FIRE IN THE ASHES by Jonathan Kozol
Kirkus Star


Twenty-Five Years Among the Poorest Children in America
Email this review


The award-winning author of Death at an Early Age (1967) tells the stories of the later lives of poor children who grew up in the Bronx.

Kozol (Letters to a Young Teacher, 2007, etc.) has worked with children in inner-city schools for 50 years. In this engaging, illuminating, often moving book, he recounts the lives of poor black and Latino children—many now close friends—who once lived in Manhattan’s Martinique Hotel and were relocated in the late 1980s, upon the closing of that crowded and filthy shelter, to Mott Haven, a poor Bronx neighborhood. As the children grew into young adulthood, Kozol kept in touch with them and their families through visits, emails and phone calls. In a series of intimate portraits, he describes the astonishing odds the children faced and how many managed, with the critical help of mentors and caring others, to achieve successful lives, both in the conventional sense of graduating from college, but above all, by becoming kind and loving human beings. There is Leonardo, recruited by a New England boarding school, where he emerged as a leader; the introspective Jeremy, who befriended a Puerto Rican poet, got through college and took a job at a Mott Haven church that is central to the lives of many; and the buoyant, winning Pineapple, whose Guatemalan parents provide the emotional security of a warm home. “I’m going to give a good life to my children,” says Lisette, 24, after her troubled brother’s suicide. “I have to do it.  I’m the one who made it through.” Some children are still struggling to find their way, writes the author, but they do so with “the earnestness and elemental kindness” that he first saw in them years ago.

Cleareyed, compassionate and hopeful.

Pub Date: Aug. 28th, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4000-5246-2
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2012


NonfictionDIARIES by George Orwell
by George Orwell
NonfictionWINTER JOURNAL by Paul Auster
by Paul Auster
NonfictionAMERICAN EMPIRE by Joshua B. Freeman
by Joshua B. Freeman
NonfictionAFTERMATH by Rachel Cusk
by Rachel Cusk


NonfictionTHE THEFT OF MEMORY by Jonathan Kozol
by Jonathan Kozol
NonfictionLETTERS TO A YOUNG TEACHER by Jonathan Kozol
by Jonathan Kozol
NonfictionTHE SHAME OF THE NATION by Jonathan Kozol
by Jonathan Kozol


NonfictionSO RICH, SO POOR by Peter Edelman
by Peter Edelman
NonfictionHOW CHILDREN SUCCEED by Paul Tough
by Paul Tough
NonfictionTHE CHILDREN IN ROOM E4 by Susan Eaton
by Susan Eaton