Jonathan Kozol has written a new book, Fire in the Ashes: Twenty-Five Years Among the Poorest Children In America (New York: Crown Publishers). It will go on sale August 28th.
Kozol revisits the families he has written about in the past, families from the Manhattan welfare hotels of the 1980s and the South Bronx Mott Haven neighborhood in the 1990s. These are the parents and children from Rachel and Her Children, Amazing Grace, and Ordinary Resurrections.
Fire in the Ashes is perhaps Kozol’s most personal book, a memoire of his own relationships with these families and their children. It is also a tribute to people who were abandoned by our society when they fell victim to circumstances they could not themselves control. It is in many ways a hopeful book, celebrating strong parents and especially heroic mothers doing their best to hold on to their children and resilient children who develop into caring and productive adults.
On the other hand, it is less hopeful than a book like Savage Inequalities, that imagined society could be motivated to equalize its investment in the public education of poor and wealthy children. The children who succeed in these stories despite overwhelming obstacles do so through the assistance of individuals who help them escape their circumstances. Though Kozol makes this plea for systemic reform ---“If any lesson may be learned from the academic breakthroughs achieved by Pineapple and Jeremy, it is not that we should celebrate exceptionality of opportunity but that the public schools themselves in neighborhoods of widespread destitution ought to have the rich resources, small classes, and well-prepared and well-rewarded teachers that would enable us to give to every child the feast of learning that is now available to children of the poor only on the basis of a careful selectivity or by catching the attention of empathetic people…” --- his book is realistic in portraying a society that has not yet made the choice to address what is the highest child poverty rate (22 percent) in the developed world. Nor has our society addressed the kind of inequality described 21 years ago in Savage Inequalities.
October 25, 2012: Kozol speaks about his book in Huffington Post interview: Keeping Faith With the Kids.
Here is a link to the schedule for Kozol’s fall book tour: http://www.ucc.org/justice/public-education/j.html .