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Jonathan Kozol, AMAZING GRACE, Harper Perennial. 1995

From Subject
Johnna Jackson <jmjacks@ilstu.edu> Review of Amazing Grace (Jackson)
Tom Crews <tscrews@ilstu.edu> Amazing Grace by Jonathan Kozol
Monica Diaz <mrdiaz@ilstu.edu> Re: Amazing Grace by Jonathan Kozol
Rachael Miller <remille@ilstu.edu> AMAZING GRACE (Rachael Miller)

Date: Mon, 29 Apr 1996 10:11:45 -0500
From: Johnna Jackson <jmjacks@ilstu.edu>
Subject: Review of Amazing Grace (Jackson)

Amazing Grace
by Jonathon Kozol

Reviewed by Johnna Jackson
April 29, 1996

god bless mommy. god bless nanny.
god, don't punish me because I'm black.

The above is an excerpt of a prayer taken from one of the saddest, most disheartening books I've ever read. Jonathon Kozol based this book on a neighborhood in the South Bronx, called Mott Haven. Mott Haven happens to be not only the poorest district in New York, but possibly in the whole United States. Of the 48,000 living in this broken down, rat-infested neighborhood, two thirds are hispanic, one third is black and thirty-five percent are children. Not only is Mott Haven one of the poorest places, it is also one of the most racially segregated.

The book itself is an on-going dialogue between Kozol and the neighborhoods residents, interjected every so often with thoughts from Kozol. He covers a spectrum of topics from AIDS, drug addiction, prostitution, crime, poorly run and funded schools, white flight from schools to over-crowded hospitals and the amazing faith in religion and God that many of these people have.

Kozol makes several trips to Mott Haven and speaks with a myriad of people, children and adults alike. For instance, Kozol develops a rapport with a twelve year old hispanic boy named Anthony. Anthony is clever and loves to write stories. Some day he hopes to become a novelist. He also has a great faith in God. He makes some very poignant remarks pertaining to his neighborhood and life in general. For example, one day Kozol and Anthony are discussing if anyone in the neighborhood is truly happy and Kozol pints out that some of the children seem cheerful playing in the school playgrounds. Anthony quickly points out that cheerful and happy are not the same. Then as they are walking, Anthony stops and waves his hand around him in the neighborhood. Then he asks, "Would you be happy if you had to live here?" The only answer can be, NO.

Kozol also speaks to many of the church leaders in the different communities of the South Bronx. In particular, he speaks often to Reverend Overall, known as Mother Martha to Anthony and the other children that attend her church. What is most amazing about Rev. Overall is the fact that she gave up a productive career as a lawyer to serve the people in the poorest community in America. She provides solace to those who seek it, feeds many of the children in the neighborhood, and will take anyone to the hospital that needs to go.

Mrs. Washington knows far to well about the hospitals for the poor. Kozol speaks to this middle-aged woman more than anyone. Mrs. Washington contracted AIDS from a husband that she thought was faithful. She is quite sick and has to go to the hospital often, but according to the State of New York she is not yet sick enough to collect Social Security Insurance. She explains that sometimes you must sit in the waiting room of the hospital for three days or so before you are even seen or given a bed. When a room is available the nurses are usually so busy that Mrs. Washington ends up changing her own bedding. Often times the bed's previous occupant has left the sheets soiled or blood-soaked.

Fortunately, Mrs. Washington has a son and a daughter that stand beside her and provides her with strength. Her daughter, Charlayne is in her last year at a two-year college and is holding down a part-time office job. She also has a five year old son and a six year old adopted daughter. The little girl is the biological child of a crack-addicted woman that Charlayne was once friends with. The prayer in the beginning is a prayer that these two young children say every night.

Mrs. Washington's son, David has taken care of his mother and makes sure she eats and tries to keep her healthy. He also has been accepted to City University with total financial aid. He hopes to be a prison officer.

So, when I hear about the breakdown of the family and how the poor are lazy, I think of this family and wonder how the white middle class can make such judgements without really looking into the situation. Throughout the book some very good points are made about the "breakdown" of the family in these neighborhoods. When everything breaks down in a neighborhood, how is a family or children supposed to proper? When the pipes and electricity don't work, and asthma runs rampant because of an incinerator strategically placed in the poorest and weakest of places, how does the spirit survive?

What is one of the saddest aspects of this book is that these children constantly are surrounded by death, sickness and drugs. Many of them live with grandmothers or other family members because their own parents are dead, in prison or too drug-addicted to care for them. When drug dealers are the only ones with some money in the neighborhood, who else do these children have to look up to, even if they know it is wrong?

For many race is a constant reminder of why they are so stigmatized. The simple fact that white students flee public schools when black students start to attend throws up a red flag to the black students that they are not thought of as "good enough".

Many feel that they are in jail or "hidden". As if, America doesn't have room for them. One young girl even explained that she thought if the people in New York were to wake up and find that they were all gone, that they would be relieved. She thinks that the people of New York and America look at them as obstacles to moving forward.

There are so many aspects to this book, but Kozol provides no solutions. He only gives us the side of the poor that many of us never see. The media and the politicians are usually too busy describing "bad" welfare mothers and criminal crack heads. They don't take into consideration that these people are living on top of each other in sub-standard housing. I think Kozol's purpose with this book was to represent the poor and to awaken America, especially white America, to the atrocities in our society. -

- Johnna Jackson JMJACKS@ilstu.edu

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Date: Mon, 29 Apr 1996 13:16:20 -0500
From: Tom Crews <tscrews@ilstu.edu>
Subject: Amazing Grace by Jonathan Kozol

Amazing Grace by Jonathan Kozol (Reviewed by Tom Crews)

The median income for those living in Mott haven, the poorest area of the South Bronx, is $7,600. Of the 48,000 people, two-thirds are Hispanic and one third are black. Jonathan Kozol discovers through developing friendships with the children and adults of Mott Haven that the grimness so often associated with many of our nations ghetto's is a tragic reality in Mott Haven. A reality that most who live there think is no accident nor a situation that is likely to improve.

"DOA" - Dead On Arrival, the street name for Heroin, is making a comeback in this neighborhood. Approximately 4,000 heroin injectors, many of whom are HIV-infected, live here. Drug parks exist throughout the South Bronx as police for the most part let them exist as they have no other place to shoot their drugs or drink their wine. A police officer brings a mother outside her house to show her her son who is sitting buck-naked in front. The Cop says, "I'm sorry to tell you this. Your son is a drug addict." He'd sold every stitch of his clothes, even his underwear. This high school senior who had won a college scholarship was dead a few months later.

Each afternoon drug addicts can come to the exchange where they can receive free clean needles. About 1,000 are registered and around 150-200 show up each afternoon. Selling cocaine and heroin is done right out in the open. "In the summer, there's one family that brings a bunch of lounge chairs outside with their children and they have a barbecue and sell cocaine all day from maybe nine a.m. to twelve or one at night."

Prostitution is right out in the open as well. Some of these women are naked in area's where all can see. They make three to five dollars per trick and all are addicted.

One quarter of the women of Mott Haven who are tested in obstetric wards are positive for HIV. The rate of pediatric AIDS is high. Nine-year old Angel died of AIDS as had her mother six months before. The mother's boyfriend had AIDS and had raped Angel. The grandmother of this child painfully stated "They got my daughter. Now they got my baby. I ain't waitin for the law." In less than 48 hours he was dead with a bullet in his head.

By 1993 some 10,000 children in New York had lost their mothers to AIDS. Of these, about 2,000 live in Mott Haven and its three or four adjacent sections. At Bronx-Lebanon Hospital a quarter of all general admissions are HIV positive.

The houses are described as being as squalid as the houses of the poorest areas of rural Mississippi. In the brutal cold of winter the city often has to pass out space heaters or sleeping bags because of the substandard wiring. "You just cover up...and hope you wake up the next morning," says a father of four children, one of them an infant one month old, as they prepare to climb into their sleeping bags in hats and coats on a December night. In summer, the heat and humidity inside the housing buildings is suffocating. These "homes" are holding infants miserable from rash and soiled frequently from diarrhea, elderly people trying hard to breathe, and younger people who, if they dare to do so, lean from their windows hoping to detect a breeze. On a hot night everyone is outside on the stoop because nobody has a fan even though they know its dangerous to do so.

Roaches crawling on virtually every surface of the house is routine in the humid summer weather. According to one woman the telephone company has come to the building ten times because the rats have eaten through the walls and chewed through the phone lines. The city's rat inspectors have been cut from 30 to 10 over the last twenty years. The biggest rats, the water rats, come out of the Bronx River in hordes. A seven-month-old boy was attacked by several rats that climbed into his crib. Supposedly it was the third time this had occurred. His mother's terrified but can't move out. The city put her in the building and she doesn't have the money to move somewhere else.

The neighborhood seems to be a dumping ground for the city and people from better area's. A waste incinerator was placed by the city in Mott Haven over the objections of its people - an incinerator that burns amputated limbs and fetal tissue, bedding, bandages, and syringes that are transported from 14 New York City hospitals. People bring things they don't want: broken televisions, boxes of bottles, old refrigerators, beat-up cars, old pieces of metal, and other junk, making their "drops" often in the wee hours of the morning.

The neighborhood is not only the city's dumping ground but more than 3,000 homeless families have been relocated by the city into Mott Haven in the past few years. A common question by those who already live here is "Why do you want to put so many people with small children in a place with so much sickness? This is the last place in New York that they should put poor children. Clumping so many people, all with the same symptoms and same problems, in one crowded place with nothin' they can grow on? Our children start to mourn themselves before their time."

Gizelle Luke, a young black woman who lived for years in Europe before coming back to the Bronx to work says "There are few economic possibilities for people who reside here. There aren't many branches of the major banks. The "banks" are loan sharks - or check-cashing places. If you want to open a small business, there's no banker that you've come to know that you can talk with to obtain a loan. No libraries open in the evening. Few recreational opportunities for children. Many abandoned houses and abandoned people and abandoned cars." The greatest need in the neighborhood is real employment. There is nothing to be found.

Mayor Giuliani recently told a group of children from a segregated high school that they'll have to learn to manage without public help. He advises them to take advantage of opportunities but then he cancels 11,000 city jobs for children of their age, as well as after school programs in which younger children can be safe while mothers work.

New York City had murals of nice middle-class interior rooms painted on the walls of vacated buildings facing the highway for tourists and commuters. Miss. Luke's explanation "they mustn't be upset by knowing too much about the population here. It's also important that their presence be disguised or 'sweetened.' The city did not repair the buildings so that kids who live around here could, in fact, have pretty rooms like those. Instead, they painted pretty rooms on the facades. It's an illusion. It is far beyond racism. It's just - In your face! Take that! We don't clean up your neighborhood, don't fix your buildings, fix your schools, or give you decent hospitals or banks. Instead, we paint the back sides of buildings so that people driving to the suburbs will have something nice to look at."

The Times refers to the area around St. Ann's Church as "the deadliest blocks" in "the deadliest precinct" of the city. More than half of the eighty-four murdered in 1991 were twenty-one years or younger

One teenager says "I feel afraid of my own people, my own race, black people, students my own age. You step on someone's foot or look at somebody the wrong way - if he doesn't like your attitude, he might pull out a gun and kill you." He further comments " A time might come when we will have to treat these children who kill people like adults - keep them in prison for much longer periods of years. Right now, they're in and out too fast. My mother says New York is the only place where you can kill someone and still be home for dinner." He further ponders "What's happening to my race? Why do we murder our own people?"

Police refuse to go into some buildings because they are afraid. One tenant states that "Cops think of the building like a death camp. But if the police are scared to come there, why does the city put small children in the building?"

"Little alters" are on the sidewalks all over the South Bronx. People make "little alters" on the sidewalk where someone has been shot down. This encompasses little cardboard boxes, each one with a candle - sometimes flowers, and a picture of the person who was killed. People in the neighborhoods often water the flowers and replace the candles. The alters often remain in place for months, sometimes for years.

One of the better hospitals in the area, Bronx-Lebanon, makes Mrs. Washington cry every time the doctor tells her she has to go back. Even though a room has been arranged for her she has to wait 6 hours before they can put her in a bed. The room is unprepared as the bed is covered with blood and bandages, flowers are scattered on the floor, and the toilet's stopped with paper. She says she's been through this before, remarking "Either you wait for hours until someone cleans the room or else you clean the room yourself." Nurses are overworked with hours and number of patients. Calling for a nurse usually entails a 30 minute wait. Mrs. Washington waited two days to be admitted in the emergency on one occasion when her doctor had told her she had pneumonia. Her description of the experience, "Waiting in the waiting room with everybody else, right there, in chairs, with all the other people who were waiting. Sick children vomiting up their food. Men with gunshot wounds. People with AIDS. Old people coughing up their blood. On the third day I gave up and went back home. My doctor said I was right to leave because it isn't safe for me to be there with so many other people with infections."

In 1970, 400 physicians tended to the health of children in the city's public schools. By the spring of 1993 the number of school physicians had been cut to only 23, most of them part-time.

Children of Mott Haven suffer from asthma at an extraordinary level. Inhalers are a standard piece of "traveling equipment" for many young children. One of the reasons for the higher rates of death from asthma in poor neighborhoods like the South Bronx is the relative absence of preventive care. Also the cost of asthma medication is a factor as an inhaler can cost from $15 to $40 and only lasts two weeks. In Hunts Point there is not one private doctor for the ten thousand people who live there. Less than 13 percent of the doctors practicing primary care in the Mott Haven area are certified by medical boards to practice. The ratio of doctors to residents is two per 1,000. In an area near by it is 60 to 1,000.

Children don't get many of the extra's of life. Christmas time is often without presents. One twelve year old excitedly wrote of his trip to Burger King as wealthy kids would write of a trip to Florida. Yet the faith in God by the young children in such a horrid place is remarkable. A seven year old boy who was sent to the store by his mother to get a pizza gave some of it to a homeless man on his return. Asked if his parents would be mad at him giving some of the pizza away the boy replied "Why would they be mad? God told us, Share!" Kozol overheard a group of children at bedtime pray "God bless Mommy. God bless Nanny. God, don't punish me because I'm black."

One Christmas Eve's church service in the South Bronx was coming to a close as the congregation took communion and the priest absolved the people of their sins. She concluded with the words "The peace of the Lord be always with you." At that moment, two bullet shots rang out that were close. Two of the elders rushed out the church door and returned moments later and simply nodded. The incident was quickly dismissed as it wasn't "automatic fire."

Kozol believes that these people are among the most unselfish people he has ever known. He states many really do see Jesus in the faces of the poorest people whom they serve.

The explanation for all of this "If you weave enough bad things into the fibers of a person's life- sickness and filth, old mattresses and other junk thrown in the streets and other ugly ruined things, and ruined people, a prison here, sewage there, drug dealers here, the homeless people over there, then give us the very worst schools anyone could think of, hospitals that keep you waiting for ten house, police that don't show up when someone's dying, take the train that's underneath the street in the good neighborhoods and put it up above where it shuts out the sun, you can guess that life will not be very nice and children will not have much sense of being glad of who they are. Sometimes it feels like we've been buried six feet under their perceptions. This is what I feel they have accomplished."

"When I'm mad I think, 'How can you blame this on white people? This is poor folks doin' these things to themselves.' Then when I'm calm, I think, 'why did they put so many of these hopeless people in this place to start with? I go back and forth on this. You don't know who to blame."

The Reverend Groover say the first three verses of the song Amazing Grace are well known and that they belong to everyone, even to the wealthy. But the fourth verse he claims belongs to 'us' as it speaks to their own unique experience

Through many dangers, toils, and snares I have already come; 'Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far And grace will lead me home.

Children die at staggering numbers from fire, accident and gunshot. Bernardo Rodriquez fell four stories through an open elevator shaft to his death. What was Bernard like? "He did his lessons. He loved his teacher and he never missed a day of school. He passed his tests. His last test he passed with an 85 - in mathematics. All his papers he brought home to let us see. Bernardo was religious, he knew all of his prayers. He went to his religion class on Saturdays. He went to mass on Sunday. He had been baptized and had his first communion." Here was a young boy who was growing up and doing the things we as a society value and preach. But, Bernardo died because of the place our society has allowed to exist. It's a disgrace. Does a child growing up in Mott Haven have a chance?

For Hispanic children New York's public schools are the most segregated in the nation. For black children, New York's are the third most segregated. Two-thirds of America's black children know few, if any, white people. School segregation in New York is not merely the result of housing segregation. White families often vacate schools in their own neighborhoods when black and Latino children ride the bus or take the train to go to school in a white area. However, bigotry is not the only factor in this white flight. The schools are of such poor quality that they put their kids into private schools. In one of the segregated high schools the graduation class was 200 out of an enrollment of 3,200. Vast numbers of children are officially 'discharged' for poor attendance or a number of other reasons, including violent behavior.

The schools physically are also in shambles - barrels filling up with rain in classrooms, green fungus growing in the corners, unavoidable smell, uncleanliness, and restrooms where at some schools girls refuse to use.

Instruction for most children in the South Bronx is not done by a certified teacher. In one school only 15 of 54 on the faculty were certified. The overcrowding, and lack of funding, causes classes to be held in stair-landings, bathrooms, and coat closets.

Many of the children who attend these schools also suffer the emotional and physical attrition that results from chronic illnesses like asthma and anxiety, as well as the steady and low-level misery of rotting teeth, infected gums, and festering, untreated sores. Boys who do well in school want to become sanitation men. Do children growing up in Mott Haven really have a realistic opportunity to succeed?

A happy little girl, named Anabelle, gives her description of the after-life. "People who are good go up to heaven. People who are bad go down to where the Devil lives. They have to wear red suits, which look like red pajamas. People who go to heaven wear a nightgown, white, because they're angels. All little children who die when they are young will go to heaven. But if you loved an animal who died, you can go and visit with each other on the weekend. In heaven you don't pay for things with money. You pay for things you need with smiles." Isn't it amazing how such a wonderful sweet little girl can exist in place like Mott Haven? We as a society are missing our window of opportunity.

Kozol points out that there are many little miracles and thousands of heroic people in Mott Haven, and not all of them are children who like Edgar Allan Poe or adults who write poetry. Many are simply strong, resilient mothers and grandmothers, some of them devout black women. Kozol adds that the trouble with miracles is that they don't happen for most children; and a good society cannot be built on miracles or on the likelihood that they will keep occurring. He continues " There is a degree of danger that, in emphasizing these unusual relationships and holding up for praise the very special children who can take advantage of them, without making clear how rare these situations are, we may seem to be condemning those who don't have opportunities like these or, if they do, cannot respond to them."

Kozol doesn't even try to present the reader with solutions or answers to what needs to be done but he gives advice on what he believes won't work. "If only enough children, we are told, would act the way the heroes do, say no to drugs and sex and gold chains and TV and yes to homework, values, church, and abstinence, and if only enough good parents, preachers, teachers, volunteers, and civic-minded business leaders would assist them in these efforts, we could "turn this thing around" and wouldn't need to speak about dark, messy matters such as race, despisal, and injustice." Kozol rejects the idea of "good ghettos." He believes that "so long as the most vulnerable people in our population are consigned to places that the rest of us will always shun and flee and view with fear, I am afraid that educational denial, medical and economic devastation, and aesthetic degradation will be virtually inevitable. So long as there are ghetto neighborhoods and ghetto hospitals and ghetto schools, I am convinced there will be ghetto desperation, ghetto violence, and ghetto fear because a ghetto is itself an evil and unnatural construction." A white minister who works in one of New York City's poorest neighborhoods states "If we saw the people in these neighborhoods as part of the same human family to which we belong, we'd never put them in such places to begin with." Those who are there do not think that what is being done to them is a mistake.

What some politicians and people see as fiscal prudence by making cuts others, particularly those who live in the South Bronx, see as social homicide. We as a society need to take action and have governmental policies that allow our poor children and all people a realistic opportunity to have a good life. In a land of plenty, there are too many who have virtually nothing, including opportunity. For all of the greatness of the United States, Mott Haven is but one example, of tragic failure. For the people of the United States to allow this nightmare for millions to continue is morally wrong.


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Date: Wed, 1 May 1996 13:13:35 -0500
From: Monica Diaz <mrdiaz@ilstu.edu>
Subject: Re: Amazing Grace by Jonathan Kozol

Tom, I really enjoyed reading your review of AMAZING GRACE. But, I must admit that it made me cry. Yes, there I was in the computer lab with tears welling up in my eyes especially when I read about the nine year little girl that died of AIDS (I have an eight year old girl). I am glad that the sick, demented bastard that raped her was murdered! I can't honestly say that I wouldn't do the same

  The way these people live is just so sad. How can anyone read this and not feel like crying for these people? I disagree with you when you say that you think that these people did this to themselves. I know that you also said that, at times you ask why people put them there in the first place. But then later, you say that if these children would just resist temptations and say yes to values, homework, church and abstinence they would find themselves getting ahead. Yet, how can this be when they have shit for schools? How can they think of how to get ahead when all they can think about is their hunger, safety and staying alive in extreme temperatures? This can be explained by Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. When an individual does not have the basic needs of life, they can not think of other aspects of life ( e.g. education). According to Maslow, they cannot be blamed for this. I like the way that you ended your review. I agree that we, as a society, must do something for these people. You are so right, when you say that "in the land of plenty" no one should live so miserably. Did that seven month old baby have a choice (or his mother for that matter) of living without rats? What could they do? Nothing. But the government agency that placed them there sure as hell could. Therefore, until WE (society) assist them in a major way (fix their schools, give them a decent place to live, provide them with good jobs, crack down on crime), how dare anyone ask them to accept the blame and responsibiity for their tragic lives?! > -- Latinos Unidos ,

Monica R. Diaz

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Date: Fri, 7 Feb 1997 07:52:40 -0600
From: Rachael Miller <remille@ilstu.edu>
Subject: AMAZING GRACE (Rachael Miller)

Jonathan Kozol, AMAZING GRACE, Harper Perennial. 1995 Revieew By: Rachael Miller Mailto:remille@ilstu.edu

While reading this book, one is unable to escape the seemingly endless tales of hardship and pain. The setting behind this gripping story is the South Bronx of New York City, with the main focus on the Mott Haven housing project and its surrounding neighborhood. Here black and hispanic families try to cope with the disparity that surrounds them. Mott Haven is a place where children must place in the hallways of the building, because playing outside is to much of a risk. The building is filled with rats and cockroaches in the summer, and lacks heat and decent water in the winter. This picture of the "ghetto" is not one of hope, but one of fear. Even the hospitals servicing the neighborhoods are dirty and lack the staff that is needed for quality basic care. If clean bed sheets are needed the patients must put them on themselves. This book is filled with stories of real people and their struggles. Each story, though different in content, has the same basic point, survival.

On a tour given by Cliffie ( a 7 year old that Kozol met in the local church) , the reader gets to see the neighborhood through the eyes of a child. Cliffie shows the reader a once green park, that is now dried up and brown with teddy bears hanging from the limbs of tree branches com a children killed from that area. Further down the block, the place where they "burn bodies of people" is pointed out. It turns out that it was an incinerator for hazardous waste products transported from New York City hospitals. Nope, no bodies just things like the occasional amputated limb, fetal tissue, needles, soiled bedding, and used bandages are piled up until they can be burned. On days that they burn the air is heavy and hard to breath. "The number one illness of children in this are is asthma." The dust and fumes make it awfully hard for the children to breath, and many can not afford inhalers in case they do have a asthma attack. But, it is only logical for a city to place such a incinerator only a block away from the grade school. Like most of the children in this society, Cliffie is forced to understand and deal with things that most adults can not cope with. Through the eyes of the children these problems are described with such innocence, but with such understanding and clarity it is alarming. It is as if by hanging on to their youthful imagination's, they have the ammunition they need to face reality.

Mrs. Washington and her son life in the Mott Haven housing project. She is dying of AIDS and her teenage son must tend to her health care plus his schooling. The social services which processes and sends out her welfare money, is constantly under reconstruction. Her payments are often late and numerous times she has been evicted from her apartment. Not only is eviction a problem, but so is her health care. ther have been times she has had to wait two days on a cot in the hallway until a doctor could see her. These problems start to wear down her son. As a result his school work is declining and he hardly ever smiles anymore. He is afraid to sleep in case his mother might need him or she just dies in her sleep. The Washington family is just one case from a pile of hundreds just like it. Program cutbacks effects thousands of people just like the Washington's. Without the proper funding there is no money for health and safety inspectors. So the hospital remain filthy, the incinerator remains polluting, and the housing complex continue to decay. The trash fills the corridors and down into the streets. Because of bad plumbing, the apartments begin to smell and erosion it starting to show in the walls. The building is know to have sporadic fires, which have claimed the lives of numerous children, not to mention their families. There were budget cutbacks, that cuts the number of heath and safety inspectors in half. The elevator doors open spontaneously, causing an 8 year old to fall to his death

Horrible living conditions is not the only eye opener in the book. The society in which they are forced to live is not only filled with poverty and filth, but there is also crime, racial segregation, and most of all drugs which form more hurdles the community must jump. The problem of guns and crime are blatantly evident from the bloodstained on the street. Stray bullets, or bullets meant for the parents are often the end to a young child's life. Children are thought how to do the military belly crawl, not as a game, but a reaction to the sounds of bullets. Drug dealers are everywhere offering children drugs as if it were candy. Kids as young as 9 or 10 try and sell drugs to their classmates with the hope of becoming something more. Parks no longer are the home to hundreds of children laughing, or swings to play on. Instead, parks that used to be green and safe for children to play in, are now homes for drug dealers, prostitutes, and the latest victims of eviction notices. Until the late 1950's the grass was green, children did play, and this was a generally happy society, but oh how time does change.

Yet despite all the trials and tribulations each story portrays, there is still a strong sense of family unity and faith among the community. The church is filled every sunday with people that strongly believe in god and the Christian faith. Church provides a sanctuary for people to come an escape the bullets, drugs, and sickness for awhile. The strong grip this community in whole has on faith goes against the stereotypes of the underprivileged. The dedication these people have to their beliefs and their family puts the morals of the upper and middle class to shame. It is truly amazing the will these people must posses in order to be faced with all this gloom, but still find the positive and wake up in the morning and keep on going

This book is a collaboration of stories, that shows the untarnished truth about the problems facing the lower class. By seeing things through the eyes of each individual written about, it draws the reader in and makes them feel such emotion for that situation. The people that make up AMAZING GRACE trap the reader into the reality of an imperfect and sometimes gloomy world. the reader cries for the families, hopes for the families, and most of all goes to bed that night thinking about what they had just read. The stories have no ending. The stories, and the people, keep going and never really die out. The conclusion comes with a harsh smack in the face and a memorandum left to those who have died during the writing of this book. That is the end. The is no solution, no antidote to ease the pain, there is just the reality of death at the end

One constant found throughout the numerous stories, is that of faith. The overwhelming belief in God is prominent in every person depicted in the book. The need for the notion of something beautiful, pure, and good away from the hardships and darkness of what this society is used to brings them to the church. The one place that is not filled with gunshots and decay, a place to escape and hope for something better. One of the women Kozol talked to is Reverend Overland. She is a lady of the church who gave up her job as a prominent attorney to help educated and serve those in need. Her observations of those residing in the South Bronx is that the are "more religious than those across the river. They are to concerned with money and power to worry about faith". This revelation is contrary to the white ideas that there could be no one more morally right that we. The strong grip on faith that this society has helps the children keep some light in their eyes, the mothers with some hope for the future, and the drug dealers with some hop of forgiveness

By telling the stories of numerous people and sharing their exact dialog you get a real feeling of the intensity of the problems. The problems do not root from one individual nor do they stop at another, they are constantly reoccurring despite the different situations. This method just adds to the intensity of the problems. When you shut the book or go to sleep at night the problem do not just end the keep an growing. Kozol leaves his stories conclusionless. He makes no assumptions, nor does he speel some politically correct rhetoric as to how things could be better. The point is the shock that there is no easy solution. The problems never end. In the conclusion of his book he lists the names of all those who died within the time span it took to complete his book. The only conclusion he offers is a lists of senseless deaths that never ends

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