Amazing Grace Within the next few pages here I intend to address two issues. First I will try to give a personal review of what I saw this book to hold, and second I will try explain the revelence which this book has to the field of Public Administration. First try to picture children in a slum where the squalor in their homes is just as bad as that which is in the streets. Where prostitution is rampant, thievery a common place and murder and death a daily occurrence. Crack-cocaine and heroin are sold in corner markets, and the dead eyes of men and women wandering about aimlessly in the streets of Mott Haven are all to common., Their bodies riddled with disease, disease which seems to control the neighborhood. This is Mott Haven, in New York City’s South Bronx, the outback of this American nation’s poorest congressional district, also the setting of Jonathan Kozol’s disturbing representation of poverty in this country.
The stories, which are captured Amazing Grace, are told in the simplest terms. They are told by children who have seen their parents die of AIDS and other disease, by mothers who complain about teenagers bagging dope and loading guns on fire escapes, by clergy who teach the poor to fight injustice and by police who are afraid to answer 911 calls. Kozol seems to be disparage about the situation of the poor in American today, especially when more and more the poor are blamed for being poor. Kozols portrait of life in Mott Haven is gentle and passionate. Even though rats may chew through apartment walls in the homes of Mott Haven, the children still say their prayers at night.
What seems to bother Kozol is that many people do not even want to look at this picture of America, but in Amazing Grace he dares us to recognize it does exist. Kozol spent a year wandering through Mott Haven and its neighboring communities; visiting churches, schools, hospitals, parks, and homes. Talking with parents and kids, social workers, religious leaders, and principals and teachers; struggling to try to understand how these children and parents cope with poverty and violence. Kozol trys to determine how their fellow citizens can tolerate, even demand policies that guarantee misery and death for those living a few subway stops north of glitzy midtown Manhattan. Perhaps nothing can halt the tides of social policy where citizens of this nation are allowed to live in such conditions.
If on the other hand anything can, it may be Kozol’s forecasting visions and the openness and humanity of the remarkable people whose amazing grace he so vividly shows us. In his book, Kozol tells the stories of a handful of children who have–through the love and support of their families and dedicated community leaders not yet lost their battle with the perils of life in America’s most hopeless, helpless, and dangerous neighborhoods. A profile of the impoverished people of Mott Haven, South Bronx, reveals to the reader difficult lives these people must live. Also, Kozol in implicitly posing questions about the value of such children to an unsupportive nation. Amazing Grace reveals the hearts of children who grow up in the SouthBronx–and has produced, perhaps, the most affecting book in trying to portray the problems faced by poor Americans.
Many people would like to believe in the phrase, NIMBY(Not in My Back Yard), when thinking of the poor and destitute in America. I believe that in his book Amazing Grace, Kozol has made the important point that poor children that have no opportunities for an education and the hope it can give them don’t just live in the ghettos of the inner city. They can be found in every state, in every city, town and rural area. You don’t have to go to New York to find them, it is just a matter of paying attention to your own backyard. As I read this book I thought about all of the creative and brilliant ideas that I have been expose to over the years and how I would not have the chance to benefit from them if I were a poor child, not given the chance to properly learn and grow, like those of Kozols book in Mott Haven.
As a country, we don’t seem to understand yet that each person, regardless of who they are or where they came from, has something to teach us. If the children and adults like those Kozol describes had the chance to write, sing, do scientific experiments, start businesses, just imagine what we could gain. I was thoroughly moved by the stories of the people in Amazing Grace. I can see hoe it might be possible to see this book as manipulating and only telling on part of the story. It could be argued that this book unfairly blames the government, society and particularly New York Mayor Guilliani for the problems in the Bronx. There was little discussion about how much of the situation was owned by the people in the story.
Regardless you would still have to feel badly for the people in the book, especially the children. The fact remains that the children in this book defy the stereotypes of urban youth too frequently presented by the media. They are tender, generous and often religiously devout, they speak with eloquence and honesty about the poverty and racial isolation that have wounded but not hardened them, such as Anthony did through out the book. The book does not romanticize or soften the effects of violence and sickness. I believe that Kozol says at one point something like, one fourth of the child-bearing women in the neighborhoods, where these children live, test positive for HIV.
He also tell us that Pediatric AIDS, life-consuming fires and gang rivalries take just as high a toll on this society of Mott Haven. Several children, some 23, die during the year in which this narrative takes place. I believe that Kozol has written a amazing piece of work here. Amazing Grace asks questions that are at once political and theological. What is the value of a child’s life? What exactly do we plan to do with those whom we appear to have defined as economically and humanly disadvantaged? How cold, how cruel, how tough — do we dare be? Why do we not seem to be able to fix it? Book Reports.