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

4.4 out of 5 stars 180 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0767901260
ISBN-10: 0767901266
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Ron Suskind won the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing in 1995 for his stories on Cedric Jennings, a talented black teenager struggling to succeed in one of the worst public high schools in Washington, D.C. Suskind has expanded those features into a full-length nonfiction narrative, following Jennings beyond his high-school graduation to Brown University, and in the tradition of Leon Dash's Rosa Lee and Alex Kotlowitz's There Are No Children Here, delivers a compelling story on the struggles of inner-city life in modern America. While it appears to have a happy ending (with Jennings earning a B average in his sophomore year), A Hope in the Unseen is not without a few caveats (at times, Jennings feels profoundly alienated from his white peers). Trite as it may sound to say, this book teaches a lesson about the virtue of perseverance, and it's definitely worth reading. --John J. Miller --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

YA-Cedric Jennings is the illegitimate son of an off-and-on drug dealer/ex-con and a hardworking, badly paid mother; it is her single-minded vision to have the boy escape the mean ghetto streets unscathed. Cedric has listened to her and is, as the book opens, an A student at a run-down, dispirited Washington, DC, high school, where he treads a thin line between being tagged a nerd and being beaten by gang leaders. Suskind, a Wall Street Journal reporter, follows the African-American youth through his last two years of high school and freshman year at Brown University. Inspirational sermons at a Pentecostal church, guidance from his mother, a love of black music and singing, and a refuge in the logic of math combine with the young man's determination and faith in the future to keep him focused on his goal of a topflight college education. Despite many low moments and setbacks, Jennings's story is one of triumph within both cultures, black and white, which together and separately put tremendous obstacles in his path out of the inner city. It is a privilege and an inspiration for readers to accompany Cedric on part of his long, difficult journey to maturity. His journey continues at this moment, since he is now a senior at Brown this fall. YAs of any background will be introduced to new worlds here.
Judy McAloon, Potomac Library, Prince William County, VA
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 373 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition (May 4, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767901266
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767901260
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (180 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #35,497 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ron Suskind is the author of the New York Times bestsellers The Way of the World, The One Percent Doctrine, The Price of Loyalty, and A Hope in the Unseen. From 1993 to 2000 he was the senior national affairs writer for the Wall Street Journal, where he won a Pulitzer Prize. His newest book, Life, Animated, chronicles his son Owen's struggle with autism and the way in which the family used Owen's affinity for Disney to connect with him. He lives in Cambridge, MA, where he is Senior Fellow at Harvard's Safra Center for Ethics.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
A remarkable work of non-fiction by a journalist who followed an inner city kid in DC for his last 18 months of high school and his first year at Brown (the first graduate of his school to attend an Ivy League college). At a basic level, it is an illuminating and entertaining account of life in a part of our society that is largely inaccessible and incomprehensible to those who are not in it. But there is much more to it than that. The book provides compelling descriptions of the thoughts and feelings of a cast of real characters including:
(1) Cedric, the protagonist: a sincere and diligent - if sometimes a bit prickly - young black kid who wrestles with conflicts between desire to achieve vs. desire to fit in; his childhood faith vs. inner city culture of sex and drugs; his childhood faith vs. the more sophisticated culture of experimental skepticism at the University; loyalty and affection for his family vs. the aloof individualism characterizing most young Americans.
(2) Cedric's mother: flawed but heroic; a fierce advocate for her son; an unbending force for faith and morality in his life.
(3) Cedric's absentee father: a dynamic personality, but caught in the trap of drug use as he goes in and out of prison and relationships; alternatingly wracked by guilt and soothing himself with rationalization; struggling to hold on to his tenuous relationship with his son.
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Format: Paperback
I rated this book 4 stars for Suskind's writing style. The main character,Cedric Jennings, well, he should get 6 stars for tenacity alone (as should his mother, Barbara). This was an eye-opening book, especially for someone like myself who lives in a country setting far away from inner-city strife and hardship. Cedric endures the taunts and ostracism of his inner-city high school peers because he is bright, motivated, and interested in learning. (His mother's infleunce should not be underestimated here, nor should Cedric's faith and the support of his church.) He succeeds beyond all odds in getting accepted to Brown University, only to learn that it's very difficult to fit in and be understood there as well. Poor Cedric doesn't seem to fit in anywhere he goes and yet, he "stays the course" in spite of a mulitude of reasons why he should not. What a wonderful triumph and inspriration his story is. I'd highly recommend it- particularly to non-African American readers who most likely don't have clue what it takes to get out of the ghetto- really. This- "just go out and get a job" mentality we "majority" folks spout needs to be blown up. Read this story and you'll see what real inner-city people are up against. It may change the way you view things and may even inspire you to want to do something about the way things are.
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Format: Hardcover
Every American with any responsibility for educa- tion of any kind should read this book, and every employer. Most of all, white people who think racism is over, that blacks get all the breaks, should read this book. It is a powerful story of one young man, backed by a mother and other family with strong wills and belief in education, over- came the profound disadvantages that apply to most inner-city minority children and made it to a selective, Ivy League School. The young man has the qualities needed to succeed at Brown, but he must work incredibly hard, harder than most people are willing to do, to overcome the damage done to him by his poor schooling and his surrounding anti-intellectual, anti-educational achievement subculture. I see this as a searing indictment of the neglect of public schools that serve, or rather disserve, black children, as well as the decades-long neglect that has led to the anti-achievement values of so many of those children. Cedric Jennings is an example of hope, but overall, the story is depressing, and tells the reader that without true and massive commitment to schools, and to children, setting aside petty power squabbles, more generations of children will be lost to America. The chapters describing Cedric's experiences in high school, the days filled with sheer physical fear of other students who viewed him with contempt because he was smart and made good grades, who tried to drag him down to their level, are enough to cause this reader, a graduate of a middle-class, academically-oriented high school 30 yrs ago, where violence in the school day was just unheard of, to read in deep despair. This book is an all too-clear exposition of the depth of the division between middle-class white and poor black that has developed in the last few decades. I hope that state legislative and congressional leadership will read this and ponder its meaning.
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Format: Hardcover
I heard Mr. Suskind on NPR last year and have been carrying a scrap of paper for a year. I finally read the book last week--worth the wait! I am struck by the willingness of a young man to allow himself to be portrayed in such naked honesty, and by the willingness of the author to dare to write this book. For many Americans it may be the only way they wake up to the reality of life "on the other side" of D.C. I pray to God some of us pay attention this time - the crime would be to forget about the thousands of Cedrics who are missing the same opportunities, for getting out of the ghetto (I think) is a game of seconds and inches.
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