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Julia Nunnally Duncan posted an event

Julia Nunnally Duncan at The MACA building

October 11, 2014 from 9:30am to 1pm
Julia Nunnally Duncan will be a featured author at the McDowell Arts Council Association (MACA) booth at the Mountain Glory Festival in downtown Marion on Saturday, October 11. Julia will sign her books from 9:30-1 p.m. The MACA booth is located outside the MACA building at 50 South Main Street, Marion.See More
Wednesday
Lockie Hunter posted an event
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West End Poetry and Prose Reading series at West End Bakery

September 13, 2014 from 7pm to 9pm
Join us at West End Bakery for our 1st FREE Fall reading of 2014. This will be a marvelous family-friendly evening of prose, poetry, and storytelling featuring your favorite local Asheville writers. The lineup includes:  Tom Chalmers  Caleb Beissert  Beth Keefauver  Kim Winter…See More
Sep 13
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

The Story of Land and Sea by Katy Simpson Smith

Wounded hearts, changed minds in 18th century Beaufortby Rob Neufeldpublished in the Asheville Citizen-Times, Sept. 14, 2014             As a symbol of hope—or hopelessness—or accommodation (it depends on the story line), there’s nothing like the intelligent woman marooned on a patriarchal, slave-owning Southern…See More
Sep 12
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Sep 11
Sharyn McCrumb updated their profile
Sep 10
Sharyn McCrumb posted an event
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Sharyn McCrumb's Novel "Nora Bonesteel's Christmas Past" at Belk Library, Appalachian State University, Boone NC

October 6, 2014 from 6pm to 8pm
 Scripture cake, book signings, and the real Nora Bonesteel herself. On Oct. 6, ASU in Boone is hosting the book launch for "Nora Bonesteel's Christmas Past" (Abingdon, Oct., 2014) with a program of storytelling, featuring author Sharyn McCrumb and storyteller Charlotte Ross, the inspiration for the character of Nora.See More
Sep 10
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Sep 9
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

What will make you go to a history museum?

What attracts you to history museums?I've posted three history exhibits that are currently up in the area--one on the hillbilly stereotype; one of photographs of child labor; and one on African-American education in the area (see news)--and it made me wonder:What would make you go see an exhibit in a history museum?This information would be of GREAT HELP to curators.Here…See More
Sep 9
Spellbound posted an event
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Weekly Story Time at Spellbound Children's Bookshop

September 13, 2014 from 11am to 11:30am
Free weekly story time for ages 3 to 7 (or thereabouts) every Saturday morning 11-11:30amSee More
Sep 6
Spellbound updated their profile
Sep 6
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Sep 2
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Sep 2
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Aug 31
City Lights Bookstore posted an event
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Jenny Bennett Returns with a New Novel at City Lights Bookstore

September 5, 2014 from 6:30pm to 8pm
Sylva author, Jenny Bennett, returns to City Lights Bookstore on Friday, September 5th at 6:30 p.m. with her second book, The Twelve Streams of LeConte. The main character of the book lives in Sylva and there are scenes set in downtown, the library and even City Lights Bookstore. Anne Woodrow is on honeymoon in Scotland when fate gives her a slap in the face: right then and there, her new husband falls in love with another woman. Injured and grieving, she returns home alone and conceives of a…See More
Aug 27
Renea Winchester posted an event
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Farming, Friends and Fried Bologna Sandwiches at Available at all bookstores

September 1, 2014 all day
Mercer University is pleased to announce the release of Farming, Friends and Fried Bologna Sandwiches, by North Carolina's own Renea Winchester. This is the second in the Farmer Billy series and Winchester's third book. See More
Aug 26
Doris Anne Beaulieu posted a blog post

Kids Love For Animals

Kids Love For Animals ( Poem )Children’s favorite shows are of animals I have hours in a playlist that are laughable Like a camera pecking rooster and fun monkeysTo a mom and a baby miniature donkeysVideos of wild turkeys and charming geese Ducks in water and chicks learning to speak Dazzling ostrich and many free birdsSome you would not want to move towardsA large unique animal is the alligator The total opposite of the caterpillar Camels and alpacas are tall and exquisiteBut they spit at you…See More
Aug 26

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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