Book review: Invisible Child by Andrea Elliott

Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival & Hope in an American City by Andrea Elliott

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was recommended to me by a mentor of mine, and I am so glad she made the recommendation. The author, who is a reporter at the New York Times, follows one family and, in particular, one girl in the family, as the family navigates being on the bottom rung of the socioeconomic scale. The daughter who is profiled is mentored by various adults along the way, is admitted into the Hershey School–a school designed to help poor children by providing them with educational opportunities–and then, sadly, returns to NYC without completing her education at the school. The author illustrates with sensitivity and understanding many of the obstacles the poor have in navigating life and the system, even when given opportunities to break out of the poverty cycle. Sub-optimal choices are made more understandable and, overall, by profiling this specific girl and her family, the book is a powerful depiction of the systemic and psychological obstacles that are placed in the way of individuals to move upward socioeconomically.
That being said, I do have one major criticism: not surprisingly as a NYT reporter, the author has her political biases. Those biases in themselves need not detract from the story, but she felt it necessary to indulge in criticism of political leaders throughout the book. The book would have been even more powerful had the author been content to limit her criticism to the limitations and obstacles of the system that is designed to help the poor but often hinders the poor’s ability to create a better life for themselves. Her description of the bureaucratic and life obstacles to performing even simple tasks (such as getting to school on time) are immensely powerful. Criticism of NYC’s political leaders just comes across as gratuitous and petty and detracts from the emotional resonance of the story.
Despite this limitation (and the author is not subtle, so the criticisms are easy to spot), the book is a powerful statement on the limitations of government intervention (although perhaps not in the way the author intended) and the limitations constraining society’s most vulnerable. It’s definitely a worthwhile read.

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Christmas in Hawaii 2023 (dedicated to “Mommy and the Troops”)

I wouldn’t call spending Christmas in Honolulu a tradition for us, exactly, but it is certainly lovely when the calendar for the 4 of us align and make it possible. And so it was thisyear, when we spent 11 glorious days in paradise, enjoying the sun, ocean, and surf.

The theme for this year’s stay in Hawaii was that all good things were dedicated to “Mommy and the troops.” (Don’t ask because I don’t have a good explanation.)

It was amusing when the hotel staff continually apologized for the poor weather we had to suffer through. (And by “suffer through,” I mean cloudy days with occasional rain and in the low 70s. Terrible for December. :)) Although I am forced to admit that there was one morning when the rain was coming down pretty hard. Three of us were already in the water surfing, so getting wet was a somewhat irrelevant issue.

Highlights included surfing lessons (always!), walks around Diamondhead, family time, and great food. The island aloha vibe is real and welcoming. And the Pacific Ocean (especially when it’s warm) makes all other oceans look inferior.

Jim and Jade tied for Mario Party champion, but every championship won by any member of the family was dedicated to me and the troops. Such an honor!

This is a short post because anything I can say about the loveliness of Hawaii I have already said in previous posts. So I will leave you with an assortment of photos of Christmas and of Christmas in Hawaii.

We hope you all had a wonderful holiday season!! Belated best wishes for the New Year!!

surfing on Christmas morning
Christmas Eve brunch