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Born Bright: A Young Girl's Journey from Nothing to Something in America Hardcover – August 16, 2016
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"Like Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes or Jeanette Walls’ The Glass Castle, [Born Bright] makes painfully vivid what often happens under the radar: a child weathering the dysfunction of the adult world in the most courageous and innovative of ways...Beautifully written." ―Courtney E. Martin, On Being with Krista Tippett
"Mason reveals the reasons poverty is nearly impossible to escape and rejects the notion that the poor don't help themselves enough." ―Telegram
"[Mason] tells the story of her childhood and she uses it to illustrate the many reasons that it’s so difficult to escape a life of poverty." ―KCRW's Press Play
"Striking...[Mason] shows us not only what poverty looks like but what it feels like." ―Patrik Bass, NY1
"[Mason's] intimate memories and scholarly expertise illuminate and empower this vivid memoir....this heartfelt memoir will have broad appeal." ―Shelf Awareness
"Dr. Mason’s provocative and powerful memoir shines a bright light on the complex conditions facing families struggling to break the cycle of poverty. Her candid and personal writing animates the often overlooked resilience of families. Mason invites the reader to move beyond the mindset of celebrating the one who beats the odds to how we, as a society, must change the rules of the game -- so that all of our children can reach their full potential." ―Anne Mosle, Vice President, the Aspen Institute
"Compelling...[an] urgent memoir, showing not only what poverty looks like but what it feels like as well. No matter your financial status, you will be far better off after having read Born Bright, not just because it's a powerful story, but also because it's one so seldom heard." ―Essence
"Intimate and insightful." ―Bustle
"Readers will find Mason’s absorbing memoir―which would make an excellent book-club selection―to be an interesting take on the issue of entrenched poverty in the U.S." ―Booklist
“This firsthand account of a passage out of poverty will inspire readers interested in the strength of the human spirit in overcoming formidable obstacles.” ―Library Journal
"A thoughtful, well-crafted rejoinder to Claude Brown's half-century-old Manchild in the Promised Land, speaking to the power of hope and the institutional changes needed to make hope possible." ―Kirkus Reviews
"[A] raw and intimate memoir...Mason vividly illustrates the grit, determination, and “herculean effort” necessary to reframe a young life steeped in unyielding poverty." ―Publisher's Weekly
"The story of a smart and determined girl fighting her way out of poverty in Los Angeles during the late eighties and early nineties." ―New York Observer
"Heartfelt, evocative and deeply moving. Mason’s writing recalls the work of James Baldwin, Bell Hooks and Maya Angelou, masterfully weaving poetic portraits from a difficult childhood into a call for action to see a more just society. This is a conversation that could not be more relevant for our time. Read this book and see America differently." ―Liz Murray, author of the bestseller Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival and My Journey From Homeless to Harvard
"Born Bright compels us to look into the face of poverty and to do all we can as a nation to change it. Filled with the grit of real life, it is a gripping and eloquent account of Dr. Mason's personal journey. It will redefine everything you thought you knew about what it means to be poor in America." ―Wes Moore, Founder and CEO of BridgeEdU
“An illuminating memoir...Born Bright reveals the brutal weight of concentrated, persistent, and racialized poverty on Black girls, Black families, and their communities. .” ―Angela Glover Blackwell, President and CEO, PolicyLink
“A powerful anecdote to dominant societal narratives that say the poor would succeed if only they were more ambitious or hardworking. As much as any author I've ever read, Dr. Mason shows us that there are millions of poor children who are "born bright." However, without opportunity or support, many of them will continue to fall through the cracks. Anyone who is working to build a more equitable society should keep Dr. Mason's message in mind, every day." ―Yasmina Vinci, Executive Director, National Head Start Association
"C. Nicole Mason has given us a gift in this memoir that explains so much about how systems and rules work against the lives of actual Black girls and their families. An inspiring, instructive addition to anti-racist and feminist literature." ―Rinku Sen, Executive Director, Race Forward
About the Author
Dr. C. Nicole Mason is the Executive Director of the Center for Research and Policy in the Public Interest (CR2PI) and she has taught at Spelman College and New York University. Her writing and commentary has appeared in major newspapers and outlets across the country including MSNBC, CNN, NBC, CBS, Real Clear Politics, the Nation, the Huffington Post, the Progressive, ESSENCE Magazine, the Root, the Grio, the Miami Herald, Democracy Now, and numerous NPR affiliates, among others.
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At the same time, her astonishment at things most children take for granted is widespread among poor children because of their diminished environments is something we can do something about.. The inadequate schools are a shame to our nation and the general racism of low expectations is something we must end not just for moral reasons, but for the practical consequences that arise from our failure to provide for all children. We would be a stronger country if we changed some of our priorities.
Her title "Born Bright" means more than the fact that she was intellectually bright - almost all children entering schools are bright with hope and expectations, eagerness to learn, and open to new experiences. The fact that so many children that she knew were squelched by poverty and by the attitudes of the people they encountered especially in school serves as an indictment of our current policies.
I appreciate the author's courage in telling her story, warts and all. Now that she is a professional talking about poverty, she can have a large impact on how we think. I have given my copy of the book to our local library which often lacks books on this topic.
We often judge without knowing why people make certain decisions and the context in which those decisions
are made. The author did a wonderful job discussing why some people "make it" and so many of us don't.
This book should be required reading for college students majoring in sociology, social work, or any career
that requires them to work with the public.