Cover image for Growing up poor : a literary anthology
Growing up poor : a literary anthology
Coles, Robert.
Publication Information:
New York : New Press : Distributed by W.W. Norton & Co., [2001]

Physical Description:
xxiv, 279 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS509.P63 G76 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



A multicultural anthology of writing on poverty--including stories, essays, poetry, and biographical excerpts--features the work of Sherman Alexie, Dorothy Allison, Raymond Carver, Ralph Ellison, Langston Hughes, and William Carlos Williams.

Author Notes

Robert Coles is a child psychiatrist, Pultizer Prize-winning author, and professor at Harvard Medical School. A recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, he lives in Concord, Massachusett
Randy Testa has taught literature and medical ethics at Harvard University and Dartmouth Medical School
Michael Coles is a writer and photographer and has taught and coached inner-city children

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

As a new administration prepares to implement "compassionate conservatism," urging that "faith-based organizations" know better than government how to help the nation's poor and imperiled people, three valuable studies offer other perspectives. Award-winning journalist Bernstein--who is now with the New York Times but was with New York Newsday when she took up the Wilder case--supplies the most devastating critique of this "new" social service philosophy. Like Dickens' Jarndyce v. Jarndyce, Wilder moved through the New York state courts for nearly three decades. A 1972 class action lawsuit filed by the state Civil Liberties Union, Wilder challenged delegation of responsibility for care of abused and neglected children to private agencies. Most New York agencies were Catholic or Jewish and were permitted by law to give preference to children of their own faith, condemning the mostly Protestant African American children who dominated the system to overcrowded, underfunded state institutions. Bernstein blends legal history and public policy history with the tragic story of Shirley Wilder, the case's "name" plaintiff. A timely reminder that good intentions and religious beliefs don't always solve social problems. Coles and Cottle assemble eloquent descriptions, from very different sources, of how it feels to be poor or "in peril." Coles and his associates turn to literature for their testimony about the recognition of poverty, the experience of denigration, the visceral reality of working long hours for miserable pay, and the rare but precious "moments of resolve and resiliency." Their contributors include Langston Hughes and William Carlos Williams, Sandra Cisneros and Sherman Alexie, Dorothy Allison and Sylvia Watanabe, Zora Neale Hurston and Raymond Carver, and Ralph Ellison and Richard Ford. The subjects of Boston University sociologist Cottle's narratives don't have equally familiar names, but many readers will relate to their experiences. Cottle uses the "life study" or "story sociology" technique that he has developed over the decades to examine individuals' experience of being "at risk" --of health problems, within the family, in school, and in society at large. Children and senior citizens, those who need help and those who provide it, offer their stories. In his introduction and afterword, Cottle explores the links between peril and injustice, and discusses the methodological issues raised by his approach. --Mary Carroll

Publisher's Weekly Review

Stories, poems, essays and even a mock IQ test are included in Growing Up Poor, a worthwhile and varied anthology edited by Robert Coles, Randy Testa and Michael Coles. Its wide range of contributors includes icons of the past and present from Zora Neale Hurston and Ralph Ellison to Dorothy Allison and Richard Ford as well as a New York City high school student, the first female Navajo surgeon in the U.S. and three teens incarcerated in California detention facilities. It aims "to bring readers closer to understanding... a group so readily turned into a `they' in a world of shrill materialism," and hits its mark. ( Mar. 1) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Adult/High School-This anthology of stories, poems, essays, and excerpts from longer works offers cross-cultural commentary about growing up in poverty in the American land of plenty. The selections represent in part a "who's who" of 20th-century ethnic American writers, from Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston to Sandra Cisneros, Gary Soto, and Cathy Song. Lesser-known writers are also included. Sylvia Watanabe writes about growing up in the small villages around Maui's sugar plantations, and Andrew Lam writes from his own experiences as a Vietnamese refugee. Still other selections come from young people currently living in poverty in New York or behind bars in California detention centers. Short biographical sketches of the writers precede the selections and provide a framework for understanding their perspective. This is a powerful collection of experiences, insights, and emotions. Within these pages, the poor speak with a simplicity and eloquence that touch the soul. The book provides excellent selections to accompany American history and literature courses. In addition, the entries will provide powerful oral presentations as well as thought-provoking introductions to class discussions and debate.-Becky Ferrall, Stonewall Jackson High School, Manassas, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Randy TestaRobert ColesLangston HughesWilliam Carlos WilliamsBetty SmithSandra CisnerosJesse Hill FordRalph EllisonMax MoranDorothy AllisonDanielle JosephLove Shiloh and Young Tay B2Sherman AlexieGary SotoRobert ColesRichard FordCathy SongLorna Dee CervantesGary SotoLuis J. RodriguezRaymond CarverZora Neale HurstonDean TorresMildred TaylorSylvia WatanabeLori Arviso Alvord, M.D.Robert ColesAndrew Lam
Prefacep. xi
Introductionp. xv
Part 1 To Come Into a World Like This One
Mother to Sonp. 3
From White Mulep. 5
From A Tree Grows in Brooklynp. 15
From The House on Mango Streetp. 25
Big Boyp. 37
From Invisible Manp. 51
No Way Outp. 69
Part 2 They, Those People Over There
A Question of Classp. 75
Who Will Speak for Lizzy?p. 87
From City Kids, City Teachersp. 93
From The Beat Withinp. 99
Indian Educationp. 105
Mother and Daughterp. 115
From Children of Crisis: A Study of Courage and Fearp. 123
Optimistsp. 137
Part 3 I Took My Place, Bent My Head and Went to Work
The Grammar of Silkp. 159
Cannery Town in Augustp. 163
Field Poemp. 165
Night Shift at St. Regisp. 167
Photograph of My Father in His Twenty-second Yearp. 175
Part 4 Take a Stand on High Ground
From Their Eyes Were Watching Godp. 179
Doing What It Takes to Survivep. 193
From Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cryp. 201
The Ghost of Fred Astairep. 215
Full Circlep. 235
From Children of Crisis: Migrants, Sharecroppers, Mountaineersp. 257
Show and Tellp. 263
Permissionsp. 277