9780767901253 / 0767901258

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


Publisher:Broadway, 1998



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About the book:

The inspiring true story of a ferociously determined young man who, armed only with his intellect and his willpower, fights his way out of despair.

At Ballou Senior High, a crime-infested school in Washington, D.C., honor students have learned to keep their heads down.  Among the mere handful of students with a B average or better, some plead to have their names left off the "Wall of Honor" bulletin board; others hide during awards ceremonies; only a few dare to raise their hands in class.  Like most inner-city kids, they know that any special attention in a place this dangerous can make you a target of violence.

But Cedric Jennings, the lanky son of a jailed drug dealer, will not swallow his pride, though each day he struggles to decide who he wants to be.  With unwavering support from his mother, he studies and strives as if his life depends on it--and it does.

The summer after his junior year, at a program for minorities at MIT, he gets a fleeting glimpse of life outside Ballou--an image that burns in his mind afterward and fills him with a longing to live in such a world.  In his senior year, walking a gauntlet of sneers and threats, he achieves a 4.02 grade-point average and then the impossible: acceptance into Brown University, an Ivy League school.

At Brown, finding himself far behind most of the other freshmen in his academic training and his knowledge of broader culture, Cedric must manage a bewildering array of intellectual and social challenges.  Cedric had hoped that at college he would finally find a place to fit in, but he discovers he has little in common with the white students, many of whom come from privileged backgrounds and party hard while acing tests.

Even the middle-class blacks have trouble understanding Cedric, a straight-arrow church kid from the ghetto who seems like an obvious product of affirmative action.  As he struggles to master classwork and think like a scholar, he realizes that faith alone can take him only so far.  Having traveled too far to turn back, Cedric is left to rely on his intelligence and his determination to keep alive his hope in the unseen--a future of acceptance and reward that he struggles, each day, to envision.

Ron Suskind first wrote about Cedric Jennings in a pair of articles for the Wall Street Journal, which later won the Pulitzer Prize.  Now, having spent three years at Cedric's side, Suskind delivers a triumphant coming-of-age odyssey that includes us all.  Eye-opening, sometimes humorous, and often deeply moving, A Hope in the Unseen weaves a crucial new thread into the rich and ongoing narrative of the American experience.

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