cover image Live to See the Day: Coming of Age in American Poverty

Live to See the Day: Coming of Age in American Poverty

Nikhil Goyal. Metropolitan, $29.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-250-85006-5

Sociologist Goyal (Schools on Trial) delivers a nuanced and intimate portrayal of three Puerto Rican teens growing up in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia, drawing on a decade of research in the community to demonstrate how poverty is a barely surmountable obstacle for disadvantaged young people. Ryan Rivera, Giancarlos Rodriguez, and Emmanuel Coreano are students at El Centro de Estudiantes, an alternative school and “last chance” for the trio to avoid becoming high school dropouts. Goyal also profiles the boys’ mothers, painting a generational picture of poverty’s effects. (Ivette, Emmanuel’s disabled single mother, receives only $10,000 a year in public assistance.) The need for money drives Ryan and Giancarlos to drug-dealing, while Emmanuel contends with unstable and unsafe housing. Their harrowing stories are enriched by closely observed details that will linger in the reader’s mind, like Emmanuel’s struggle to store his few prized items of clothing somewhere clean. While Goyal points to deindustrialization and a lack of good jobs, the war on drugs that unfairly targets people of color, and other causes of his subjects’ poverty, he makes the case that direct government financial support is the best method to help impoverished young people, and laments the recent expiration of the pandemic-era child tax credit, of which the author was an architect. It’s an enthralling and often maddening read. (Aug.)