Fire in the Ashes

Fire in the Ashes

Twenty-five Years Among the Poorest Children in America

Book - 2012
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   In this powerful and culminating work about a group of inner-city children he has known for many years, Jonathan Kozol returns to the scene of his prize-winning books Rachel and Her Children and Amazing Grace , and to the children he has vividly portrayed, to share with us their fascinating journeys and unexpected victories as they grow into adulthood.

   For nearly fifty years Jonathan has pricked the conscience of his readers by laying bare the savage inequalities inflicted upon children for no reason but the accident of being born to poverty within a wealthy nation. A winner of the National Book Award, the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, and countless other honors, he has persistently crossed the lines of class and race, first as a teacher, then as the author of tender and heart-breaking books about the children he has called "the outcasts of our nation's ingenuity." But Jonathan is not a distant and detached reporter. His own life has been radically transformed by the children who have trusted and befriended him.

   Never has this intimate acquaintance with his subjects been more apparent, or more stirring, than in Fire in the Ashes , as Jonathan tells the stories of young men and women who have come of age in one of the most destitute communities of the United States. Some of them never do recover from the battering they undergo in their early years, but many more battle back with fierce and, often, jubilant determination to overcome the formidable obstacles they face. As we watch these glorious children grow into the fullness of a healthy and contributive maturity, they ignite a flame of hope, not only for themselves, but for our society.
   The urgent issues that confront our urban schools - a devastating race-gap, a pathological regime of obsessive testing and drilling students for exams instead of giving them the rich curriculum that excites a love of learning - are interwoven through these stories. Why certain children rise above it all, graduate from high school and do well in college, while others are defeated by the time they enter adolescence, lies at the essence of this work.

   Jonathan Kozol is the author of Death at an Early Age , Savage Inequalities , and other books on children and their education. He has been called "today's most eloquent spokesman for America's disenfranchised." But he believes young people speak most eloquently for themselves; and in this book, so full of the vitality and spontaneity of youth, we hear their testimony.

Publisher: New York : Crown, [2012]
Copyright Date: ©2012
ISBN: 9781400052462
Branch Call Number: 362.7756909747 KOZ
Characteristics: x, 354 pages ; 24 cm


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ksoles Nov 17, 2012

"Fire in the Ashes" tells the stories of the later lives of poor children who grew up in New York. Author Jonathan Kozol has worked with children in inner-city schools for 50 years and here provides an engaging, illuminating, often moving look at several black and Latino children who once lived in Manhattan’s infamous Martinique Hotel. Upon the closing of that crowded and filthy shelter in the late 1980s, these families relocated to the Bronx neighbourhood of Mott Haven.

As these children grew into young adults, Kozol kept in touch with them and their families through visits, emails and phone calls. In a series of intimate portraits, he highlights the horrific challenges the children faced and describes how many managed to achieve successful lives, both by graduating from college and securing jobs, and above all, by becoming kind and loving human beings.

Certainly, not every story ends happily but Kozol has ultimately written a cleareyed, compassionate and hopeful book. It features Leonardo, recruited by a New England boarding school, where he emerged as a leader; the introspective Jeremy, who got through college and took a job at a Mott Haven church; and the buoyant Pineapple, whose Guatemalan parents provided emotional security at home. “I’m going to give a good life to my children,” says 24-year-old Lisette, after her troubled brother’s suicide. “I have to do it. I’m the one who made it through.”

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