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Rob Neufeld posted discussions
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City Lights Bookstore posted events
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Page to Podium Writers Workshop & Malaprop’s Reading With Author Mel Ryane at Unitarian Universalist Church

April 25, 2015 from 10am to 3pm
The Flatiron Writers are proud to announce an encore presentation of actor Mel Ryane’s popular Page to Podium Workshop, for writers interested in improving their public reading and self-editing skills. See testimonials from past participants here: http://www.melryane.com/p/from-page-to-podium.htmlWhen: 10:00am-3:00pm, Saturday, April 25, 2015Where: Unitarian Universalist Church, 1 Edwin Place, Asheville, NC 28801Cost: $65 per…See More
Thursday
Caralyn Davis posted a blog post

Planet Reasonable: I'm officially an essayist at Killing the Buddha

I now have a blog, Planet Reasonable, at the lovely website Killing the Buddha. My first essay is a wee piece on religious freedom laws. Enjoy, or hate, but thanks for reading: http://killingthebuddha.com/ktblog/stop-casting-religious-freedom-stones/See More
Apr 14
Lockie Hunter posted an event
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West End Poetry and Prose Reading Series April Reading at West End Bakery

April 11, 2015 from 7pm to 9pm
4 fine writers tomorrow (Saturday April 11th) at 7pm at West End Bakery. I'll host and curate. Free event with a mix of prose and poetry and storytelling!http://www.thelaurelofasheville.com/editorial/west-end-poetry-and-prose-reading-series-invites-all-to-experience-local-voices photo credit Leah Shaipro for the LaurelSee More
Apr 10
Lockie Hunter posted a photo
Apr 10
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Interview with Ron Rash, October 28, 2014

Interview with Ron Rash, Oct. 28, 2014by Rob Neufeldon occasion of publication of Something Rich and Strangeedited version published in Asheville Citizen-Times, Nov. 2, 2014full version published on The Read on WNC, Apr. 9, 2015Photo of Ron Rash by Ulf Andersen RN:  My head is now so full of Ron…See More
Apr 9
Laura Hope-Gill posted an event

Asheville Wordfest 2015 at Asheville Lenoir-Rhyne University

May 1, 2015 at 6pm to May 2, 2015 at 9pm
Lenoir-Rhyne University presents Asheville Wordfest at its Asheville campus in downtown Asheville May 1 and 2. In its eighth year, Asheville Wordfest turns its eye on Asheville and invites community members to write about their city. Using the theme “The City Narrative / The Narrative City,” festival director and also director…See More
Apr 8
Rob Neufeld updated their profile
Apr 7
Rose Senehi posted an event

MEET THE CAST OF CHARACTER in DANCING ON ROCKS at LAKE LURE INN, LAKE LURE

April 16, 2015 from 11:30am to 2pm
Rose Senehi with be the guest speaker at a Books and Bites Luncheon about her novel, Dancing on Rocks, which takes place in Chimney Rock. Many of the characters in the book are actual residents of the town and will also be talking about how they contributed to the story. Cost: $25. Half of which goes to the Friends. Call 828-287-6392 for reservations. See More
Apr 7
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Dirty Love by Andre Dubus III

Visiting author Dubus reveals swamp of loveby Rob Neufeld             The title of Andre Dubus III’s book is “Dirty Love,” not “Dirty Sex,” so you have to rethink what is meant by the word, “dirty.”            To do that, you’ve got four novellas with which to explore the lives and hearts of several not-quite-right couples…See More
Apr 5
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Vance Monument and the honoring of African American history

What’s in a monument—a complex viewby Rob NeufeldPHOTO CAPTION: Vance Monument and 6th County Courthouse, c. 1900           History has become a subject of special interest with proposals surrounding the renovation of the Vance monument.           …See More
Apr 4
City Lights Bookstore posted an event

Greening Up The Mountains Poetry Contest Reception at City Lights Bookstore

April 25, 2015 from 1pm to 2pm
The reception for the 2nd annual Greening Up the Mountains Poetry Contest will be at City Lights Bookstore on Saturday, April 25th at 1 p.m. Join us as the winning poets share their poems and collect their prizes.  Students from Jackson County submitted poems that celebrate our mountains and our connection to them in our everyday lives.  The response was wonderful and our judges loved reading what our local students offered. Winners will be announced soon. For any questions please call City…See More
Apr 1
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Mar 31
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Mar 28
Valerie Nieman posted a blog post

Mountain Words, Mountain Music

Appalachian poet, musician, and raconteur Kirk Judd has a new book and CD package out, "My People Was Music." I thought I'd share part of a Goodreads review I did of the book - I think members of The Read would enjoy this.There is no gussying-up here. This is the plain hard rock undergirding Appalachia. This is the sound of water rushing, the clawhammer banjo sound, the crack of a wedge as it splits that cross-grained stump of oak. Kirk Judd has been making poems for a long time, but like a…See More
Mar 27

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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