Archives For Poverty

 

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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“Haiti:
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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“Reimagining
Poverty and Development”

A review of
Relationality

By Claudio Oliver.

Reviewed by Chris Smith.

Relationality
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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A Review of

Thrift Store Saints:
Meeting Jesus 25 Cents At a Time
.
Jane Knuth.
Paperback: Loyola Press, 2010.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Michelle Van Loon.

An eighth-grade math teacher living in Kalamazoo, MI tried stopping by her local St. Vincent de Paul thrift shop in 1995 on a couple of occasions in order to buy a gift for her daughter’s First Communion, but the store’s lights were off and its doors locked each time she attempted to visit. When Jane Knuth finally finds the store open, she grumbles to one of the staffers about her repeated encounters with the shop’s “Closed” sign. Eighty-two year old Dorothy explains that the store’s business hours are limited by the availability of its elderly volunteer staff, and invites Knuth to consider becoming part of the solution by becoming part of the store’s team.

Knuth had been a regular churchgoer, but as she embraced both the ministry of the Vincentians* and the community she found in her Kalamazoo St. Vincent de Paul thrift shop, her faith came alive in ways she never could have dreamed when she first walked into the store fifteen years ago. Thrift Store Saints offers readers 19 short chapters detailing her involvement with the Vincentians rich ministry to “the least of these” in a forgotten corner of Kalamazoo.

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“Journey Into Wholeness”

A Review of
Pilgrimage of a Soul:
Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life

By Phileena Heuertz

Reviewed by Margaret D. McGee.

[ Read an excerpt of this book here… ]

Pilgrimage of a Soul:
Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life
Phileena Heuertz.
Paperback: InterVarsity Press, 2010
Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ]

Pilgrimage of a Soul - Phileena HeuertzChange that ushers in a new way of life begins deep inside. Conceived when personal longings we’ve hardly noticed are touched by a boundless longing too great to be contained, the new way of life needs a period of gestation to grow and knit its parts together. Unfortunately, the old life with its long-established habits looks askance at this unasked-for pregnancy, tries to block the labor, and kicks the cradle every chance it gets. That’s one reason people go on pilgrimage or take a sabbatical far from home: to give incipient change a chance to take root and grow new habits that will bear fruit on the return to “normal life.”

In Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life, Phileena Heuertz reports back on just such a journey. The daughter of a Bible-centered pastor, Heuertz describes growing up in a community where the roles of women in relationships, church, and professional life are viewed as subordinate to the roles of men. By the age of seventeen she knew she wanted to be a missionary. Her vocation found focus at college, where she met her future husband, Chris Heuertz. Inspired by his missionary experience, particularly his time serving with Mother Theresa  at the Home for the Dying in Kolkata (Calcutta), Phileena joined Chris on the core leadership team of Word Made Flesh, “an international community serving Christ among the most vulnerable of the world’s poor” (www.wordmadeflesh.org). In time she also entered into a practice of contemplative prayer and regular retreats which deepened her spiritual life while awakening her “true self”—a self that longed for mutuality rather than subordination in relationship.

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A Review of

292500: Will Jesus Buy Me a Double-Wide? (Cause I Need More Room for My Plasma TV) Will Jesus Buy Me a Double-Wide?
(Cause I Need More Room for My Plasma TV)
By Karen Spears Zacharias

Hardback: Zondervan, 2010.

Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ]

Reviewed by Michelle Van Loon.

Sing it with me: They will know we are Christians by our stuff, success, and status.

Isn’t that how the song goes?

We know the Bible says a whole bunch of uncomfortable stuff about denying oneself, picking up the cross and suffering for the gospel. This message is a hard sell in our culture. (Come to think of it, it’s been a hard sell in most every culture.)  But, here in America as Karen Spears Zacharias notes in Will Jesus Buy Me A Double-Wide?, “…there are a lot of folks prancing around treating the Bible like an algebra book and God like their personal banker. They figure if they can do the equation just right, they’ll earn God’s approval and he’ll hand over the keys to the great vault of heaven. Then the abundant life mentioned in John 10:10 will finally be theirs.”

This greedy thinking is not the sole domain of shiny televangelists, notes Zacharias. It is deeply rooted in churches of all theological stripes and polka dots. She uses her reporter’s skill and her unique, Southern-fried writer’s voice to tell stories, 19 short chapters’ worth. The stories are meant to illustrate both the problems with prosperity thinking and to crank open our imaginations to the “follow Me” life to which Jesus is calling us.

Few of the people Zacharias profiles are famous, unless you count Patricia Barnes, better known as the Sister Schubert of homemade frozen roll renown. Most are people like The Marine, a guy who slowly backed away from his shiny, upwardly-mobile existence in order to live with the homeless in Memphis with the desire to simply provide practical help: sitting with one friend in the hospital ER, hooking up another friend with a pair of steel-toed boots in order to snag a better paying day labor job.

Reflecting on The Marine’s way of life, she writes, “A lot of us want to help the poor on our own terms. We want to give them a house in the burbs and a big-screen plasma TV because we believe that is the American Dream…we treat people like they are paper dolls. We want to paste cut-out clothes and shoes and display them on our refrigerator doors…It never occurs to us that these people aren’t lost. They are just poor.”

Zacharias’ masterful way with a tale does more to whack at the over-inflated piñata of our wrong-headed belief than a theological treatise ever will. We diminish grace by our insistence that our “faithfulness” be rewarded with lovely parting gifts. The book tackles stinkin’ thinkin’ without shaming or hectoring its readers. Instead, Will Jesus Buy Me A Double-Wide? is a thought-provoking – and, dare I say it? – a rich read for anyone who is trying to understand what it means to walk in the way of Jesus.