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City Lights Bookstore posted events
17 hours ago
Doris Anne Beaulieu posted a video

Model A's ( Poem )

Model A’s ( Poem ) Vintage cars that are so old Classic beauties with stories told Some with Rumble seats in tow Owners of these want to show Antiques from l...
21 hours ago
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Seven new books, Oct. 2014, leading with McCrumb's latest

Sharyn McCrumb’s new book tour; and other productionsby Rob Neufeld Nora Bonesteel’s Christmas Past by Sharyn McCrumb (Abingdon Press hardcover, Oct. 7, 2014, 160 pages, $18.99)            I didn’t receive a review copy, but I can say McCrumb is always a delight and a deliverance.  McCrumb’s new holiday…See More
Tuesday
Spellbound posted events
Oct 15
Jerald Pope posted an event

Black Mountain Authors Get Hungry at Monte Visa Hotel

October 16, 2014 from 6pm to 7pm
The Third Thursday reading this month will feature stories and poems about food. As you might imagine, a whole hungry cadre of writers stepped up to the plate to read. The feast will take place at the Monte Vista Hotel this Thursday, which also just happens to be Fried Chicken day at the Hotel. Yum! Here’s what’s on the menu: Jeff Hutchins moved to Black Mountain in 2008. In his prior life, Jeff helped develop the technology of closed captioning, which is used to make television programming…See More
Oct 15
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Cherokee pottery survey Oct 17

Cherokee Museum Presents Cherokee Pottery on International Archaeology Dayfrom press release            The Museum of the Cherokee Indian will present “Cherokee Pottery: Three Thousand Years of Cherokee Science and Art” on Friday October 17 at 2 pm.  This talk is part of International Archaeology Day, sponsored by the Archaeological Institute of America.  It is open to the public free of charge, and is suitable for all ages.             “We are glad to be participating in International…See More
Oct 14
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Conversation with George Ella Lyon

Getting deep with east Kentucky author George Ella Lyonby Rob Neufeld             George Ella Lyon is a prolific writer of poetry, fiction, and plays for all ages; and has emerged from her east Kentucky upbringing with many things to tell the world about Appalachian virtues, including neighborliness, woodland spirit,…See More
Oct 14
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Oct 14
City Lights Bookstore posted an event
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A Look at Climate Change and Mass Extinction at City Lights Bookstore

October 17, 2014 from 6:30pm to 8pm
Charles Dayton and Sara Evans will visit City Lights Bookstore on Friday, October 17th at 6:30 p.m. for a discussion on climate change and mass extinction. Evans will review The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert, a book about the increase in mass extinctions and the impending ecological collapse caused by man’s disharmony with the natural world. Dayton will speak and present slides about the impact of climate change on the ocean’s ecology, which is also discussed in The Sixth…See More
Oct 11
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Book discussions in WNC, October 2014

WNC BOOK DISCUSSION CALENDAR, OCTOBER 2014Wednesday, October 1AUTISM BOOK CLUB: The Autism Book Club discusses “Mozart and the Whale” by Jerry and Mary Newport at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café, 55 Haywood St., Asheville, 1 p.m. Call 254-6734.MALAPROP’S BOOKCLUB: The Malaprop’s Bookclub, hosted by Jay Jacoby, discusses “Winesburg,…See More
Oct 8
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Oct 6
James D. Loy posted a blog post

"Loy's Loonies," a new series of zany books

Hi folks:     I am pleased to announce the publication of the second book in my series "Loy's Loonies."  This one is entitled Uncle Moe and the Martha's Vineyard Frackers and here's the cover blurb.     Moe Thibault is a lovable octogenarian who sometimes thinks he’s Jacques Clouseau and who’s convinced he once had an identical twin. While living out his widower’s retirement in upstate New York, Moe is sent an obituary from Martha’s Vineyard with a photo of his apparent Doppelganger, a man…See More
Oct 2
Lockie Hunter posted an event
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Juniper Bends and Topside Press present: Where We're Going We Don't Need Roads at The Crow & Quill

October 8, 2014 from 8pm to 10pm
This fall the best new transgender fiction is going on a road trip! Topside Press authors Casey Plett (author of A Safe Girl To Love) and Sybil Lamb (author of I’ve Got A Time Bomb) will be crisscrossing Canada and the United-States. Asheville is hosting these Topside authors with the help of Juniper Bends Reading Series, and The Crow & Quill. Join us on Wednesday, October 8th at 8 pm to hear the work of these two …See More
Sep 29
Randolph Wilson replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Place-names salute us in a revised gazetteer
"I was born on Bill's Creek...the son of Roland and Jeanette Frady Wilson. I spent my first 18 years on the old Frady farm on Bill's Creek. We lived with my Grandfather and Grandmother....Dewey Frady and Diza Hall Frady. I remember…"
Sep 29
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Sep 27
Sue Diehl posted an event

Rose Senehi with Montreat College Friends of the Library at Bell Library at Montreat College

November 2, 2014 from 3pm to 5pm
Rose Senehi, author of Dancing on Rocks, will discuss her most recent novel in the Blue Ridge Mountain series on Sunday afternoon, November 2, 2014 at 3:00 p.m in Montreat College Bell Library.  Public is invited. Refreshments will be served.See More
Sep 25

Jonathan Kozol's Fire in the Ashes--25-year caring about poorest children

Poor children’s chief advocate reviews his career

by Rob Neufeld

(See voices about poverty in WNC)

 

            The season puts one in mind to read Jonathan Kozol’s new book, “Fire in the Ashes,” his review of 25 years caring and writing about homeless and poor children.

            Not only does this time of year bring to light the anniversary of the birth of a homeless child; it brings to theaters the movie version of “Les Miserables.”

            When the stage musical, “Les Miserables,” premiered in Broadway Theatre in Manhattan in 1987, Kozol was in the area, attending to the residents of the former Martinique Hotel on 31st Street.  The opposite of a miracle, the hotel had been transformed by the city into a nightmarish holding pen for welfare families, a place where guards extorted sex, drug dealers roosted, hunger gnawed, and safety and health went to hell.

            The high-rise was home to 1,400 children, many of whom walked to the theatre district to beg for alms.  The managers of Broadway Theatre had the police lead the children away.

            “People were paying a great deal of money to enjoy an entertainment fashioned from the misery of children from another era,” Jonathan Kozol notes.

 

Child care imperative

 

            There’s a third reason that Kozol’s book is timely.  We hear our president say, in Newtown, that “we bear responsibility for every child,” that caring for our children is our first job, and “if we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we will be judged.”

            Kozol’s book reminds us that this mission goes beyond protection from guns.

            Kozol had first written about the residents of the Martinique in his award-winning 1988 book, “Rachel and Her Children: Homeless Families in America.”  Its stories of heroic individuals crushed by impossible odds undercut blame-the-victim thinking.

            “Fire in the Ashes” provides an update to fates.  You end up grabbing on to the survivor stories to keep your spirit despite the carnage.

            In one of his eight portraits, Kozol tells about Ariella Patterson, who with her four boys had become homeless when her house had burned up after a boiler tank explosion.

            She applied for housing for the homeless, and went through a “deterrence system,” being put up in an Emergency Assistance Unit (EAU), sleeping on the floor, crowded with desperate people.  Imagine the Superdome after Katrina.

            “If they left an EAU before the city came to a decision,” Kozol writes, “this would indicate (to officials) that they were not ‘truly homeless’ and were not deserving of additional assistance.”

            After a period, Ariella got an apartment in the Martinque, where she heard a little girl had been raped going to throw away garbage in a bin on the stairway landing.

            Eventually, Ariella got a place in Mott Haven, a haven only for garbage-scavenging rats and child-recruiting drug lords.  The high mark for schools in the district was simply retention.

 

What do you do

 

            Ariella tried to combat the influences by taking her boys to museums, concerts, and restaurants. She got a job, but had no car, and came home late via public transportation. 

            Her oldest child, Silvio, 12, became a thief.  When he stole and cashed his mother’s paycheck, she put him in a group home.  He raged against that system without let-up, and pleaded to come home.  Finally, she let him, hoping he’d been chastened.

            He stole his mother’s pager and, when an older boy took it from him, he fought to get it back, and the boy slashed his face multiple times with a box cutter.  Silvio took it as a badge of honor; his hero was Scarface as played by Al Pacino.

            Silvio went train-surfing with his gang, riding atop the cars and playing chicken, for instance sitting up, facing backward as the train moved.  He ducked one bridge, but a second came up quickly, and a girder slammed him in the head and he was killed.  He was 14.

            Ariella felt powerless to counter the effects of slum childhoods.

            Armando, her second son, had been six when they’d become homeless.  He’d registered less of the Martinque’’s depravity.  But Silvio, “the Invincible,” had been his hero, and, though Ariella cut her work hours and came home earlier, she lost control of him.

            He turned 18, was arrested for selling drugs, and went to prison, where he became a heroin addict.  Ariella got him into rehab, but he started drinking.  One night, in a bar fight, a guy he insulted “stabbed him in the arm, cracked his skull, and cut off two of his right fingers.”

            He went back to heroin, and was in and out of prison.  During that time, he got married and had two kids.  On his last trip to prison, he was pulled away from his three-year-old daughter’s birthday party.  That changed him.

            He stayed home and cared for the children while his wife worked a full-time job, and he worked odd jobs.  Still, their income could not prevent their being evicted from rentals on two occasions.

            Ariella’s two youngest boys have fared better.   She got them into less violent and neglectful schools.  The older one is studying to mentor young people before they get into trouble.  The younger is a serious, quiet, and ambitious student.

            Ariella, with support from an Episcopal foundation, organizes an anti-gun and anti-violence campaign, and gives talks.

 

Belly of the beast

 

            I have taken the time to tell a whole story in this review to highlight the dramatic texture of Kozol’s book.

            His first portrait tells of a woman who accepted an invitation from a doctor in a Montana church community to move out there for a new life.  Despite the risk involved in such alienation, Vicky, the mom, thought it better than the killing fields of Mott Haven, to which she had also moved after a stay at the Martinique.

            The re-do was too late for her teenage son Eric.  The mean streets had sabotaged his spirit.

            One day, Vicky got a call from Eric, who sounded scared.  “Mummy, I don’t feel no good.  I need your help.”  She had him come home, and, unfortunately, he came with his delinquent friends.  They went into another room; and after a while, she heard a shot.  He’d killed himself with a shotgun to his head.

            The doctor continues to wonder if he might have gotten through to Eric somehow.  Vicky never recovered; she got sick with pancreatic cancer, moved in with her daughter, Lisette, and her husband near Myrtle Beach, and died there.  Lisette, a mother of four and a , student on the verge of becoming a paralegal in 2009, sees herself as the survivor.

 

The hero’s path

 

            There are many hero stories in “Fire in the Ashes”—agencies and volunteers (Kozol names the Education Action Fund); poor adults and children with amazingly strong and cheerful characters; and mentors, including Kozol, whose last chapter before the epilogue tells about Benjamin, a young man he made his godson.

            Charles Dickens would pale at creating a fiction as degrading as Benjamin’s childhood, and yet, Benjamin pulls through, thanks in large part to Martha Overall, the pastor at St. Ann’s Episcopal Church in the Bronx.  All of Benjamin’s anguish, Martha told Kozol, “intensified his wish to do as much good as he can within this world in the years that God allows us.”

            But the success stories are the rare exceptions, Kozol stresses.  Every child, he insists, should have the resources “now available to children of the poor only on the basis of a careful selectivity or by catching the attention of empathetic people.”

            When Kozol’s spirits flag, he is sometimes uplifted by his former Martinique connections, who keep in touch with him.  A woman named Pineapple reminded him of how he’d advised her about “picking battles that we have a chance to win…and not getting frozen up and flustered in your mind by things that are too big for you and me to change.”

 

BOOK

Fire in the Ashes: Twenty-Five Years among the Poorest Children in America by Jonathan Kozol (Crown hardcover, 2012, 364 pages, $27)

 

LEARN MORE

Visit Jonathan Kozol’s website at JonathanKozol.com.

 

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Wow!  What a powerful book!  Must read.

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