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Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation Paperback – September 27, 1996

4.3 out of 5 stars 119 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Kozol (Savage Inequalities) began visiting New York's South Bronx in 1993, focusing on Mott Haven, a poor neighborhood that is two thirds Hispanic, one third black. This disquieting report graphically portrays a world where babies are born to drug-using mothers with AIDS, where children are frequently murdered, jobs are scarce and a large proportion of the men are either in prison or on crack cocaine or heroin. Kozol interviewed ministers, teachers, drug pushers, children who have not yet given up hope. His powerfully understated report takes us inside rat-infested homes that are freezing in winter, overcrowded schools, dysfunctional clinics, soup kitchens. Rejecting what he calls the punitive, blame-the-poor ideology that has swept the nation, Kozol points to systemic discrimination, hopelessness, limited economic opportunities and New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's cutbacks in social services as causes of this crisis. While his narrative offers no specific solutions, it forcefully drives home his conviction: a civilized nation cannot allow this situation to continue. Author tour.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

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.
Copyright 1995 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: 284 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; Reprint edition (September 27, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060976977
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060976972
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (119 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #182,214 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: 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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Format: 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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Format: 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).
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Format: 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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