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A Hope in the Unseen: An American Odyssey from the Inner City to the Ivy League [Paperback]

Ron Suskind
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (99 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 4 1999
It is 1993, and Cedric Jennings is a bright and ferociously determined honor student at Ballou, a high school in one of Washington D.C.’s most dangerous neighborhoods, where the dropout rate is well into double digits and just 80 students out of more than 1,350 boast an average of B or better. At Ballou, Cedric has almost no friends. He eats lunch in a classroom most days, plowing through the extra work he has asked for, knowing that he’s really competing with kids from other, harder schools. Cedric Jennings’s driving ambition–which is fully supported by his forceful mother–is to attend a top-flight college.

In September 1995, after years of near superhuman dedication, he realizes that ambition when he begins as a freshman at Brown University. In this updated edition, A Hope in the Unseen chronicles Cedric’s odyssey during his last two years of high school, follows him through his difficult first year at Brown, and now tells the story of his subsequent successes in college and the world of work.

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From Amazon

Ron Suskind won the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing in 1995 for his stories on Cedric Jennings, a talented black teenager struggling to succeed in one of the worst public high schools in Washington, D.C. Suskind has expanded those features into a full-length nonfiction narrative, following Jennings beyond his high-school graduation to Brown University, and in the tradition of Leon Dash's Rosa Lee and Alex Kotlowitz's There Are No Children Here, delivers a compelling story on the struggles of inner-city life in modern America. While it appears to have a happy ending (with Jennings earning a B average in his sophomore year), A Hope in the Unseen is not without a few caveats (at times, Jennings feels profoundly alienated from his white peers). Trite as it may sound to say, this book teaches a lesson about the virtue of perseverance, and it's definitely worth reading. --John J. Miller --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

YA-Cedric Jennings is the illegitimate son of an off-and-on drug dealer/ex-con and a hardworking, badly paid mother; it is her single-minded vision to have the boy escape the mean ghetto streets unscathed. Cedric has listened to her and is, as the book opens, an A student at a run-down, dispirited Washington, DC, high school, where he treads a thin line between being tagged a nerd and being beaten by gang leaders. Suskind, a Wall Street Journal reporter, follows the African-American youth through his last two years of high school and freshman year at Brown University. Inspirational sermons at a Pentecostal church, guidance from his mother, a love of black music and singing, and a refuge in the logic of math combine with the young man's determination and faith in the future to keep him focused on his goal of a topflight college education. Despite many low moments and setbacks, Jennings's story is one of triumph within both cultures, black and white, which together and separately put tremendous obstacles in his path out of the inner city. It is a privilege and an inspiration for readers to accompany Cedric on part of his long, difficult journey to maturity. His journey continues at this moment, since he is now a senior at Brown this fall. YAs of any background will be introduced to new worlds here.
Judy McAloon, Potomac Library, Prince William County, VA
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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A hip-hop tune bursts forth from the six-foot-high amplifiers, prompting the shoulder-snug slopes of black teenagers to sway and pivot in their bleacher seats. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A story of persistence over struggles and triumph! March 15 2004
When I picked up this book, I didn't know what I'd think of it. It's not the normal kind of book I read, but as this month's book club selection, I gave it a chance. And I was quite impressed.
I thoroughly enjoyed the story of Cedric. Coming from middle-class white suburbia, but not far from Detroit, I was familiar of the struggle for inner-city kids to strive, but not with their perceptions of it. This book opened up my eyes to some realities and feelings, I never had thought about before. For instance, how it's not only very difficult to get a good education or good grades in the inner city, but how you're ostracized by your peers for trying.
This is a story of how Cedric ignored the taunting of fellow students, how he earned a chance at the Ivy league and then we learn the struggle doesn't stop there. For a boy who was salutatorian at his high school, his education level is still far below most of those in the Ivy leagues. The story is about his efforts to make the grade, fit in at school and become comfortable in his own skin. Just reading about his obstacles made me tired for him!
I enjoyed the book, especially how we did get to see the world by more than just Cedric's eyes, but also by his mothers, his fathers and friends. I think this gave the story a pick-me-up when otherwise it would have gotten boring. To anyone who is interested in this topic, I'd recommend this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Beauty found in Hope in the Unseen March 9 2004
While flipping channels one day on my TV, I stumbles upon a writer doing a reading of his Pulitzer Prize winning book entitled Hope in the Unseen. Moments later the main character from the book, Cedric himself, stepped to the mic and took questions about the experience, and the book itself. I was riveted! This was facinating! I ran out and got the book, and was literally swept away by the story, the strength, and the bitter sweetness of the struggle illustrated so well. This book was a profound experience for me. Not only does the author use words in the most beautiful manner, but the story is so unashamed in it's stark compassion and truth. There were so many parts of this book that brought tears to my eyes. I felt privilaged to catch a glimpse of the vulnerability of this courageous, flawed, strong, optimistic young man. This book gave me hope for all young people out in the world facing seemingly insurmountable odds. I wanted to stand up and cheer at the end, I felt like this kid was going to be better than "OK", that he was going to have a richly rewarding life because he wasn't afraid to push himself along his journey. Every teen in school should be required to read this book, and every adult should read it so that we can change the attitudes in this world one family at a time.
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A Hope in the Unseen tells the story of Cedric Jennings, a lower income black student who is stuck in a terrible neighborhood in Washington DC. Cedric strives to work hard in high school in hopes that he will find some way out of the "ghetto" lifestyle that has suffacated some many of his friends and family. Cedric's dream comes true when he is accepted into Brown University, but it comes with a cost. At Brown, Cedric has to deal with classes that he feels unprepared for, and feels alienated from the mostly white, upperclass student body at Brown. But Cedric is surely not a quiter. It is uplifting to see Cedric's personal story of success unfold page after page. At the end of the book, it seems that Cedric has come to terms with Brown Unversity, his religious beliefs, and most importantly, himself.
A few other reviewers have mentioned that Cedric's story is not particulary exceptional. This belief arises from the still quite controversial issue of affirmative action-like practices that effect acceptance to several colleges and universities around the country. Cedric has stellar high school grades and extra-curricular activies, but this would normally not be enough to grant acceptance into an Ivy League school for a white student with the same qualifications. The main issue addressed is that Cedric's SAT score of only about 960 would immediately disqualify him from Brown if he were white.
Personally, I have mixed feelings about this issue. Truthfully, this topic disturbed me when I applied to college. I knew several students that had worse GPAs and SAT/ACT scores than I, but still got into better schools. Most people didn't mention it much, but most people believed that the only reason why they got accepted was because they were black.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Read Of Great Importance June 23 2003
This book is the antidote to the drive-by, dishonest reporting of a Jason Blair, Janet Cooke, or Mike Barnicle that has so discredited the journalist as social observer. Ron Susskind has written an exhaustively researched and lyrically powerful book of great breadth and subtle profundity. After four years of at least intermittent research, he has captured the internal essence and the external behavior of a cast of at least twelve different characters, the most important of whom is our hero, Cedrick Jennings, but which also includes his mother, his preacher, his father, and some of his friends and acquaintances at Ballou High School and then at Brown. Just the description of Jennings' afternoon with Justice Clarence Thomas or his interactions with the sixties radical Bernadine Dohrn and her son Zayd are worth the price of the book! More important, though, is Susskind's graphic description of the devastating chasm which separates the black ghetto kid and his world from that of the privileged Ivy League, a chasm which affirmative action only belatedly and inadequately begins to address.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
A great book! I read it cover to cover in a day, it was compelling. You feel like you're part of Cedric's story.
Published on May 24 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Crossing the line of diversity
Get ready for an all nighter...this book is extremely captivating! As you've probably read through the editorial reviews, it is the story of an African American young man in his... Read more
Published on March 8 2004
1.0 out of 5 stars What a JOKE!
Save your money, but more importantly SAVE YOUR TIME!
I would have rather gone to the doctor for a proctology exam! Read more
Published on Jan. 12 2004 by Charles Morrison
5.0 out of 5 stars Bad journalism
This truly is terrible journalism. For one, Ron Suskind never even alludes to the fact that he was following Cedric around through all these experiences and sitting in the corner... Read more
Published on July 17 2003 by Mikey Likey
4.0 out of 5 stars Civics book review
This book is about a young man named Cedric Jenings, who was striving for success. The book is non-fiction. Read more
Published on March 17 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful story, but misses the big picture
This book is well deserving of its Pulitzer Prize. The story is compelling, having you on the edge of your seat rooting for Cedric to 'make-it' in the world. Read more
Published on Jan. 21 2003 by Jeremy D. Penn
4.0 out of 5 stars An Important Book
I have just finished this book for work, where we were considering it for a text to use with all people (students, faculty, and staff) in our college community. Read more
Published on Dec 11 2002 by Martha E. Nelson
4.0 out of 5 stars The Overwhelming Deficits Created By Poverty
This is a beautiful story of one of the gems of the inner city, fighting against all odds to earn an education of value in an environment devoid of resources, both financial and... Read more
Published on Oct. 11 2002 by William Cala
5.0 out of 5 stars A good read for anyone
I actually just gor back from a presentation given by Ron Suskind for one of my classes at college. This novel was one of the better books I have been forced to read in school. Read more
Published on Oct. 10 2002 by zo
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