Alicea and Kozol paint a vivid portrait of life in one of America's most impoverished neighborhoods, New York City's South Bronx. While telling similar stories, each narrative has its own unique flavor and characteristics that reveal the crushing nature of poverty in America and recount the lives of those who rise above it. Kozol (Savage Inequalities, LJ 9/15/91) describes a neighborhood ravaged by drugs, violence, hunger, AIDS, and antipathy but also one where children defy all the stereotypes. In the South Bronx, where the median income is $7600 a year and everything breaks down, Kozol reveals that the one thing that has remained resilient is the children. One of the resident children is 15-year-old Alicea, who saw his mother and sister succumb to AIDS, a father incarcerated in prison, and friends entrapped by drugs or violence. Like that of many children, his story is a life of options or despair. The path they pursue is dependent on government leadership. Both books should be required reading for policymakers and those concerned with the plight of the American poor.-Michael A. Lutes, Univ. of Notre Dame Lib., Ind.
When Kozol began to write about the lives of poor people in "Death at an Early Age" (1967), it was possible to believe Americans wanted to do right by the nation's children, even poor children and children of color; this faith now seems naive. In "Amazing Grace", families like those whose Manhattan welfare hotels Kozol described in "Rachel and Her Children" (1988) have been relocated by the city to the South Bronx, which is--with neighboring Harlem and Washington Heights--" one of the largest racially segregated concentrations of poor people in our nation," and Kozol himself seems near despair ("I have never lived through a time as cold as this in the United States" ). Kozol spent a year wandering through Mott Haven and its neighboring communities; visiting churches, schools, hospitals, parks, and homes; talking with parents and kids, social workers, religious leaders, and principals and teachers; struggling to understand how these children and parents cope with destitution and violence and how their fellow citizens can tolerate--even demand--policies that guarantee misery and death for those living a few subway stops north of glitzy midtown Manhattan. Perhaps nothing can halt the juggernaut of resurgent social Darwinism, but, if anything can, it may be Kozol's prophetic vision and the openness and humanity of the remarkable people whose amazing grace he so eloquently describes.
Gripping, informative, deeply moral, and profoundly disturbing.” –Boston Globe
“A powerful book…as good as a blessing.” –Washington Post Book World
“Heartrending…This volume has the tone and power of elegy.” –Los Angeles Times
“Amazing Grace is good in the old-fashioned sense: beautiful and morally worthy…I thank you for the language of this book, its refusal to patronize, to exoticize these children, and its insistence upon taking what they say, feel, and think seriously.” –Toni Morrison
“Amazing! A marvelous achievement.” –Henry Louis Gates Jr.
“At a time when Americans are struggling to see through the political, racial, and economic walls that separate them, Jonathan Kozol comes along with a window. Like an Old Testament patriarch, he rages at what he calls the greed and ‘theological evil’ of our time.” –Anita Manning, USA Today
“An often stirring and shocking…portrait of the dire poverty of these young inner-city lives. A Labor of love by a deeply humane man.” –Lisa Shea, Elle
“It is powerful stuff: uplifting with its tales of those who survive amid the destruction; depressing because of the many lives that poverty kills, almost literally from the womb.” –Lewis Beale, New York Daily News
“Surely deserving of a Pulitzer.” –Philadelphia Daily News
“In this stunningly simple and eloquent book, Jonathan Kozol continues to be our voice in the wilderness of America’s childhood.” –Susan Campbell, Hartford Courant
“Kozol wants you to step away from the comfortable. He wants you to see the children’s magic and to be so shaken by their lives that you demand change…A well-reported and –crafted book that asks tough questions and hurts you to read.”—June Arney, Virginian-Pilot
“There must be something special about Kizol—a warmth, a gentleness, a kind of mournful decency—that brings out the extraordinary in others. He knows how to ask questions, to listen patiently, and to treat the answers he gets with a respect that borders on courtliness…Kozol is an important wrtier, but he is also an important presence.” –Kai Erikson, The Nation
“Jonathan’s struggle is noble, his appeal urgent. What he says must be heard. His outcry must shake our nation out of its guilty indifference.” –Elie Wiesel
“A superb book. I was alternately moved to tears and outrage.” –Rabbi David Saperstein
“A profound book about New York, painting a portrait of where we really are in our municipal life and reminding all of us, but particularly those of us in government, of hose much work we must do if we have any claim to having a moral center.” –Ruth Messinger, former Manhattan borough president
“Awesome and important.” –Gwendolyn Brooks
“Jonathan Kozol has been for a generation now a dedicated emissary who dares leave the comfortable world to which he was born and in which he was educated for those ‘other’ neighborhoods that so many of us, these days, try to put out of our minds. His ‘grace,’ then, is also ‘amazing’—his tenacious insistence that he himself not forget what is morally at stake for all of us in the South Bronx and places like it across the land.” –Robert Coles, author of The Moral Life of Children
“Kozol reminds us that, with each casualty, part of the beauty of the world is extinguished, because these are children of intelligence and humor, of poetic insight and luminous faith. Amazing Grace is written in a gentle and measured tone, but you will wonder at the end, with Kozol, why the God of love does not return to earth with his avenging sword in hand.”Barbara Ehrenreich, author or Nickel and Dimed and Bait and Switch
“A beautiful and passionate book about the lives of the people in the South Bronx. By capturing the moral courage, eloquence, and spiritual resilience of his subjects, Jonathan Kozol has created a moving and critical narrative written I the spirit of the gospels, infused with love and steeped in the principles of justice.” –Paulo Freire, author of Pedagogy of the Oppressed
“Very powerful—it may turn out to be one of the books of our times…This is a remarkable book; I encourage all Americans to buy it and read it.” –Marian Wright Edelman, President, Children’s Defense Fund
“The extraordinary thing about Mr. Kozol’s writing is that God’s presence in poor children comes through as light in the darkness. I believe Amazing Grace to be the finest book of its kind.”—Rt. Rev. Paul Moore, Episcopal Bishop of New York
“A compelling and powerful portrait of the tragic harm so many children suffer in urban America. As always, Jonathan Kozol’s work is taut and elegiac, memorable and haunting.” —David J. Garrow, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Bearing the Cross