Growing up Poor: A Literary Anthology share button
Robert Coles
Format Paperback
Dimensions 5.54 (w) x 8.18 (h) x 0.81 (d)
Pages 304
Publisher New Press, The
Publication Date June 2002
ISBN 9781565847446
Book ISBN 10 156584744X
About Book
A searingly candid look at growing up "without," edited by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the Children of Crisis series. In a land of seemingly endless plenty, Growing Up Poor offers a startling and beautiful collection of stories, poems, and essays about growing up without. Searing in their candor, understated, and often unexpectedly moving, the selections range from a young girl's story of coming of age in the slums of New York at the turn of the twentieth century and a southern family's struggles during the Depression, to contemporary stories of urban and rural poverty by some of our foremost authors. Divided into four thematically organized sections (on the material circumstances of poverty, denigration at the hands of others, the working poor, and moments of resolve and resiliency), the book mixes the work of experienced authors—many of whom write autobiographically about poverty they have experienced first-hand—with the work of students and other contemporary writers. Edited and with an introduction by Pulitzer Prize-winning child psychiatrist Robert Coles, Growing Up Poor gives eloquent voice to those judged not by who they are, but by what they lack.

Contributors include:

Sherman Alexie
Dorothy Allison
Raymond Carver
Sandra Cisneros
Ralph Ellison
Richard Ford
Langston Hughes
Zora Neale Hurston
Luis Rodriguez
Betty Smith
Gary Soto
Mildred Taylor
Sylvia Watanabe
William Carlos Williams


Chicago Tribune

[R]emarkable moments of determination and resolve experienced by some wonderful authors.

Marian Wright Edelman

A remarkable selection.

Time Out New York

[C]ontributors to this volume speak in crisp, clear voices that demand—and deserve—to be heard.

Voice of Youth Advocates

A stirring and accurate portrayal.

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly

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) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.


For anyone interested in reading about real America, this book offers glimpses of what life is like at the low end of the economic spectrum. Though most of the excerpts are fictional, they are fiction based strongly in the reality of life for America's poorest citizens, and they ring as true as the biographical writings. From young to old, these voices illuminate the shadowy lives of our most marginal citizens, and show to readers pictures that are disturbing to anyone with a heart. Through prose and poetry, we see through the eyes of poor Hispanic children living in rough places and rural Appalachian children whose lives are just as tough, and hear black voices who show us not only poverty but ignorance, prejudice, and injustice. We hear from adults who have triumphed over many obstacles to become successful adults; we also hear from and about those who have been overcome by the obstacles, and defeated by the injustices that society heaps on the poor. We are saddened by the young voices who express much despair and little hope and by the older voices who look back on troubled lives filled with unsuccessful attempts to overcome the stigma of being poor. We read about the unheard pleas of foster children, losing out to a system that doesn't work for them and is sometimes fatal to their humanity. There are Native American voices, white, black and Hispanic voices, and gay voices. There are male and female voices, old and young voices. It is historical and it is current. This collection will move the heart of anyone who reads it, for it shows just how much our society is failing a great number of our citizens. It is especially heart-wrenching to see what our children must endure. For students(and adults) who want to make a difference in the world and don't know where the problems are that need attention, this is an eye-opening book. For any readers who care about our society and our world, this is a must-read. Even though parts are fictional, this book should be part of every sociology class, social issues class, American history class, or current events class. This book provides an excellent portrait of a part of America that is often ignored. Category: Collections. KLIATT Codes: SA*—Exceptional book, recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2001, Norton, The New Press, 279p., , Mifflintown, PA


This collection of short stories, essays, and poetry illustrates the daily struggle to survive faced by many Americans. Betty Smith, Sandra Cisneros, Ralph Ellison, and Mildred Taylor as well as the young, strong voices of Young Tay B2 and Danielle Joseph create a stirring and accurate portrayal of the trials the poor must endure in America. The term "growing up" accurately describes the works included in this book. Childhood is an innocent word that fails to describe the life of Francie in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, of Frank in The Optimists, or of Little Man in Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry. Francie learns that people talk about her in her presence without realizing that she can understand their insults. Frank sees his father kill a man with his bare hands. Little Man gets angry because the affluent white kids ride the school bus that intentionally splashes mud on the poorer kids every day as they walk to school. Poverty is often graphic, and so are these works. The editors not only attempt to describe children living in poverty, but they also offer the story of the strong personalities and successful people that have developed from it. Children of the ghetto who have succeeded are described as "the few who make it out." This anthology makes the point that being poor can help a person succeed, not in spite of their difficulties but because of their difficulties. This fact is worth learning not only by those struggling with poverty but also by those who have distanced themselves from it. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P S A/YA (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult and Young Adult). 2001, The New Press, 304p, .Ages 16 to Adult. Reviewer: Leann Niebuhr SOURCE: VOYA, June 2001 (Vol. 24, No. 2)

School Library Journal

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 Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.