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Fire in the Ashes

Twenty-Five Years Among the Poorest Children in America

by Jonathan Kozol


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Fire in the Ashes

Twenty-Five Years Among the Poorest Children in America

by Jonathan Kozol

Review posted December 5, 2013.
Crown Publishers, New York, 2012. 354 pages.
Starred Review

This book is made up of stories -- stories about some of the poorest children in America, but children whom Jonathan Kozol has known and cared about for twenty-five years. So we get to see them rise into adulthood. Some of them do not go on to productive lives, but most of them do, and the readers rejoice with Jonathan.

He begins the book with a note to the Reader, which begins like this:

Over the course of many years I have been talking with a group of children in one of the poorest urban neighborhoods of the United States and have written several books about them and their families. Readers ask me frequently today if I've kept in contact with the children and if I know how many have prevailed against the obstacles they faced and, in those cases, how they managed to survive and how they kept their spirits strong amidst the tough conditions that surrounded them.

It has not been difficult to keep in contact with most of these children because so many of them, as they have grown older, have come to be among my closest friends. They call me on the phone. They send me texts and e-mails. We get together with each other when we can.

The stories that follow are stories of particular children. But these stories put faces to poverty. They make us care. I can't think of a better way to raise concern for problems in urban America than to get us to care about the children and families growing up there.

Sometimes life is more astonishing than fiction, and more inspiring, too. Even if you don't want your awareness of issues raised, this book is worth reading for the stories alone. You will care about the wonderful people he features and follows into adulthood.