A Tale of Two Cities
When Arthur Levine became President of Teachers College in 1994, he went back to visit the neighborhood where he’d grown up, on Creston Avenue in the Bronx. He knocked on the door of his boyhood apartment and met the family living there – including Carlos, the 14-year-old boy who was growing up in his old room.
Out of that visit has emerged Unequal Fortunes: Snapshots from the South Bronx, by Levine (now President of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation) and Laura Scheiber, a current doctoral student at TC. The book, which chronicles the fortunes of Carlos and his two best friends, Leo and Juan Carols, is a meditation on the disparities between the Jewish working class neighborhood of Levine’s youth and the much bleaker world that confronts the mostly Dominican community living there today. All three boys kept journals that they shared with the authors. Yet the project also changed dramatically at mid-stream, when Leo was shot and killed by a police officer in 2005.
"We concluded his story best demonstrated the realities of life on Creston Avenue today,” Levine and Scheiber write in their prologue. “This is a book about changing times and the ways in which the bar for mobility has been profoundly raised. In the more than 40 years since Arthur left Creston Avenue, the United States has shifted from an industrial to an information economy.” Which is why, they conclude, “we believe that education is still the foremost path out of poverty for the poor in America today.”
Levine and Scheiber are scheduled to give a book talk at TC’s Gottesman Libraries on September 14th, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. They will also be guests this afternoon on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” show. A link to the archived recording of the show will appear here tomorrow.
Published Wednesday, Jul. 14, 2010