Thursday, January 20, 2011

Book Review: A Hope in the Unseen

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If you want a compelling page turner, full of trials and triumphs, this is your book. What's more--it's a true story.

More specifically, Ron Suskind's A Hope in the Unseen is the true story of Cedric Jennings'
and low-performing school in inner city Washington D.C. in the 1990s. Suskind started out writing an article about Jennings and some of his classmates in a Wall Street Journal article when he was in high school, and eventually developed it into a book. The story spans a four year period: his last two years of high school and his first two years of college.

Despite the fact that this book is nonfiction, it reads like a novel. At the end of the book, Suskind gives some insight into the process he used to interview and observe Jennings and the other people in the book.

A Hope in the Unseen was deeply moving for me. It humanizes issues of race, class, and education in a way that I have never experienced before. Jennings was remarkably gifted, but his lack of experiences and exposure to higher academic material put him far behind his peers once he got to Brown. And Cedric had advantages that many others in his situation do not have. His mother was deeply committed to his education. The book doesn't offer solutions to the education problems that many face in this country, but it does illustrate those problems in a very personal way.

I encourage you all to read this powerful book. I've read it twice and I'm still processing. And after you do, check out this story that gives an update on Cedric. He seems to be doing very well.

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