9781400052479_p0_v3_s260x420Reviewed by Poppy Johnson

Jonathan Kozol has frequented poor urban neighborhoods in the U.S and writes candidly about his experiences with the children and their families in Fire in the Ashes: Twenty-Five Years Among the Poorest Children in America. He explains how he went to New York City in 1985, and saw homeless families who were sheltered in formerly opulent hotels such as the Martinique Hotel. The Martinique held 1,400 children and 400 adults, and it was one of the largest “shelters” of its kind at the time. It was not a conventional shelter (the way we imagine them today), but rather a makeshift stopover with no services, few necessities, and a den for marauding drug dealers and thieves. But somehow, the children came out of this squalor and were able to make better lives for themselves and their families, and the author was able to follow up with many of these stories to tell the reader how the families have moved on but also, how they have found a way to move up in life.

Each chapter describes the families, children, successes and failures of people observed in a system that was unable to properly care for them in times of crisis. Over time, many improvements were made for these families, but they still lived on the fringes of society with no real way to pull themselves up quickly to a better position. Their status changed slowly over years, and the readers will be happy to know many children became productive adults.

Kozol was able to keep track of several of the children and families and he even tried advocating for the families with authorities to help improve their living conditions. Kozol was an angel and friend to many people during the years he spend doing his research, and many good things happened as a result of his involvement in these families’ lives, and vice versa. This book is recommended for any age level.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

After a decade of working in several NYC law departments and teaching, Poppy decided she enjoyed writing full-time. She currently works as a freelance writing consultant, and lives with her husband and sons on the East Coast.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Crown. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.