Amazing Grace

“Although there are flashes of impatience and sarcasm as she speaks, her comment on these matters, for the most part, are subdued, not openly indignant, and there is a quietness about her words as if she is already looking back upon her life and on New York itself from a considerable distance. Only once in the course of a long evening does she voice something like open anger, and this comes up not in references to the hospital but in speaking of the New York City press.”

This passage from Jonathan Kozol’s novel, Amazing Grace, discusses the mindset of a New York woman, Alice Washington. Alice Washington was a woman who, when diagnosed with AIDs, never lost her courage and strength. Dealing with situations like not receiving quality care from hospitals when she truly needed it or having to raise her son through her illness, Alice Washington always tried to remain positive. In this passage, we see that, although she may have had moments where she felt impatient or discouraged, she never let it control her. I chose this passage because I think that it is admirable that she was able to keep this mindset.


“The city had these murals painted on the walls, she says, not for the people in the neighborhood – because they’re facing the wrong way – but for tourists and commuters. The idea that they mustn’t be upset by knowing too much about the population here. It isn’t enough that these people are sequestered. It’s also important that their presence be disguised or ‘sweetened.’ The city did not repair the buildings so that kids who live around here could, in fact, have pretty rooms like those. Instead, they painted pretty rooms on the facades. It’s an illusion.”

In this passage, Jonathan Kozol discusses his experiences when riding in a taxi on his way to the Bronx. He remembers a woman named Gizelle Luke who showed him paintings on the side of buildings facing the highway. The pictures are of flowers and inside of pretty-looking rooms. When Jonathan asks Gizelle about the paintings, she said that they are not for the residents of the neighborhood, but for the tourists so that they won’t know too much about the city. The part of this quote that stood out to me was the part that says, “It’s an illusion.” This reveals that the purpose of these paintings is to give an illusion of the rooms inside of the buildings, that are not at all what the paintings portray.

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