Year 3, Book 50

50. A Hope in the Unseen: An American Odyssey from the Inner City to the Ivy League by Ron Suskind
This book has been on my too read for quite awhile. I don’t know why I never made it a priority to read as it sounds like something right up my alley. I finally decided to pick it up after finding out that is the book selection for the One Maryland, One Book program.

The book chronicles the life of Cedric Jennings from partway through his junior year at a terrible high school in Washington D.C. through his freshman year at Brown University. There are also side stories about his mother, a working class single woman who barely makes ends meet and his father, a well educated man but who throws his life away with crime and drugs.

The book is inspiring and heartbreaking. It really hits home how a diploma from a poor, failing, inner city high school is just not the same thing as a diploma from a better off school. Despite the fact that he graduates, Cedric is at nowhere near the level of his peers at Brown. It made me think of the documentary I just watched on HBO a few weeks ago called Hard Times at Douglas High that chronicled a year at Douglas High in Baltimore. It was obvious at the end of the film that they were just trying to push as many students through as possible and doing everything they could to allow them to graduate even though most of those kids came nowhere near leaving school with a respectable high school education.

It also made me think about the cultural literacy that we often take for granted. Not only was Cedric behind academically he was also behind culturally in that many of the references we take for granted he didn’t understand at all. During one class at Brown the professor made a reference to Ellis Island that Cedric did not understand at all because he had never heard of Ellis Island before.

The whole thing is just very frustrating and anger inducing. Kids should not be “learning” in institutions that aren’t really teaching them anything. And students who do have the drive to succeed shouldn’t be punished for wanting something better.

I give the book a 9 out of 10.

4 thoughts on “Year 3, Book 50

  1. Sounds great!

    This was on my “to read” list that I recently created as well – nice to read your review to keep it there. As it is, the list has grown a LOT, but I am finding time . . slowly 🙂

  2. Good Book

    That is a good book. I read it back when it came out and really thought it was well done.


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