cover image Ordinary Resurrections: Children in the Years of Hope

Ordinary Resurrections: Children in the Years of Hope

Jonathan Kozol, Jonathan Kozol. Crown Publishers, $25 (400pp) ISBN 978-0-517-70000-6

A persistent voice of conscience, Kozol poses the question: do we want our schools to remain segregated and unequal? The National Book Award-winning education activist revisits Mott Haven, a poverty-stricken section of the South Bronx that was the setting for his two previous books, Amazing Grace and Savage Inequalities. The tone here is more optimistic, partly because his extended conversations and interactions with children take place not only at public elementary schools, but also at a supportive after-school center run by St. Ann's Church, a neighborhood Episcopalian congregation that reaches out to the hungry and homeless. Ranging in age from six to 12, all of the children in Kozol's empathetic, leisurely portraits are black or Hispanic; some know hunger; many have lost at least one relative to AIDS; a large number of them see their fathers only when they visit them in prison. Many have asthma or other severe respiratory problems, which Kozol blames on the high density of garbage facilities in the area and on a waste incinerator that was not shut down until 1998 after protests by community activists, environmentalists and doctors. His sensitive profiles highlight these kids' resilience, quiet tenacity, eagerness to learn and high spirits, as well as the teachers' remarkable dedication despite sharp cutbacks in personnel and services; overcrowded, decaying buildings; and crime-riddled streets. Yet as Kozol makes piercingly clear, the students' ""ordinary resurrections"" can only go so far amid what he calls ""apartheid education,"" a racially and economically segregated school system that in effect assigns disadvantaged children to constricted destinies. Major ad/promo; 11-city author tour. (May)