In this powerful book, Arthur Levine (president of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation) and coauthor Laura Scheiber revisit the South Bronx, where Levine grew up in the 1960s, and compare his experiences with those of a group of teenagers coming of age in the same neighborhood nearly 40 years later. Shaken by the violent death of Leo Disla, one of the young men in the group, Levine and Scheiber explore what happened to Leo and how society failed him. In this compelling account, we meet Leo's family and friends and learn about his hopes and fears. We witness the devastating effects of poverty and racism: low-wage, dead-end jobs; inadequate housing; high crime rates; appalling schools; violence; drugs; a broken legal system; prison; and underage funerals.
The authors not only tell Arthur's and Leo's stories, but struggle to explain why their lives were so starkly different. They focus on the new social realities that have shaped Levine's old neighborhood, and they conclude with the lessons that must be learned if we are to help today's disenfranchised children and restore to them the American Dream of a "better, richer, and happier life."
Arthur Levine is president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation and president emeritus of Teachers College, Columbia University. Laura Scheiber is a Ph.D. candidate in Comparative and International Education at Teachers College, Columbia University.