Amazing Grace, written by Jonathan Kozol.
At first glance, it seems that the author is going to take us on yet another journalistic ride through the land of the poor. Similar to the ones you read about, or hear in the news. However, this is not the case; the real underlying theme is what is society doing about the plight of the poor? Kozol uses the views of children to emphasize that these reports on living conditions are not being obtained by “disgruntled” adults, but from innocent, learning children whose only misfortune was being born to this particular area.
The author takes us from the seventh richest congressional district in the nation (being E 59th Street in New York City) to the poorest in the nation. A mere eighteen-minute ride by subway to the South Bronx, to a little place called Mott Haven; where the median family income for the 48000 residents is only $7,600. An area known for crack-cocaine and heroin; prostitution; poor hospital care, where one-quarter of new mothers tested in obstetric wards are HIV positive; and the police say is the deadliest precinct in the city.
Kozol writes about the trials and tribulations of everyday “normal” life for the children and people who live here. Normal for them however is quite different than it is for most of us. Living with drug dealers, pollution, poor hospital care and an abominable education system not to mention the social system of the city, is the “norm” for these children. In his interviews with the children of this squalid neighborhood, we find that the children speak honestly and freely about their feelings. Forgotten, hidden, abandoned, are just some of the words that come to mind. One boy named “Malcolm X” wears his hair in a style referred to as “25 years to life”. His sister asks “Like in prison..? This is how you want to wear your hair?” His reply ”You don’t have to be in jail to be in prison”. This is just one of many examples given to show the reader the effects that this environment has upon youths.
As we read further, we find that there are multitudes of problems inherent within the South Bronx. One of the only ways of determining where these problems stem from is by looking at the possible reasons as to why they exist. Drugs, violence, AIDS infections, are not new, ...
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... must use more education targeted towards social issues in their schools and community to help people learn to live healthier lifestyles. They must make it known that drug dealing and violence are not “all right”, and to help people obtain some sort of unity. The well known community members need to get involved in politics so that their voices can be heard and let the City know their communities needs/requirements. Creating support groups for people with AIDS, ex-addicts, people who have lost a family member, also for people who just need a place to talk and get their frustrations out would help the community as a whole. If the people of the South Bronx would act as a community bound together to help themselves and each other, there would be less tolerance for deviant behavior among its’ members. The City must also be made more accountable for its’ actions. Clean-up and reconstruction of Times Square to Battery Park is a step in the right direction. However, painting a mural of “… flowers, window shades and curtains and interiors of pretty-looking rooms…” (p. 31) on the walls of empty buildings in the Bronx, just to give the illusion that this area is a good neighborhood, is not.
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