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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone should read this book
When I checked this book out from the library, I had no idea it would change me in so many ways. Before reading this book, I was oblivious to the conditions people in this country- the most powerful nation in the world- live in. I also had no idea the degree which people are still discriminated against. I knew racism and poverty existed, but I didn't know how bad it...
Published on January 4, 2000 by Lily

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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing
I could not stop reading _Amazing Grace_, but I turned each page wanting more direct connections to those institutions responsible for the conditions Kozol describes. I became vested emotionally in every character Kozol presented, but I wonder how much liberty was taken to present each person he interviewed as a good person who was caught in a bad system.

I...
Published on March 27, 2005 by D. Davis


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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone should read this book, January 4, 2000
This review is from: Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation (Paperback)
When I checked this book out from the library, I had no idea it would change me in so many ways. Before reading this book, I was oblivious to the conditions people in this country- the most powerful nation in the world- live in. I also had no idea the degree which people are still discriminated against. I knew racism and poverty existed, but I didn't know how bad it is. This book broke my heart, and made me cry. It also made me even more determined to make a difference. It is one of the few books I have read that has made me rethink my philosophy of life and how the world is. This book made me outraged and passionate; it made me realize that things -must- change, and that I can change them. Donating food to local homeless shelters, or buying toys for the Toys for Tots program may not be saving the world, but I honestly believe that if each person thought that what they did mattered, we could change the world. If everyone would be willing to give a little... to try to make life better for someone else, and to do this without expecting something in return, we could change the world.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Children, April 24, 2000
By 
L.calzada (Claremont, Ca.) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation (Paperback)
This book is richly intense with the tragic conversations of daily life from residents of South Bronx, New York. The book does not over dramatize life's realities. It gives the reader an honest view of reality of the lives of many children and adults that somehow go beyond surviving their rigorous obstacles of their environment. It does not describe life in a third world country nor the lives of people that lived in another century. It discusses the present day lives of children and their families. Kozol embarked in a journey of interviews and conversations that did not merely describe the mundane lives of residents from the South Bronx. In his writing he does not overwhelm the reader withhis own personal opinions regarding the political arena that keeps the poor at risk residents, poor and at risk. On the contrary, he brings voices to life in a manner that is respectful and validates those that take the time to share their story. I am not proficient in the art of interviewing nor in the degree of listening that Kozol takes to truly present these stories honestly. He shares exactly what is presented to him. I was impressed with his own self acknowledgment of how these stories and experiences have changed his own perspective of people and their sturggle for daily survival. The stories are from children, mothers and grandmothers who have ended up living in the neighborhoods of South Bronx. The neighborhoods visited are described as grotesquely infested with gangs, drugs, prostitution and homicide. Yet, in the middle of these illicit activities, there are sanctuaries that share in protecting children of the community. Amazingly these children show a strong sense of hope and caring that touches the heart of those around them. Their resilience is remarkable and encouraging. It should motivate us to listen more and honor the many stories children carry with them everyday.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eye Opening, January 5, 2006
This review is from: Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation (Paperback)
Jonathan Kozol's Amazing Grace is an enlightening, non-fiction account of life in the South Bronx. To write this book, Kozol visited to the area hundreds of times, speaking with and establishing relationships with residents as well as exploring, and getting to know the area himself. The final product is a compilation of conversations with some amazing people and his own thoughts and reflections, beautifully woven together. This book addresses numerous social issues effecting New York's poorest areas including violence, poverty, unemployment, drug addiction, HIV/AIDS, inadequate schools, orphaned children, and deplorable living conditions.

Kozol's account was more two sided than I expected it to be. He did a good job of presenting both sides of the issues fairly, leaving it up to the reader to form their own opinion. I personally finished the book feeling guilty for living my privileged life with no regard for what is going on in other parts of the country and anxious for answers. How did these areas become so dismal and life so hopeless? What can be done to fix the situation? Why hasn't someone, anyone, done something to prevent or fix it? Who's fault is it? Looking back, I believe that this sort of reaction was Kozol's purpose in writing this book. He wanted to show America what is going on in poor urban areas, like the South Bronx, in hopes that they will then move to change.

The passage that struck me most was part of a conversation Kozol had with a reverend in the South Bronx who explained that she thinks if New York were a "Judeo-Chrisitan city," people would "be asking questions all the time" such as, "Do I need this bottle of expensive perfume more than a child needs a doctor or a decent school?" (Kozol 223). When I read this line, I was struck with an immense feeling of guilt. I've bought countless bottles of expensive perfume, but have never considered that the money I'm spending on perfume could save a child who is suffering less than an hour from my own home.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing, March 27, 2005
This review is from: Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation (Paperback)
I could not stop reading _Amazing Grace_, but I turned each page wanting more direct connections to those institutions responsible for the conditions Kozol describes. I became vested emotionally in every character Kozol presented, but I wonder how much liberty was taken to present each person he interviewed as a good person who was caught in a bad system.

I appreciate how Kozol allowed the voices of the children he interviewed to stand alone. He quotes the prayer of a young girl who asks God not to punish her for being black - powerful.

Kozol does a masterful job of presenting the problems of the ghetto as more than "bootstrap possiblities for individual endeavor or for localized renewal efforts." However, I think his argument would be more convincing to those who refuse to believe they are in any way responsible for the lives of children in the ghetto by showing the legislative and political manuevers that keep poor brown and black people trapped in "an atomsphere where the toxicity of life is nearly universal."

Another reviewer says the demographics at Stuyvesant HS have changed in the past 10 years, and that is a start, but what what about the kids who are stuck in their neighborhood schools? How much has changed in the South Bronx since 1995?

Kozol gives the reader a starting place and the reader must decide to ignore the plight of the so-called underclass or to work for solutions.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read, November 2, 1999
By 
This review is from: Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation (Paperback)
I was required to read this book for an Education Policy class. Every time I turned the page my stomach turned because of the conditions in which these children live. This book made me realize how much I have and how little others have and yet still have hope in their lives. Some might find this book one-sided, but it is through that point of view that Kozol makes his point: there are many exceptions to the sterotype of low-class minorities.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Out of Sight, Out of Mind, August 20, 2007
This review is from: Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation (Paperback)
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.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful and Enlightening Book, January 5, 2006
This review is from: Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation (Paperback)
Amazing Grace is an amazing book by Jonathan Kozol that portrays the impoverished life of thousands in the ghettoes of New York City. It is a nonfiction book where Kozol goes into extremely poor areas of Brooklyn to interview several people who must live that filthy life everyday. Kozol uses theses interviews to prove his point that the government is at fault for the horrifying conditions that many people in America live in. He uses many people's situations as examples to prove that the government does not do enough to help these people live. Kozol dives into topics such as AIDS, asthma, homicide, education, drugs, and many more. Kozol effectively appeals to the readers pathos, ethos, and logos because it allows him to connect with the reader, and allows the reader to adopt Kozol's concept that the government is to blame for the ridiculous living conditions in New York ghettoes.

This book opened my eyes to real hardships that occur in America right now. Before i read this book i did not believe that life in the ghetto was ever this dreadful. I will never forget about the things i read in Amazing Grace because many of the childrens' stories are so sad that it is impossible to not show sympathy for their situations. When you read about young children with AIDS, asthma so bad that they cough up blood, and shootings that leave young children in wheel chairs, it encourages the reader to get stop being ignorant and spread awareness to the growing problem of poverty in the United States. The book had a direct affect on my life because I visit my family in New York almost on a weekly basis, but I was oblivious to the conditions that these people were living. According to Kozol, I visit the "white" parts of Brooklyn, so it amazes me that i never saw these situations when I was only blocks away. The book made me realize how lucky I was to have even the simplest things such as running water, or a bed to sleep in.

Finally, Amazing Grace by Jonathan Kozol, is an incredible book that details the hardships of life in the ghetto, while constantly appealing to the reader's pathos, ethos, and logos in order for one to relate to the situation.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chain of Emtotions, January 4, 2006
By 
Kozol "Genna" (New Jersey, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation (Paperback)
This book masyerfully unmasks the sorrows of the nation. The author is able to compose a memoir of the haunting lives of children in New York's ghettos. The fierce images of rat-infested homes, and schools filled with poisonous lead walls leave readers unable to fathom how people truly exist in such harsh conditions. Kozol addresses every area of the spectrum from the children's point of view to the political views of the country. Also presenting an array of diverse issues such as AIDs, drugs, underage prostitution, death, motives based in moral, religious beliefs, and inhuman treatment towards others to the reader. Feelings of pathos arise after hearing the accounts of the children in the area; readers feel sorrow for the children because they are stripped of their childhood. Numerous quotes and examples are given in the book, but one that particularly struck me was when Kozol asks one of the children if he knows anyone happy at all the boy candidly responds, "Not many...Well, to tell the truth, not any who are happy for more than one day...No! Not for one day. For 15 minutes...Not any. That's no lie"(212). To honestly not know at least some form of happiness is incompressible for me and I'm sure for many others as well. By using statements made by children the author easily wins the readers pity and sympathy. Our pity soon turns to anger when he describes the lack of government support. Examples such as unsanitary hospitals, toxic incinerators, closet sized school rooms, and shabby, less then adequate housing evoke sentiments of detest towards the government's lack of aid towards these poor devastated people. But once again Kozol quickly changes our feelings to those of denial. He provides shocking statistics and first hand accounts as to how the nation sympathizes with these people for five minutes and then continue on with their lives. It seems shocking that people would do things so cruel such as disposing of their waste in the ghetto streets. While reading, it became a necessity for me to remind myself that the events taking place were all true; this is not a cleverly composed work of fiction, though it would certainly be far more assuaging if it were.

Taking into account the brilliant components of the book, I must say that I was vexed by one minor detail; Kozol's overall presentation of his opinions. The beginning of the book revolves around the accounts of parents and children within the area and the author provides few opinions on the subject. But towards the end he fills several pages with statistics followed by passages of his opinions. I feel that this takes away from the book because rather than focusing on the children and people living in the area we turn our attention to the author and how he is impacted by the events and things he witnesses.

Other than this minor dislike I think that the piece as a whole is very informative and certainly does a good job at presenting what appears to be the ideas and realities for several minorities in New York. It may not be a thriller, or adventure novel, but it most certainly is a mystery. A mystery as to how people are able to survive in such hostile conditions and retain hope. Kozol's mastery of rhetoric reveals that the issues taking place have been around and that until something changes they will remain so.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening and moving, June 12, 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation (Paperback)
First off, to the people that say the events in this book are false.. you're an idiot. Sorry, but it's true. I've seen two 5-star reviews from people who live in this area, and I don't feel that Kozol slanted the facts to support his philosophy at all.
IN FACT (cover your ears, conservatives), I feel that Kozol drastically UNDERSTATED the problems portrayed in this book. In fact, I'm shocked he could even go to this neighborhood and write about all the awful things there.. surely he was afraid for his life, and surely he became very frustrated writing about things that could be changed if people (for example, politicians) actually care. (Should children have to live in rat-infested homes, go to [crummy] schools and hope they live to adulthood because their parents have a low-paying job? Hmmmm...)
Anyway, I read this book for a sociology class and it was a real page turner!! I read it all in about 4 days. As someone who's been below poverty level but never anywhere near an environment this bad, I found it very enlightening and moving. It's very fascinating to hear the views the people who live in Mott Haven hold.. one thing we talked about in our class is whether Americans hate children. We say no, but much evidence says otherwise. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in poverty and its causes, and social issues.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kozol's best, October 12, 1999
By 
This review is from: Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation (Paperback)
I have been a Kozol fan since reading Death at an Early Age. This is his best book ever. Much of it told in the words of the children of the south Bronx, these stories seem less filtered by the author which makes them all the more powerful.
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Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation
Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation by Jonathan Kozol (Paperback - September 27, 1996)
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