New American Blues by Earl Shorris
A Journey Through Poverty to Democracy

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A startling redefinition of poverty, and a bold proposal for conquering it by clearing the ancient path from the humanities to politics.

The journey begins on the streets of North Lawndale in Chicago, where the author was born in the Depression and where he returns to measure the difference that half a century has wrought in the social and economic life of the 24th Ward, today more than ever a place of the most desperate poverty.

New American Blues takes the reader into the private life of the poor: to Tulsa, where the mother of three little girls awaits the promised return of a man who tried to kill her with a chain saw; to the mountains of Tennessee, where a teenage girl, who lives in an abandoned house with no running water, goes to a movie theater for the first time in her life. Why do the poor have no political life, no public life now? What we discover is that the poor exist inside a surround of force, which prevents them from living the political life at any level: family, neighborhood, community, city, or nation.

Was it ever different? Is there anything to be learned from these haunting vignettes? If the poor could rediscover their lost connection to society in its largest sense, the problem might cease to exist. This possibility, suggested to the author by a woman in a maximum-security prison, is the seed of the brave experiment in true democracy, in real education, that forms the last part of New American Blues.

This is a beautiful and dangerous book. It can change our understanding of what it means to be poor, and also our understanding of what it means to be American.


About Earl Shorris

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Published October 1, 1997 by W. W. Norton & Company. 432 pages
Genres: Business & Economics, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

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Furthermore, Shorris is careful to make the distinction between ``relative'' and ``absolute'' poverty, noting that American poverty is relative because, via the medium of television, poor Americans are able to see their nonimpoverished countrymen.

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Publishers Weekly

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Shorris (Latinos) arranges his book on poverty into two sections, ""Private Life"" and ""Public Life,"" although, as he shows, such distinction is difficult to maintain when discussing the poor.

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