ESKIMOS, CHICANOS, INDIANS, Vol. IV PRIVILEGED ONES: The Well-Off and the Rich in America, Vol. V by
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ESKIMOS, CHICANOS, INDIANS, Vol. IV PRIVILEGED ONES: The Well-Off and the Rich in America, Vol. V

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In these two concluding volumes of Children of Crisis, Coles continues his examination of how children respond to social stress: again among the poor--Eskimos, Chicanos, Hopi and Pueblo Indians--and, in strikingly different territory, among the rich. Coles has been exceedingly prolific since Vol. I (on southern school integration) appeared in 1967--more than twenty books, not all to wholehearted critical commendation. But in the Children of Crisis series, he demonstrates a singular ability to evoke children's worlds in their own terms--their perceptions and confusions and developing moral structures. Like Vol. II (Migrants, Mountaineers, and Sharecroppers, 1972), Vol. IV represents three distinct groups whose histories reflect varying degrees of social oppression: Eskimo culture, more eclipsed than invidiously overrun, although the snowmobile is a compelling symbol; Indian ways, still callously misunderstood and trammeled by ignorant bureaucrats; and the Chicano dilemma--a choice between abject poverty in Mexico and racist subsistence across the border. Coles consistently avoids simplification or romanticism, allowing the children to articulate their own forming opinions, suggesting tone or facial gesture or parallels to past statements, using their artwork to corroborate personal and larger themes. Privileged Ones presents different hurdles. Coles writes in the tradition of James Agee and Dorothy Day; he acknowledges his own resistances and distastes, and represents this alien culture of Lego sets and trust funds with the same tuned ear and search for emerging values. The rich grow up with a sense of ""entitlement,"" expectations of success and abundance, seemingly countless options--virtually every interest can be pursued. But growing up wealthy does have its own anxieties and sadnesses and numbing social realizations: a sudden, enforced distancing from household employees or a TV news story or the daily sight of workers in the family fields often triggers a pattern of responses--an uneasy awareness of ""position,"" a press to understand the parameters of impoverishment and privilege, occasional parental support for generous impulses but most often a stifling of social responsiveness and an engineered acceptance of the idea of superiority. Coles never allows what might sound smug or obtuse to pass without recognition of its context--a necessary intervention--and in the final chapters he underscores some few contrasts between rich and poor. As in the earlier volumes, he is impatient with--even dismissive of--analysis, of anything echoing the inadequate ""solutions"" of the past or recent present. But his work remains a sobering, wholly accomplished documentation of how children struggle to adjust their reflexes to social realities.

Pub Date: Jan. 12th, 1977
ISBN: 316-15162-9
Publisher: Atlantic/Little, Brown