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  • Ordinary Resurrections
  • Written by Jonathan Kozol
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  • Written by Jonathan Kozol
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Children in the Years of Hope

Written by Jonathan KozolAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Jonathan Kozol

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On Sale: February 08, 2012
Pages: 400 | ISBN: 978-0-307-81588-0
Published by : Crown Crown/Archetype
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

  Jonathan Kozol's books have become touchstones of the American conscience. In Ordinary Resurrections, he spends four years in the South Bronx with children who have become his friends at a badly underfunded but enlightened public school. A fascinating narrative of daily urban life, Ordinary Resurrections gives a human face to poverty and racial isolation, and provides a stirring testimony to the courage and resilience of the young. Sometimes playful, sometimes jubilantly funny, and sometimes profoundly sad, these are sensitive children—complex and morally insightful—and their ethical vitality denounces and subverts the racially charged labels that the world of grown-up expertise too frequently assigns to them. 
   Yet another classic case of unblinking social observation from one of the finest writers ever to work in the genre, this is a piercing discernment of right and wrong, of hope and despair—from our nation's corridors of power to its poorest city streets.

Excerpt

Elio is seven and a half years old. A picture of him taken near the doorway of the kitchen on the first floor of St. Ann's shows a light-brown child with a head shaped like an olive and a small stuffed rabbit under his right arm.

He's almost smiling in the picture. It's a careful look and it conveys some of the tension that is present in his eyes on days when he's been struggling to keep his spirits up. It's not a gloomy look, however; I have other photographs in which he looks as if he's close to breaking out in tears, but this one's balanced about halfway between cheerfulness and something like the vaguest sense of fear. If you studied it a while and were in an optimistic mood you might finally decide it was the picture of a child who is somewhat timid, almost happy, and attempting to be brave.

Fred Rogers took the photograph. He was in New York to do something for PBS and told me he would like to meet the children at the afterschool. We went together on the subway to Brook Avenue, walked to a local school to talk with kindergarten children there, and found our way to St. Ann's Church at three o'clock. He and Elio became acquainted with each other very fast.

Elio is like that. He makes friends with grown-ups easily. He isn't a distrustful boy; nor is he prematurely worldly-wise, as many inner-city children are believed to be and frequently portrayed in press accounts. He has no father to take care of him--his father is a long way from the Bronx, in one of the state prisons--but he has a competent and energetic mother, blessed with a congenial temperament and an immense amount of patience. She looks weary sometimes and develops a wry smile when he goes on for a long time with his questions; but she's understanding with him and she always tries to give him a good answer.

Some of the older boys here pick on him because he's very small. They usually get the best of him in verbal repartee because he has no skill at using words sarcastically and doesn't seem to know how to defend himself when he's been teased. Often he reacts by growing sullen and morose, at other times by breaking into tears; but now and then, just as it seems that he's regaining his composure, he goes to the boy who has been teasing him and hits him hard--he clobbers him!--right in the mouth or nose. Small as he is, he fights ferociously.

The grandmothers at St. Ann's, who help to supervise the children when they come here after school, are forced to isolate him in the kitchen when this happens so that they can keep an eye on him until he has calmed down. Miss Katrice, who helps to run the kitchen on most weekday afternoons, has many conversations with him on important subjects like repentance.

He was in a fight this afternoon. When I arrived I found him in the kitchen, sitting on a blue upended milk box in the corner opposite the stove. Tears in his eyes, he had the overheated look of the unjustly persecuted. When I asked Katrice what happened, she just nodded at him as if that was all it took to make it clear that he'd been misbehaving.

"Fighting again . . . ," she grumbled, as she piled milk containers on the counter.

His moods change rapidly. He cries if he's been teased, or if he thinks that he's been left out of a joke, or game, or conversation, or if someone fails to keep a promise that was made to him. When, on the other hand, he's been surprised by being given something he did not expect, the look of satisfaction that can sweep across his face is like a burst of summer sunshine in the middle of the darkest winter afternoon and it immediately makes one feel ashamed to recognize how little it has cost in time or in attentiveness to make this moment possible.

On 42nd Street one afternoon, I see a man who's selling imitation baby chicks that make a realistic sound--"cheep cheep!"--when held within the warmth of someone's hand. A group of kids are looking at the chicks with fascination. They cost only five dollars. Their father buys them one. I buy one too and find a box to put it in. When Elio unwraps the box the next day in the kitchen of St. Ann's and rests the yellow creature in his hand and it begins to "cheep," his eyes grow wide. "Katrice!" he says, and strokes the chick repeatedly and brings it up to show the priest. The next afternoon, he says, "I put him in his box next to my bed." But, one week later, when Katrice refers to it again--she asks him if he's "taking good care" of his chick--he looks bemused by this and, though he says that he still has the chick, it doesn't seem of interest to him anymore.

One day in the end of March, while sitting with me in one of the reading rooms upstairs, he tells me of his aunt.

"I feel so sorry that my Titi died," he says.

Titi is a Spanish word for "auntie," a diminutive of tía (aunt), used by Hispanic children in the neighborhood, and Elio has several aunts. I ask which of his aunts he means.

"My best one," he replies.

I ask if he means his mother's sister, but he doesn't want to be precise about it in the way that I would like.

"She was my best Titi," he insists, and leaves the matter there.

Two days later, he comes up to me looking concerned and staring straight ahead of him, directly at my shirt.

"Uh-oh . . . ," he says.

I look down to see what's wrong.

"Oh, Jonathan! I fooled you! April Fool's!"


From the Hardcover edition.
Jonathan Kozol

About Jonathan Kozol

Jonathan Kozol - Ordinary Resurrections
Jonathan Kozol is the National Book Award-winning author of Savage Inequalities, Death at an Early Age, The Shame of the Nation, and Amazing Grace.  He has been working with children in inner-city schools for nearly fifty years.
Praise

Praise

"Ordinary Resurrections is a deeply moving and marvelous book. Jonathan Kozol has shared poetic and powerful stories of the poor children of Mott Haven who became a part of his life. I pray the truth and poignancy Kozol portrays here will move you to stand up for them with your votes and your voices." –Marian Wright Edelman, President, The Children's Defense Fund

“Deeply moving. This is the most personal of Kozol’s efforts.” –New York Times Book Review

“Warm and affectionate portraits…Kozol has written an eloquent love letter to a set of children…whom he has grown to know, cherish, and delight in. Deeply moving and beautifully written.” – Washington Post Book World

“I think God finds consolation in the tiny triumphs over daily oppressions by the least noticed of us, In the plainest places. So too does Jonathan Kozol, a great man who has written another great book that is all compassion, conviction, and encouragement.” –Mario Cuomo

“What a gift! A magnificent testimony to the communion of grace through the human touch.” –Fred Rogers, creator and host of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood

“Kozol’s authenticity has not diminished with time, nor has his power to put a human face on Northern urban segregation.” –Library Journal

“Kozol retains his anger and contempt at the city’s neglect of his small friends, but he takes a moment here to marvel at their silliness and sorrows, gentleness and bravery.” –Booklist, starred review

“A persistent voice of conscience…His sensitive profiles highlight these kids’ resilience, quiet tenacity, eagerness to learn and high spirits, as well as the teachers’ remarkable dedication.” –Publishers Weekly

“By demonstrating the resilience of children in a meditative and measured voice, Kozol quietly intensified the indictment he has made in previous books of the inequalities that jeopardize the growth of children in our poorest neighborhoods. Ordinary Resurrections is a human work of the spirit that holds up a candle in a dark time.”—Henry Mayer, author of All on Fire

“Acutely observed, utterly unsentimental…and heartbreakingly beautiful.” –Frederick Buechner, author of The Eyes of the Heart

“What a wonderful book! I have devoured it—replete with the laughter, tears, and wise insights that all of Jonathan’s books produce…I cannot tell you how moved and touched I was.” –Rabbi David Saperstein, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism


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