Lives on the Edge: Single Mothers and Their Children in the Other America

Lives on the Edge: Single Mothers and Their Children in the Other America

by Valerie Polakow, Polakow
     
 

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Lives on the Edge offers a penetrating, deeply disturbing look into the other America inhabited by single mothers and their children. Its powerful and moving portraits force us to confront the poverty, destitution, and struggle for survival that await single mothers in one of the richest nations in the world. One in five children and one in two single mothers live in… See more details below

Overview

Lives on the Edge offers a penetrating, deeply disturbing look into the other America inhabited by single mothers and their children. Its powerful and moving portraits force us to confront the poverty, destitution, and struggle for survival that await single mothers in one of the richest nations in the world. One in five children and one in two single mothers live in destitution today. The feminization and "infantilization" of poverty have made the United States one of the most dangerous democracies for poor mothers and their children to inhabit. Why then, Valerie Polakow asks, is poverty seen as a private affair - "their problem, not ours" - and how can public policy fail to take responsibility for the consequences of our politics of distribution? Searching for an answer, Polakow considers the historical and ideological sources for society's attitudes toward single mothers and their children, and shows how our dominant images of "normal" families and motherhood have shaped our perceptions, practices, and public policies. Polakow's account traces the historical legacy of discrimination against the "dangerous classes" and the "undeserving poor" - a legacy that culminates in the current public hostility towards welfare recipients. Polakow moves beyond the cold voice of statistics to take us into the daily lives of single mothers and their children. The stories of young black teenage mothers, of white single mothers, of homeless mothers are presented with clarity and quiet power. In a detailed look inside the classroom worlds of their children, Polakow explores what life is like if one is very young and poor, and consigned to otherness in the landscape of school. School is a place that matters - it is also a place where children are defined as "at risk" or "at promise." Polakow's astute analysis of poor children's pedagogy provides a critical challenge to educators. Written by an educator and committed child advocate, Lives on the Edge draws on social, historical,

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Editorial Reviews

Mary Carroll
Like the work of Kozol, Katz, and Hacker, "Lives on the Edge" is an angry book, a passionate analysis of and attack upon the "feminization" and "infantilization" of poverty in the U.S. Polakow first addresses historical notions of the undeserving poor and traces the "discourse of otherness" by which Western culture has justified discrimination against and lack of concern for single mothers and their children (as well as other groups defined by distinctions of race, class, gender, and age). Then she offers portraits of particular mothers and children, based on interviews and classroom observations in Michigan between 1989 and 1991. In her demand for universal health care, affordable housing, child allowances and maternity/parental leave, a national child-care system, and a pedagogy of equity--programs viewed as entitlements in every other industrialized nation--Polakow insists that "constructed inequity" in the U.S. "has been made by public policy and can be "unmade" by public policy." Polakow's book is particularly valuable for its insights into the consequences of discriminatory labor and housing markets, inadequate child-care resources, punitive welfare "reforms," and "children at risk" pedagogy for the 20 percent of U.S. children and 50 percent of single mothers that she describes as "stand[ing] alone on the margins of democracy."

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780226671833
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
Publication date:
03/15/1993
Pages:
232
Product dimensions:
6.35(w) x 9.27(h) x 0.84(d)

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