I probably would have enjoyed this book more if I had re-read Amazing Grace
before reading this. I remembered a few of these people, but not most. Taken on its own, then, this book is interesting but not exactly gripping. It leans pretty heavily on Kozol's personal relationships with these particular individuals. And it does paint picture after picture of individual people rising out of the systematic oppression described in books like Amazing Grace
and Savage Inequalities.
Kozol does specifically refute that glossy worldview in a beautifully vicious epilogue, pointing out that so much of the success in the book "depends upon the charitable inclinations of a school or philanthropic donors, and charity has never been a substitute, not in any amplitude, for systematic justice and systematic equity in public education." Another quote I just have to share:
For the children of a ghettoized community, the pre-existing context created by the social order cannot be lightly written off by cheap and facile language about ‘parental failings’ or by the rhetoric of ‘personal responsibility,’ which is the last resort of scoundrels in the civic and political arena who will, it seems, go to any length to exculpate America for its sins against our poorest people.
I wish the rest of the book had as much to say as the epilogue, not to mention that it had said it with as much passion. I didn't put the book down, so I guess I'd say it was worth reading. But I can't really recommend it, unless you really do just want a follow-up on Amazing Grace.