Archives For Poverty


Gwendolyn Brooks

Tomorrow, June 7, is the birthday of the poet Gwendolyn Brooks.  Here are two of my favorite poems of hers:

*** Tomorrow is also the birthday of Nikki Giovanni.
***Read her poem: The Funeral of Martin Luther King, Jr

Two extraordinary African-American women poets both born on the same day!!!

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Close to People Suffering

A Feature Review of

In the Company of the Poor:
Conversations with Dr. Paul Farmer and Fr. Gustavo Gutiérrez

Michael Griffin and Jennie Weiss Black, Editors
Paperback, Orbis Books, 2013
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by James Stambaugh


The official story of liberation theology is that its time has come and gone; that it was a crypto-Marxist movement which fizzled out long ago; a relic of the social upheavals of the 1960s and 70s.

Readers of In the Company of the Poor: Conversations with Dr. Paul Farmer and Fr. Gustavo Gutiérrez must conclude, however, that the official story is wrong.  Liberation theology never fizzled out.  It stands to this day in a tradition that extends back to the teachings of Jesus.  In some ways the book is a tribute to, and a retrospective of the authors’ lives and work, but it also effectively argues for the vitality and relevance of liberation theology today.

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Here are a few new book releases from this week that are worth checking out:

(Where possible, we have also tried to include a review/interview related to the book…)

See a book here that you’d like to review for us?
Contact us, and we’ll talk about the possibility of a review.

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Claire of the Sea Light: A Novel
By Edwidge Danticat

Listen to an NPR interview with the author

*** Other Books by Edwidge Danticat


Love Makes for a Compelling Read

A Feature Review of

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character

Paul Tough

Hardback: HMH Books, 2012.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Joshua Neds-Fox.


With a subtitle like “Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character,” it’s hard not to think that How Children Succeed, Paul Tough’s second book, is being pitched to the politicized market of an election year. The contents, however, are hardly partisan; instead, Tough delivers a highly compassionate exploration of strategies to help impoverished children overcome the limitations of their circumstances. In many ways, this book is a natural followup to Tough’s previous title, “Whatever It Takes,” a profile of Geoffrey Canada and the Harlem Children’s Zone, the ambitious project Tough first chronicled in the pages of the New York Times Sunday Magazine. Canada knew the devastating effects of poverty on personal potential, and he was no longer satisfied to save one in a hundred children from that fate. He wanted to save them all. Whatever It Takes examined Canada’s Herculean effort to cast a net over a handful of city blocks in Harlem, a net so fine that no child in the target zone could possibly slip through. In engineering his project, Canada employed — and Tough explored — a grab bag of scientific and/or data-driven techniques to try to effect change in children.


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An excerpt from journalist Jonathan Kozol’s new book:

Fire in the Ashes: Twenty-Five Years Among the Poorest Children in America

Jonathan Kozol

Hardback: Crown, 2012.
Buy now : [ Amazon ] [ Kindle ]

Publishers Weekly gave this new book a starred review, saying: “Eschewing social science jargon and deploying extraordinary powers of observation and empathy, Kozol crafts dense, novelistic character studies that reveal the interplay between individual personality and the chaos of impoverished circumstances. Like a latter-day Dickens (but without the melodrama), he gives us another powerful indictment of America’s treatment of the poor.”

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“Take a Walk in Their Shoes

A Review of
The Maid’s Daughter:
Living Inside and Outside the American Dream

by Mary Romero

Review by Leslie Starasta.

The Maid’s Daughter:
Living Inside and Outside the American Dream

by Mary Romero.
Hardback: NYU Press, 2011.
Buy now: [ Amazon ] [ Kindle ]

The opening scene of the movie version of The Help asks what it feels like to raise white children when your own children are being raised by someone else.  The Maid’s Daughter: Living Inside and Outside the American Dream examines this question and many others from the viewpoint of the child of domestic workers depicting how one woman of Latina descent traverses the cultural divide between Mexican culture and a privileged white upper class while truly belonging to neither.  Mary Romero, sociology professor at Arizona State University, transforms twenty years of recorded interviews with a woman referred to as “Olivia Sanchez” into a highly readable book which juxtaposes Olivia’s story, as told to Romero, with sociological commentary, research and selected interviews with other children of domestic workers.   This thought provoking study raises many questions to wrestle with on both individual and societal levels

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“Somehow, not only for Christmas”
John Greenleaf Whittier
Born today (Dec. 17 ) in 1807.

Somehow, not only for Christmas,
But all the long year through,
The joy that you give to others,
Is the joy that comes back to you.
And the more you spend in blessing,
The poor and lonely and sad,
The more of your heart’s possessing,
Returns to you glad.


“Fair profits, Fair Interest and Fair Prices

A review of
A Worker Justice Reader:
Essential Writings on Religion and Labor

Reviewed by Stephen Lawson.

A Worker Justice Reader: Essential Writings on Religion and Labor
Readings provided by Interfaith Worker Justice and compiled by Joy Heine
Paperback: Orbis, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Over the past few years, it seems that Evangelical Christians have discovered poverty. Perhaps this discovery is the result of long overdue reflection upon the arguably dualistic core of Evangelical theology–spiritual rebirth. Perhaps, these Evangelicals read Scripture and were shocked to learn that the God who saves their souls is the same as the God who creates. Or, perhaps, in the morass of modern media, they cannot escape the guilt that the physicality of images evokes. (Certainly, this newfound concern with societal justice has its influential detractors–an infamous conspiratorial pundit is a characteristic example of this detraction.)

Now that these Evangelicals know about poverty the question remains as to how it is to be confronted and transformed. There is a desire to do something beyond donning an activist bracelet, emailing form-letters to congress, or changing the color of avatars, but no one seems to be quite sure what that should be.[1] Perhaps this is because poverty is often an ethereal concept–an idea–untouched by the dirt and dust of actual human existence. Poverty as an idea is a clear problem (lack of money and opportunity) with a clear answer is (charity and free market expansion). Not only does this idea label the symptom (lack of money and opportunity) as the underlining cause (lack of justice), it also is entirely abstracted from actual existence. What is needed is for Evangelicals to find concrete, local ways to act.

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Can Something Beautiful
Arise Out of the Rubble?”

A review of
Hidden in the Rubble: A Haitian Pilgrimage
To Compassion and Resurrection.

By Gerard Thomas Straub.

Reviewed by Laretta Benjamin.

Hidden in the Rubble: A Haitian Pilgrimage
To Compassion and Resurrection.

Gerard Thomas Straub.

Paperback: Orbis Books, 2010.

Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Hidden in the Rubble - GT StraubI very much appreciate books of this nature that are written from the center rather than the perimeter.  It’s always easy to make critiques, give judgments and render analysis when you’re in a safe chair on the outside looking in.  Those objective perspectives can sometimes be helpful, but writings that come from the heart of one who is in the middle of the “story” carry with them a certain passion and power.  This is one of those books…informative and thought-provoking and at the same time filled with a real sincerity of heart that easily draws the reader in.  Knowing little about Haiti myself (much to my discredit) except for what I see and hear on the news, the verbal images he paints and the insights he gives are invaluable to those of us who would like to know and understand more about our struggling neighbors to the south.

In his opening pages, the author shares with us an entry out of his journal:

Despite the magnificent natural beauty of Haiti, Haiti is an ugly place because wide-scale suffering is accepted and allowed to flourish.  People are quick to offer an array of historical, social, and political reasons for the poverty, but no one really wants to end it or at least there is no collective will to end it.  The government is corrupt.  The infrastructure is woefully inadequate for the growing population.  Haiti is a dismal place, teeming with anger and rage and broken, empty promises. From my perspective, at least on a purely rational level, the situation in Haiti is virtually hopeless.  No amount of well-intentioned “projects” is going to make a difference.  For things to change, the hearts of people in Haiti and around the world must be broken.  We are all to blame for Haiti.  The only hope I see resides in an understanding of Christ and the demands of the gospel.  And that understanding begins with entering more fully into the mystery of the humility of God. (xx-xxi).

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Poverty and Development”

A review of

By Claudio Oliver.

Reviewed by Chris Smith.

Claudio Oliver.
Pamphlet: Relational Tithe, 2010.

Buy now: [ Relational Tithe ]

Claudio Oliver- RELATIONALITYClaudio Oliver, a pastor and community developer from Curitiba, Brazil stands in a rich tradition of recent Christian social critics that includes Ivan Illich, John McKnight and Jacques Ellul.  Indeed, my very first exposure to Claudio’s work was stumbling upon an online video of him defending his graduate thesis on Ivan Illich, Leo Tolstoy and Paulo Freire (HERE, but be forewarned, it’s in Portuguese).  Oliver’s first English publication, a pamphlet entitled Relationality, has recently been published by Relational Tithe.  This little gem of a pamphlet follows Ivan Illich’s and John McKnight’s critiques of poverty and development (especially Illich’s Toward a History of Needs; read an essay that basically summarizes the book here), but does so in a clear and narrative style that is simple to read and thoroughly engaging.  One of Oliver’s main points here is that “[Poverty] is not fundamentally not the lack of things or of stuff, but rather the lack of friends.  To be poor is to have no friends” (14).

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