Amazing Grace

*some reflections from the Canvas homework Assignment on the book

Jonathan Kozol Amazing Grace ,”To the Reader”; Page XIV-XV
In this section of the book, Jonathan Kozol speaks of his revisions and conversationsthroughout Amazing Grace. He states that he has revised and shortened a select fewconversations throughout the reading in order to concisely fit within the confines of the book.Throughout the writing the reader would not be able to tell exactly which conversations were“assembled and reproduced.” The conversations carried out between Jonathan Kozol and manyof the speakers within the book are clear and understandable. Through his writing I am able topicture and feel the experiences and emotions of the women, men, and children in the SouthBronx. Kozol’s organizational technique(s) allow for easier understanding and comprehensibility.It allows one to focus on particular words and phrases and to actually gain a sense of what thiscommunity is experiencing. The importance of these conversations and ultimately these people isclearly present within Kozol’s writing. Kozol includes many small events that took placebetween him and the interviewees that seem to hold little significance to the reader, but a greatsense of importance to the people within the community.


What stood out to me was the reality of the extreme struggle these children and people in the community go throughout daily. For example, when the author asked Anthony what he wished for Christmas, they young boy tells him his coat is his present and “the present I desired;” I also agree that this is an unusual way for a child his age to be speaking. Additionally, it is truly sad that these kids are considered lucky if they have something to eat for Christmas. This is sad because compared to us or people all around the country during the holidays; they get all kinds of gifts, feast with family, and not worry or even think about the things like the people in the Bronx go through. As a final point, it’s sad that this young 12 year old boy has to encounter drug deals, see people using drugs, and be afraid of going to the park; where kids should be having fun and not worrying about things like this.


One story in the second half of the book is when Kozol talks about pregnant women. They more likely to receive care inside of a prison then outside of the prison. They receive prenatal and perinatal care. Many parenting classes and even therapy. Women wanted to go to prison due to the long amounts of waiting time that hospitals say. They wouldn’t let a woman into a hospital for four months. I found this intriguing because to think that pregnant woman aren’t able to receive care unless they are in prison is very astonishing. I can’t believe the government won’t help it’s own people when they are in need. Especially a pregnant woman. Although being born inside of a prison is no better then being born in a ghetto, at least the woman receives care. (Page 164)


On Pg. 25 they are talking about evil on earth and the woman says that all the rich with powerwho ignore and do nothing to help the poor are evil, at least in her opinion. The fact that she iswilling to call all those around with money evil shows how mistreated and ignored she feels withher mother sick and living in such a small space they can barely afford it’s hard to blame her.Although I believe she is right they may not be intentionally allowing towns and areas of cities tobecome ghettos and the people in them to become poor and jobless, but by ignoring it andpretending it does not happen they are enabling it. By enabling the destruction of hundreds oflives they become evil in the eyes of all who are watching.


Another passage where I was impacted was in chapter 8 when the book talks about howthe Orphans project of New York is expecting 32,000 to 38,000 babies to be born HIV positive.This really hurts me because our country spends large amounts of money on all sorts of policiesand programs that are not really necessary , but the government can not spend some of themoney to bring more stability in the poor communities.


Another story that stuck out to me from the second half of the book starts in chapter five pg. 158 concerning the Rikers Island jail. There are several things that fascinate me from what is stated in the following pages; to start, the city spends $58k yearly on each adult inmate and $70k on each juvenile, which is nearly 10 times the amount required to educate a child in a public school. The local/state level government evidently cannot properly prioritize their financial spending to better the communities that are struggling with poverty and addiction. What’s more surprising is that the money spent on those inmates aren’t even effectively used. For instance, there was a story of a baby who died in the jail and was buried in a box worth a measly $27. You would think that the city would have basic human decency and give juveniles, especially newborns, proper burials if they were to die in the jail. That is clearly not the case. It makes me wonder what the $58k or $70k is spent on; surely the expenses to house one inmate in a jail cell with basic necessities (food/water) cannot amount to that much. Admittedly, the jail does offer some nice benefits for newborns, so much so that it offers better services than that of a hospital. But wait, isn’t that a bad thing? Apparently, pregnant women that are in jail are guaranteed prenatal and perinatal care, parenting classes, and addiction therapy. However, if a pregnant woman were to give birth outside of jail, there would be a four-month waiting list for prenatal care. Again, this is clearly a case of negligence by the local/state government. They need to start funding programs for people like these that are in need to take care of their children. Otherwise, they will grow up to be involved in drugs and gangs and they will miss out on education.


In chapter one, Kozol talk about a seven year old named Cliffie. He is described as interesting and Kozol says he seems very grown up. I immediately found myself attached to this character because I love kids, and the way he speaks and says things makes him seem wise. Specifically, I was most drawn to the story of the young boy going to get pizza for his family one day when he comes across a hungry man. When the author asks if his parents were mad at him for giving the man some of their pizza, He says, surprised, “Why would they be mad? God told us share!”  I was so intrigued by this because it reflects the modern world. I would think if I were to go get food and give someone half of my parents food they would not be happy, but this young boy who doesn’t even think twice. It reminds me of one of those viral videos where one person will give a homeless man food, and when they send in another person to pretend to be starving, the homeless person always gives what they can. If a regular, decently dressed guy asks another ordinary person for food, the answer is always no. When people have very little, they are more willing to give than people who have more.

In chapter two, Kozol meets with students from 7-12 years old to talk about public schools. What immediately caught my attention was  when asked where they think all the white people went, a 12 year old boy, Jeremiah says “It isn’t where people live, it’s how they live.” I cannot get over how children’s minds work. A 12 year old in “our world” is ready to expect his first iPhone by the end of December, but these children who have so little are thinking of terms in this way. As the conversation goes on, they are asked about role models. It interested  me that they groaned at Martin Luther King because he’s mentioned so often. We talk about him just as much, but we love him. We study him from elementary, through college, and watch movies. I’m most intrigued with children because they are not afraid of norms, they speak their mind and are actually very wise.

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