric Jennings through-out his last years of high school, and is first year at Brown University. It shows the struggle for Cedric by being out of his comfort zone for most of the story. Cedric is highly intelligent, but making friends is not his strong suit. Our purpose for reading this book was to show us students that anything is possible. No matter what your background is you can still be make it to an Ivy League College.
    A Hope in the Unseen was phenomenal book to read. Showing me that anything is possible if you work for it. My favorite chapter was chapter 13. In chapter 13 Cedric gets his grade back for a math test that he had taken earlier, he was so sure that he had gotten a D. he opened the envelope and to his surprise he got a 98 on the test. It's my favorite part because we have all taken a test that we were sure to fail but we don't do so bad on it. My least favorite part was chapter 6 'The pretender" because it shows how Bishop Long wasn't really preaching for the community, but he was doing it for the money. It's my least favorite part because it shows the dark side to people, and how money can change the thoughts to anybody. For the writing it was all about Cedric, Suskind did not put his thought  or the thoughts of anybody else. 
    Over all i would rate this book a 4.5 out of 5, and would highly recommend it to anybody that wants to enter an Ivy League college to show that it is possible.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 23, 2014

    Venecia Byrd AP Lang & Comp. October 23, 2014 ¿A Hope in

    Venecia Byrd AP Lang & Comp. October 23, 2014




    “A Hope in the Unseen” in a phenomenal novel written by Ron Suskind. This story talks about a kid, Cedric Jennings, whom is an outstanding and brilliant student, but has a little trouble when it comes to engaging with people and his outside life. Suskind shadows Cedric and tells this astounding selection about Cedric’s educational success. Suskind’s chose of words were what really made me think because there are simple words you can use to make a reader understand, but since he was of that level you could tell he was well educated. This book portrays various themes that any reader can identify and I feel that is the reason any English class, no matter what level should read this novel. My AP class was required to read this story because of the amount of relativity we could equate within our own lives. No matter what skin color, age, or gender you are any student can relate to Cedric Jennings’ character and teething troubles. Countless students have the same difficulties Cedric faced and some may not know how to decipher them. The most distinguishable theme I recognized was inspiration. You have to look profoundly into this book and see that it is all based upon inspiration. Cedric may have gone through ample situations, but he never let that stop him from succeeding in what he was made to do. I think all students should be required to read this book because there may be additional Cedric Jennings’ who are waiting to be exposed, but they may not have the reassurance.




    I very much so relished this book because it kept me betrothed. You never know what the next part may be and once you make a prediction it turns out another outcome is revealed. I had numerous chapters that were my favorite, but the chapter that stood out to me the utmost was chapter 14: Meeting the Man. Chapter 14 is what every student or any reader was waiting on. We all were waiting to see when Cedric was going to stop being a little boy and propagate into a man. In the preceding chapters we saw several changes, but the biggest adjustment was in the end. Suskind choice an immense number of college educated words which is why I was confused at times, but it did not hurt to look them up. Suskind and Cedric moved me after reading this novel and even though I do not read often I would love to read more by him. I give this book beyond 5 stars because no matter what struggles you are up against, faced, or are going to encounter this book can give you the right motivation to better yourself as a person and student.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 19, 2012

    Jameccia Lewis Mrs.Stewart AP Language and Composition Sep, 19 2

    Jameccia Lewis Mrs.Stewart AP Language and Composition Sep, 19 2012
    A great book that I read in my AP Language and Comp. class was A Hope in the Unseen, by Ron Suskind. This book is about an incredible boy named Cedric and his rode to success though education. Also over coming many obstacles that he faced throughout his life. From poverty stricken life, bad neighborhood, and many conflicts with himself that anyone can relate to. So that’s why this story deserves a five star rating.
    To further explain I really enjoyed reading A Hope in the Unseen. My favorite chapter of A Hope in the Unseen is chapter 14, “Meeting the Man”, because I can really relate to that chapter. There was a time when I lived with my grandma and she was having a hard time paying the rent, and we had to move. But just like Cedric it showed me to strive for greatness so I will not have to experience something like this ever again. Also one chapter that I could not relate to was chapter 7 “Good-Bye to Yesterday “. This is why this is was my least favorite chapter, because I never experienced going to college. However I enjoyed A Hope in the Unseen, and Ron Suskind did a great job telling a story that many people can relate to.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 21, 2011

    A great read.!

    Kennedy Perry Ms. Stewart AP Language and Composition September 19, 2011 A Hope in the Unseen is a compelling novel by Ron Suskind that my AP Language and Composition class read. It is an exceptional read. It tells the story of a young man named Cedric Jennings growing up in Southeast Washington D.C. It follows him throughout his last two years of high school and his first year of college. It portrays his struggles, and how he pushed past being poverty stricken and having an incarcerated father to reach his goals. He also had to push through the barriers of being a young, African American, or so he thought. Cedric had to work hard for everything he wanted, and in the end, his hard work paid off. This book is a great read. Ron Suskind did a wonderful job in conveying Cedric's story. One truly understood everything Cedric went through to get to where he wanted to be. It is a genuine five-star read. A Hope in the Unseen was a great novel. The story of Cedric's life was quite intriguing, and it was something that I could relate to. The fact that I can relate to this novel on a personal level caused it to be quite enjoyable for me to read. The chapter that I relate to and like the most was chapter four: "Skin Deep". This is so because I, too, attended a summer program at a University, and I felt like I was always ten steps behind the other students. The chapter that I do not seem to relate to was chapter 5: "To Him Who Endureth". This is so because I have never had the privilege of giving a high school graduation speech, which the chapter seems to be centered around. However, due to Suskind's writing style, I understand Cedric's emotions during that period of time and the concept behind his speech. Suskind's use of imagery and pathos enabled me to sympathize with Cedric while seeing the details of his story unfold before my eyes. Suskind made it so that I never wanted the story to end. He created, by far, the best piece of literature that I have ever read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2015

    As a senior in high school, and a veteran of the application pro

    As a senior in high school, and a veteran of the application process, I understand the stress of jumping the gap from primary to secondary schooling. This makes Cedric Jennings journey so impossible and wonderful. He not only makes it to an Ivy League college; he makes that jump from one of the lowest performing and troubling schools in the Baltimore area. Despite this promising plot, the book, Hope in the Unseen, written by Ron Suskind, is disappointing and pointless. The plot line itself is intriguing , yet it is written in a bland and superfluous fashion . 
    The portrayal of the characters is unfavorable and very little change is seen in them throughout the duration of the book. Often there is excessive narration of a character that has little impact on the story and Cedric. These characters are never seen or mentioned again, like Phillip Atkins.The characters that are pleasant seem uninfluential on Cedric as a person, with the exception of his mother, and are unsavory in their personality, like Rob Burton.
     The author also had a way of mentioning Cedric’s unlucky past, where he constantly reached for the stars and fails miserably. This motif causes suspense and the false illusion that Cedric is going to fail again at Brown University, just like every other time in his life. The author does put this in to show that Cedric can break the cycle of his past, yet Ron Suskind uses it too often. It becomes a broken record in the book and is highly irritating after a few chapters.
     The character interaction is also strange with scenes that are often vague and misleading. For example, one conversation Cedric has with Zayd seems normal, with them laughing and talking like always. Suddenly Cedric turns sullen and starts an argument, which leads Zayd and Cedric to have a month of no communication. This particular scene left me confused, because the outburst came from nowhere, and it takes several sentences after the fight starts for the reader to realize they are even angry at one another. This book, which is so promising in the summary, is a great disappointment, and not worth the effort it takes to read it.

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  • Posted May 15, 2015

    Kristen Tsoubanos H English 5 Weiner 5-14-15 Level 5 Non Fiction

    Kristen Tsoubanos
    H English 5
    Weiner
    5-14-15
    Level 5 Non Fiction 
    As a senior who is ending her high school career in less than a month, I can relate to the academic pressures and struggles Cedric has faced throughout his life. After reading Suskind's novel, A Hope in The Unseen I noticed Cedric and I both share a similar work ethic and intellectual mentality: we are driven to overachieve in school, and become increasingly upset when our efforts fail to meet one’s expectations. Throughout the story, Suskind portrays Cedric as a young teenager who competitively strives for academic excellence. In comparison to Cedric, I, also an adolescent student, feel the need to outperform my classmates in all courses. For instance, in the very beginning of the novel, Cedric is seen in his school's chemistry lab, completing his work for the day, but was supposed to be at the distinguished honors assembly  to receive recognition for his hard work at the distinguished honors assembly: “I worked hard. Why should I be ashamed? Ashamed to claim credit for something I earned? I hate myself for not going” (Suskind 6). Suskind demonstrates that Cedric is too involved and devoted to his academics and would rather stear clear of any recognition regarding his academic achievements. The author denotes that Cedric is feeling pressured to go to an assembly where children would bully him for his positive performance in school. Cedric’s reluctance to go to the assembly only ensures the readers that Cedric is incapable of showing pride about his accomplishments, and therefore he is ashamed of himself. 
    Other than Cedric's willingness to succeed in school, Suskind conveys how interferences affect the development of an individual's learning. Suskind writes, “Out of the 1,389 students, 79 are on the honor roll with at least a “B” average. The school drop-out rate is nearly 50%, and academics are not a priority for these kids. In fact, they are a liability, for the honors students are targets for violence” (Suskind 4). Suskind exemplifies that Cedric has dealt with countless struggles with his race, background, bullies, and his lack of self confidence that all affected his ability to learn. The author uses logos, a rhetoric appeal, to indicate that Cedric is not as intelligent as he would like to be due to the obstacles that the character has been challenged with. Overall, I praise Suskind for his ability to showcase Cedric as a hardworking, dedicated, and intelligent young man. I think the author stressed the the character was up against many odds, and proved himself worthy of being an excellent student. I too, had to overcome hardships pertaining to my learning development. Although, Cedric encountered more of an external struggle, I faced an internal struggle as I was diagnosed with a receptive and expressive learning disorder at a young age.  The novel, A Hope in the Unseen can relate to all teenagers who are continually battling with themselves over their academics. Suskind stresses the emotional content that students struggle with over the course of their high school careers. Thus, it would be most beneficial to continue teach this book; I know that it has served its purpose for me. 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2015

    A Hope In The Unseen Book Review Nick Mingione A Hope In the Uns

    A Hope In The Unseen
    Book Review
    Nick Mingione
    A Hope In the Unseen is a true American success story of a young man who “makes it out” when everyone said that he couldn’t. Cedric Jennings is an African American student who grew up in one of the most dangerous areas in Washington, D.C.  His high school only graduates about half of its students, and only 80 out of 1350 maintain a B average or better. This intriguing novel takes us through the daily life of Cedric as he attempts to learn and receive a strong education despite the many distractions. He faces danger everywhere he goes, yet he is able to find a way to learn and grow academically. 
    Not only does Cedric have to overcome poor academics at his high school, but he is also dealing with higher level institutions not accepting him or believing in him. Despite his successes, the conflict of dealing with prejudice opinions telling him he does not have what it takes because of the poor school system he went through is presented during his summer camp at MIT. He challenges himself to prove them wrong as he eventually goes on to study at Brown University.  
    The novel also takes us through the challenges he faces while at Brown. The level of academics and the difficulty of his courses does not even compare to the work he did while he was in high school. He starts college at a disadvantage from the other students, who for the most part came from privileged homes and very strong academic backgrounds. Cedric works hard to overcome these challenges with the determination to succeed.  This portion of the story gives the reader insight into the difficulty of furthering your education after being in a place where academics were not valued or important.
    This wonderful novel is a true showing of the American dream. This boy comes from a low income area in the inner city, and is able to go on to do amazing things with his life. He is determined to break the system and overcome the idea that he could not be successful. This true story illustrates the idea that a person do get anything out of life if one is willing to work hard and strive for success. 

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  • Posted May 13, 2015

    As a high school senior looking forward into the future, the jo

    As a high school senior looking forward into the future, the journey into college is a familiar and anticipated transition. In the novel A Hope in the Unseen by Ron Suskind, a young African-American teen journeys from one of the poorest schools in Washington, D.C. to an Ivy League institution. However, while Cedric is going through a stage of life that all high school seniors, including me, go through, his version is rare. While I don’t agree with or approve of every decision made by Cedric and his mother during their battle for success, the novel is a must-read for the simple fact that it is unique, but still a reality. The struggles faced by low-income, inner-city children can easily be overshadowed, and many kids are ignorant to the pure luck of their circumstances. Living in suburban Pennsylvania, the obstacles placed in front of a high school senior in this novel were foreign to me. This novel displays with conviction the importance of education and determination in the pursuit of success, while also commenting on the social stratification caused by schooling. 
    The most likeable characteristic of the novel is its honesty. Time and time again, Suskind illustrates the purity of Cedric Jennings’ desires, causing the reader to feel further invested in a happy ending. A clear moment of this occurs when Cedric attends a summer camp at MIT: “All of it, at this instant, is prologue. Now, he’s one of them” (77). Although Cedric’s battle with circumstance is at the forefront of the novel, it is all labeled as “meaningless prologue” in this instance, showing the innocence of Cedric’s goals. For Cedric, it is no joke to compete with children from suburban schools, who have more resources and a better understanding of the education system. The typical idea of fitting in extends farther than simple acceptance, and the fight for it keeps the novel engaging and emotional. 
    However, although Cedric’s intentions are pure, his naivety at times was tiring and frustrating. His “all or nothing” and “Ivy League or the streets” approach to college displayed the extreme levels of expectations to which Cedric held himself. While these expectations were eventually fulfilled, the chances of this occurring were slim and underwhelming. I found myself constantly questioning the narrowness of his ambition and judging his reluctance to think more practically. But just as any great novel would do, even in the most alien and unfamiliar territories and situations, “A Hope in the Unseen” managed to illuminate small parts of my life, and leave me hopeful for both Cedric’s future and my own. 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2015

    A Hope in The Unseen by Ron Suskind captures a young African Am


    A Hope in The Unseen by Ron Suskind captures a young African American man on the road to success living in one of the worst neighborhoods in Washington D.C. The book shows Cedric Jennings’s struggles and the desire he maintains throughout every hardship he faces in his last months at Ballou High School. He faces the doubters and “learns how to fight off Dreambusters” by always staying determined and focusing on that goal of getting into Brown University, which he eventually does. Being a teenager in high school, I see students that are put down . From experience, I have encountered people where I explain the major I am pursuing in, and I am shut down because of the difficulty of it.I could not imagine the pain and suffering that Cedric went through as a child through high school being constantly harassed and picked on just because he actually wanted to be in school. He wanted to learn and get into college, unlike most kids at his high school. Cedric grew up in an environment consisting of drugs, crime, and a father in prison.who did not even want him. Cedric’s mother and the church were left to support him on his path to success.His mother and the church sustain the image of faith and provide as A Hope In The Unseen for him as he continues his journey.He uses the support of the church as the driving force on his path to college and always praises God saying in his graduation speech, “THERE IS NOTHING ME AND MY GOD CAN’T HANDLE” (137). If he had gone down the road like some kids at Ballou, there would have been negative consequences such as drug dealing, committing crimes, or possibly ending up even killed. His school environment is just as rough; 80 students out of more than 1,350 have an average of B or better in their classes.I find it amazing the amount of courage Cedric contains and never backs down even when the numbers are disappointing. With the average SAT score at Brown being 1290 and his being 910, he still applies even though he is well below the average, and he eventually gets into the college. I really like this book because it is amazing to see when people never back down from their personal goals. They never listen to the disbelievers and let nothing bring them down on their road to whatever goal they want to achieve. He beats the odds and eventually leaves the “Dreambusters” and his own neighborhood behind, showing that he has truly found his home and his true self. 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2014

    Hope Mobley Ms. Stewart AP Lang/Comp A Hope in the Unseen, wri

    Hope Mobley
    Ms. Stewart
    AP Lang/Comp
    A Hope in the Unseen, written by Pulitzer Prize winning Journalist Ron Suskind, is a wonderful book to read. This novel is about a young man named Cedric who does not have the best circumstances in life. He is an outstanding student, but struggles as he goes to a school that is in a poverty-stricken neighborhood. Cedric tries his best to make it in a place where underachieving is greater than succeeding. He stays with his single mother Barbara, who life has been terribly rough. The purpose of this book it to tell a story about a person who beat the odd stacked against him. This story also serves a purpose to make readers, especially students, encouraged to pursue a high education even though odds like their race and economy class is not in their favor. It also forces students to look at the context of the book and dig into rhetorical analysis because of the several rhetorical strategies he incorporates in the novel.
    I personally like the book because it relates to almost every high school kid that struggles in school and planning their future. The novel was extremely encouraging while drawing readers in to the story itself. I found myself cheering on Cedric just as much as any reader did. One of my favorite chapters was “A Place up Ahead”. The author, Ron Suskind, sets an optimistic tone for the majority and especially at the end of the book. I give this book an overall score of 4 stars.

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  • Posted October 24, 2014

    Ron Suskind, an award winning writer and journalist, is the aut

    Ron Suskind, an award winning writer and journalist, is the author who created the phenomenal book “A Hope in the Unseen”. “A Hope in the Unseen” is a very inspirational book that is based off the life Cedric, a troubled African teen. Suskind followed Cedric around for two years, and through this experience he was able to create a novel that many teenagers can relate to today. The story is based off of Cedric’s last two years attending Ballou, his high school, and his first year in college, at Brown University. During his high school years Cedric was a troubled teen, coming from a poor household and being raised by a single parent. On top of all that Cedric attends a very low rate high school, where being smart will get you ridiculed and bullied. Yet, despite that Cedric took the most advanced classes he could and strived to be at the top of his class. During his junior year in high school an opportunity arose allowing him to apply for the MIT minority summer program; in which he was accepted into. The only problem was once he was there Cedric felt very out of place. Even though the summer program was meant for minorities, there were not that many other black kids other than him, and Cedric was not very social to begin with. He also felt out of place academically as well. Whilst Cedric struggled to maintain a passing grade in his classes, other students did not seem to have as many problems as Cedric, meaning: that Cedric had to work twice as hard as the other student in order for him to catch up. Even there at the program people had told him that applying to Ivy League schools would be a waste of time, and that he should stick to community colleges. Despite that Cedric wrote a very strong personal statement that had gotten him accepted into Brown University [through affirmative action]. The main purpose of this novel is to give teenagers hope and inspiration; that anyone can make it into college, one just has to put in the time and effort.
    I can consider “A Hope in the Unseen” one of the most inspirational books I have ever read. What I would consider to be my favorite chapter was Chapter 14; here one can see all of Cedric's accomplishments come together. Cedric's hard work and dedication is seen when he passes all of his classes, and even came up with a phenomenal grade on his calculus final. Not just that but the fact that Cedric is attending brown; when there were people telling him that he was wasting his time, but clearly he was not since he was able to pass his classes, and show off the abilities he did not even know he had. One of my least favorite chapters would most likely have to be chapter 3, when it begins to talk about Cedric's father. His father was never around for him, yet he will still not support the fact that Cedric is excelling academically. Cedric's father would much rather he take over him and become a drug dealer, when clearly that is not the right path for Cedric; and Cedric has already carved his own path. Another thing that I enjoyed about the book was the way the author was able to portray the different social classes and standings through a Marxist criticism. One example this literary criticism was seen in was in the chapter where Cedric has problems with his roommate Rob. Rob was very messy, and would never pick up his things around the room, Cedric disliked this greatly. Yet Rob's behavior was not his fault, he was raised in a very wealthy family that was had a maid to pick up after him. While Cedric was brought up differently, he was always taught to pick up after himself. Rob was never taught this concept because it never seemed necessary, since his family had the money to pay for someone else to clean up after him.

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  • Posted October 23, 2014

    A Hope in the Unseen by Ron Suskind Ron Suskind¿s novel, A Hope

    A Hope in the Unseen by Ron Suskind
    Ron Suskind’s novel, A Hope in the Unseen, is a remarkable piece of literature I read in AP Lang & Comp. This work tells the struggles of a young African American, Cedric, who does not come from much. The only thing set for him is his education. Due to his ethnicity and background, he struggles to become successful in doing so because of his skin color. Many people help him throughout the novel which gives him motivation not to give up. This novel gives students a reason to want to become successful because not everyone gets the opportunity to go to college. This shows how Cedric worked very hard for what he wanted and it paid off at the end. This novel inspires people who can relate to this novel who come from a neighborhood that lives in poverty. This novel is beneficial as it also inspires many students who want to go to college because it shows that Cedric became successful and bettered himself even though he came from a bad neighborhood.
    I really like this novel. My favorite chapter was Chapter 14, “Meeting the Man”, because it showed how Cedric matured. In the beginning he was not considered being a man because he did not meet his mother’s expectations as a man. Nor did he have a good relationship with his father because his father was not mature. At the end Cedric was considered a ‘man’ by his mother after he left college and was able to support her and himself. He also went to visit his father which showed he was willing to put the past behind and grow a relationship as father and son. Suskind did a very good job with the ending of this novel and it ended how I wanted it to. Suskind’s piece of literature was remarkable and many people can relate to it. 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2014

    Ramon Padilla AP L&C A hope in the unseen is a narrative

    Ramon Padilla AP L&C A hope in the unseen is a narrative written by Ron Suskind. Suskind is a famous journalist and author of many nonfiction works. This one in particular is about a young African American , who against all odds, succeeds in obtaining what most cannot , an education. His academic achievements are the only way out of his poverty-stricken community. The purpose behind reading this book in my school is to allude it to Suskind's use of rhetorical analysis strategies. Suskind's writing style uses rhetorical skills such as ethos, pathos and logos. Also , his use of plot and conflict help the reader relate to the story and takes readers to the core of most human issues. Race , social classes, and personal merit are all themes touched upon by Suskind. Literary criticism such as Marxism and Cultural criticisms are developed throughout the plot as more and more incidents testing the main character, Cedric Jennings, are unfolded.
    Overall I believe this book is a an excellent choice for all young adults. Development of identity and self-made choices are some things we lack during this stage of maturity. Suskind also shows the difference in social classes and alludes this to Marxism, or deconstruction. Zayd was my favorite character throughout the chapters he and Cedric bonded. My favorite chapter was towards the end of chapter 6, when Cedric receives his acceptance letter from Brown University. While each character contributed to Suskind's Scheme of things, Cedric's Academic achievements and determination give the college-experience a whole new horizon.

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  • Posted October 23, 2014

    Melanie Cuellar AP Language and Composition October 23, 2014

    Melanie Cuellar
    AP Language and Composition
    October 23, 2014


    The title of the book I had to read is named “A Hope in the Unseen” by Ron Suskind who has won the Pulitzer Prize award. In my AP class, this outstanding book is recommended to read for many reasons. It starts off with a young adult named Cedric Jennings who lives in a neighborhood no one should live in. With violence and bad influences surrounding Cedric, his only way out is through educational success. As students and through Ron Suskinds work, it shows us a valuable life lesson and that is to see faith in things we doubt we cannot make just because people are different than others. This book is inspirational, not to only me, but to other young adult readers. “A Hope in the Unseen” can open our eyes to realize that there is worse than what we see or what we can hear in everyday life or in this case Cedric’s life. I appreciate the dedication and hard work that Ron Suskind has put in this great book that will for sure inspire many young adult readers.
    “A Hope in the Unseen” has left me astounded and inspired. It has taught me the courage to have hope in things that seems distant from my goals. It has also taught me how to go through the hardships in the academic process I will encounter. Not only that, but also I learned that no one should let you down just because how you look, where you came from or the ethnicity you are. My overall favorite part in the book is Chapter 12 “Let the Colors Run”. Suskind has many ways to get a reader lost in this chapter and make you realize what life can be done for you if you do it right. It also shows you that whatever color you are, it should not matter what others say and make you feel less of yourself. Ron Suskind has shown the many characteristics of Cedric through this novel and hopefully it can also make others show what they are made of and for these reasons, I give the novel a rate of 5 stars.

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  • Posted October 23, 2014

    Pulitzer Prize winning author Ron Suskind's novel "A Hope i

    Pulitzer Prize winning author Ron Suskind's novel "A Hope in the Unseen" is easily one of my favorite pieces of literature. I believe that the story not only evaluates the hardships and struggles Cedric faces in his life, but also serves as entertainment to the audience and informs the reader of the benefits of working hard in order to succeed. The novel illustrates that although things may seem as though they are impossible, it does not necessarily mean it cannot be done. I think the novel can teach a lot of students the true meaning of working hard, even under difficult circumstances. Cedric is raised by his mother, who always struggled with paying bills. As an honor student, Cedric faced ridicule for his intelligence and achievement. Through all of the struggles and hardships Cedric faces, he still manages to have hope. Having hope and faith after going through conflicts in his life help him remain grounded and well-rounded.  This can serve as an example to a lot of teenagers who may be going through something similar in their lives.
    Personally, I really enjoyed having the privilege of reading this novel. I feel as though it taught me a valuable lesson about believing in myself, even when things get difficult. My favorite chapter in the novel is chapter 13 titled “A Place up Ahead”. Cedric learns valuable life lessons about believing in himself, even when no one else does. The hardships and conflicts Cedric faces and conquers exemplify the maturity and development Cedric has gone through towards the end of the novel. My least favorite chapter is chapter 14 titled “Meeting the Man”. I feel as though Cedric reacted inappropriately in a time when his mother needed him most. The dialect the author uses is suitable for the intended audience and the characters included in the novel were appropriately introduced and depicted. Overall, “A Hope in the Unseen” is a remarkable piece of literature that is most certainly worth the read, which is why I rated the novel a complete 5 stars. 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 23, 2014

    Makiyah Thurman Ap language and composition  A Hope in the Unsee

    Makiyah Thurman Ap language and composition
     A Hope in the Unseen by Ron Suskind is a very inspirational novel. I read it for my AP Language and Composition class and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Suskind followed the main character of the novel, Cedric, around for about two years and created this story about his life. Cedric is not a very fortunate kid but still was able to live his dream of going to college and making a better life for himself. From this novel the reader gets an insight on the struggle of a poor black child in Washington D.C .His struggles and short comings of being a smart, black, poor male in the late 1900’s were emphasized in the novel. Cedric is the perfect role-model for high school students. People everywhere should read this novel because of the message it sends. It teaches people that even when the odds are against you, you should never give up. 
      I liked the novel very much because Cedric was able to overcome so many obstacles in his life. My favorite part was when Cedric, in a way, grew up and became a man in chapter 14. The reader is able to see him grow into the person he became at the end of the novel, and this made me like the novel even more. My least favorite part of the novel was when Cedric did not spend time with his mother when he came home from college for Thanksgiving in chapter 10. I disliked this part of the story because Cedric's mother does all she can for him and he did not even go visit her after he had been gone for months at college. A bit of pathos was used by Suskind because Cedric's life story struck intense emotion into the audience. Suskind’s style of writing made the novel easy to comprehend. I recommend that everyone read this amazing novel. I rate it a five out of five.


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  • Posted October 23, 2014

        "A Hope in the Unseen",written by award winning au

        "A Hope in the Unseen",written by award winning author, Ron Suskind, focuses on the life of Cedric Jennings. Cedric's background was not all the great to begin with. He came from a single parent home and received most of his foundation from his mother and his church. Suskind begins to shadow Cedric and gives the reader details throughCedric's eyes. This book would be very beneficial and school appropriate due to the fact that Cedric's story is so inspirational. His determination was vital to his thriving successes. His unwillingness to accept failure failure gives the reader the happy ending that we all look forward to when reading books. Suskind shows, through Cedric's story, that the impossible is possible.
        Compared to other stories read throughout my academic career, I rather enjoyed this book. The most enjoyable chapter 13, "A Place Up Ahead". In this chapter, Cedric is accepting his place in the world,focusing on all aspects of his life and is actually content in his position. The least enjoyable chapter was chapter 4, "Skin Deep". This chapter dealt a lot with Cedric and his identity crisis. Throughout the book, Cedric is dealing with this crisis and Suskind captures this beautifully. The way that Suskind makes the reader feel as though Cedric and them are one and that they are traveling down the same journey in life makes this read more enjoyable. His use of  rhetorics like, literary criticisms,elevated diction,tone,ethos,pathos,and logos helps the reader paint a more accurate picture of Cedric and make the reader feel more invested. The characters are also relatable. Everyone will be able to connect the characters to someone they know in real life. In conclusion, the book was far more enjoyable than the others because of it being so relatable, in addition to being inspirational.

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  • Posted October 23, 2014

    Ron Suskinds "A Hope In The Unseen" was an amazing wo

    Ron Suskinds "A Hope In The Unseen" was an amazing work of non-fiction. I read this book in my AP Lang and Comp class. This is the story of a young man attending an Ivy League University agaainst all odds, but it is also the story of the daily challenges faced by poor black famlies. In additon to that the purpose of reading this book would be to inspire young kids to never give up,it also teaches them that racsim is a big problem and no matter where they come from they can make a differnence. Cedric faced many obstacles including, race, intelligance, adjustment, poverty, and lack of money. Cedric always looked at the bright side of things and never gave up hope. I rate this book a 5 star because when analyzing the book you uncover alot more detail and the vocabulary is really advanced. I love this book and i highly recomend this book for high school students. My favorite chapter would be Let The Colors Run because it compares all students to paintings. The artist does not segregate the colors, they just let the colors run. I cannot say i have a least favorite because they book kept me engaged and it is not boing. As far as the characters and the style of writing i give a 5 as well because it has alot of rhetorical analyzes. Go read the book is will be worth your while.

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  • Posted October 23, 2014

    Myesha Dills Mrs. Stewart-Williams AP Lang & Comp 24 October

    Myesha Dills
    Mrs. Stewart-Williams
    AP Lang & Comp
    24 October 2014




    The novel, “A Hope in the Unseen”, is an immaculate piece of non-fiction, biographical literature in which a young man, Cedric Jennings, is observed by the author, Pulitzer Prize award winning, Ron Suskind. Recently, my AP Language and Composition class was assigned this novel to read. As extraordinary as the literature is, it serves a higher purpose than the literary value it holds. There is rationale behind why students today read this novel: they learn valuable life lessons. The novel itself leads its audience on an inspiration overhaul, but it is the people involved that truly make it what it is known to be today. The characters--whom are real life people--Cedric Jennings and his mother Barbara Jennings serve as deities for a world that not many people know of. As Suskind asserts in his novel, Cedric is a teenage, poverty stricken, honors student, living in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Washington D.C. with his mother. His success in school creates tremendous opportunities for him and open more doors than he could have ever imagined. This success leads him on a personal, life changing journey, creating an inspirational and scholarly work of literature that is relatable to many of the readers of the novel.
    The author, Ron Suskind’s, novel leaves a forever lasting mark on whoever the reader may be. Personally, I believe the book is very inspirational and relatable. The main character, Cedric Jennings, is truly inspiring, as he leads us on his journey of being self-finding, accepting and motivating. My favorite chapter was definitely chapter 13, as it held all of the leading aspects. Cedric is witnessed becoming a more, well-rounded person becoming more mature and hard-working than he is at the beginning of the novel: he is deemed more able to accomplish the success that he yearns for. His new beginning brought about a feeling of content within me. His continuity of himself in all features provides a self-evaluating provision of the character as well as oneself. My least favorite part was how Cedric treated his mother after everything she did for him. He treated her ‘coldly’ when she visits him at Brown; he acts ashamed of her, even though she guides him on his path to success. Suskind’s novel, overall, gives a new and different look into the lives of those like Cedric, making it more relatable to many of its readers. Every character encountered is presented with a problem that each of them overcome. Ron Suskind gives an excellent evaluation of these characters lives. Overall, “A Hope in the Unseen” is definitely worth the read, which is why I give it a rating of five stars.

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