Sunday, September 14, 2014

Jonathan Kozol, Amazing Grace - Quotes

In "Amazing Grace" Jonathan Kozol shares the poverty that he sees in an incredibly diseased and dangerous neighborhood in New York.  To me, it seems impossible that this level of poverty could even happen with all of the resources and technology we have now at our disposal.  The stories he tells are not only heart breaking but also kind of make me feel angry that these people live like this and how unfair it is.  I've chosen a few quotes that I thought were important to share.  
'"If poor people behaved rationally," says Lawrence Mead, a professor of political science at New York University, "they would seldom be poor for long in the first place."' (21)  Although Kozol later argues this point with examples about his friend Alice Washington, it initially upset me.  All I could think was how can he say that when we can clearly see all of the terrible things that these people are going through? I can understand how he means that hard work can get you far, and we do have many examples of the idea of "rags to riches".  But these children growing up with illness, disease, crime, and extreme poverty can't do anything about it.  And many of their parents are very sick as well, whether it be AIDS, drug addiction, mental illness or many other things, that they can't do much about either because of the lack of medical attention available to them, as we also see in "Amazing Grace".
“Her uncle came around and knocked at all the doors contributions so that he could bury her.” (13) This is another quote that stuck out to me.  The girl that he is talking about is a fifteen year old girl who died from a drug overdose.  This reminded me of a poem that I read in English 123 last year by Langston Hughes called "Night Funeral In Harlem" that is about a young boy who passed away and his family and friends came together to give him a proper funeral just like this girl.  This quote, as well as the poem show a sense of community that some of these people have.  I saw it when Kozol talked about St. Ann's Church and how it was a safe place, full of children.  "In one of the most diseased and dangerous communities in any city of the Western world, the beautiful old stone church on St. Ann's Avenue is a gentle sanctuary from the terrors of the streets outside." (6)  I also got a strong sense of community when I was reading about Mrs. Washington, who is a very sick woman and she talks about a struggling mother, who is also very ill.  Mrs. Washington said "When I am feeling well enough, I go up there and help her." (18) I thought this was amazing, because even though she is very ill she goes and helps her neighbor.  This sense of community is so important, because if they don't have each other, what do they have?

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