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A Hope in the Unseen: An American Odyssey from the Inner City to the Ivy League [Nintendo] [Paperback]

by Ron Suskind
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (143 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 4, 1999 0767901266 978-0767901260 Reprint
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

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.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 373 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition (May 4, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767901266
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767901260
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (143 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #54,694 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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Extraordinary Experience January 3, 2002
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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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A bittersweet read...excellent nonetheless October 16, 2000
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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thank God for this book. November 18, 1999
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Slow and Scarily Intimate
I did not want to read every painful detail of this kid's life. I found it very slow and could not distinguish whether or not it was a autobiography or a work of fiction.
Published 2 months ago by Lori Farias
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read
I came upon the book recommended to my by my college President. She told me: "This book is why we do everything we do"...
Published 4 months ago by Ivan Figueroa
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Story
This book is based on actual events and gives hope and was very interesting to read about a young man's struggles and how that did not get in the way of his accomplishments, great... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Jazzy Love
4.0 out of 5 stars A Hope in the Unseen
I enjoyed the book because it shows what hope and determination can do in spite of the naysayers. It was wordy but interesting.
Published 6 months ago by Ollie Dowdy
5.0 out of 5 stars Great insight!
The beginning of the book filled me with dread with the seemingly futile life this youngster had to face. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Virginia Lobdell
5.0 out of 5 stars A Modern Classic
Ron Suskind has written a "Huckleberry Finn" of modern America, following a young man on his journey from the worst high school in our nation's capital to an elite college. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Alan Houston
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good Condition
The book was in very good condition, I would have thought it was brand new except for the red marker price and the front page
Published 8 months ago by Jamie
1.0 out of 5 stars I get the idea
I understand the premise of the book, but I found it to be boring, tedious and repetitious. But the concept of the lack of equal footing depending on your background is abundantly... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Anatole
5.0 out of 5 stars Not just a must read for Harvard's Summer Seminar but for all!!!!
I was surprised to look up and see this book listed on Harvard's Summer reading list for incoming freshman, and then i went and read the book myself and found the reason why. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Jack Snoots
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read
Ron Suskind's account of Cedric Jennings's journey from an inner city High School to the Ivy League is an eye opening tale. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Deadguy
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