This book by John Strazzbosco posits a parallel to Fitzgerald, but approaches it from the perspective of the poor, or, more specifically, an examination of poverty itself. Are the poor, especially the generational poor and the children raised in that culture of poverty, different from you and me - beyond simply not having as much money? If that is the sole point of differentiation then the solution to poverty is direct and straightforward, albeit difficult to put into effect: provide those living in poverty more money, or make more jobs available so that those caught in poverty can work for a wage that will move them much further up the economic ladder.
To say that this book speaks only about a wide range of effects caused by generational poverty might be misleading. To arrive at the list of ninety impacts that the book discusses, Strazzabosco tells how he participated in a local group seeking to address racism and poverty in Rochester city schools. The group met for weeks, writing down the varied impacts that racism and poverty had on school kids. Strazzabosco made notes from all the ideas that the group had cited and through subsequent research found many additional factors - specifically the hidden physiological influences a culture of poverty has on children. He found that the impacts range from enlarged amygdalae (the part of the brain involved in emotional responses, especially fear) in newborn children of mothers living in poverty to a dominating focus on survival mechanism in an uncertain and often threatening environment. For the reader just to consider the myriads of burdens of growing up in generational poverty is overwhelming. The value of doing so is to begin to understand how heavy and unrelenting those burdens are for those living life weighed down by such constraints.
Understanding dawns, however, not solely through the more clinical description of poverty's effects. Even more arresting for the reader are the life stories Strazzabosco tells of the students he has mentored: the moms he has helped deal with the panoply of challenges they faced as they tried to raise their kids; the families struggling to make a productive, fulfilling life. If these stories do not break your heart, at least they will free you from any stereotypes that may distort your feelings about poverty afflicting a specific type of person.
(Thomas McFadden - Forward from Ninety Feet Under, What Poverty Does to People)
“This book should be read and then shared with others who care. This book shows us the enormity of the problem and if we care, we will find ways to alleviate the harm.”
Suzanne Olson – Rochester, NY
MS Child Development Wayne State University
"This book addresses an important and complex societal issue in terms that any reader can comprehend. In providing the “Ninety Steps,” the author has given us something concrete to relate to as well as a place to begin the much needed conversation about poverty.
John’s choice to tell his story in the first person pulls the reader into his narrative, leading us into the lives of real people, while also giving us access to some pretty heavy scientific facts. The scientific analysis of the impact of poverty on the human brain is shocking; when John demonstrates these effects on the real people he’s introduced us to, the facts are depressingly undeniable. This is an important book for teachers, preachers, social workers - anyone interested in changing the lives of those in poverty!"
I just finished Ninety Feet Under by John Strazzabosco. This is a well-written and insightful treatise on the conditions surrounding generational poverty. As a retired educator, I must say, that I wish I had had the insights about poverty and, in particular generational poverty, presented in Ninety Feet Under while I was still teaching. There are so many situations I would have handled differently, had I known the intricacies surrounding this condition.
Through his hands-on contact with impoverished people and, his academic research, Strazzabosco has been able to hone in on the extreme number of obstacles involved in overcoming generational poverty – ninety, to be exact. The book provides the reader with eye opening, cogent information on those suffering this relentless tragedy. Armed with this information, individuals who are able to help poverty stricken people can do so with much more wisdom and compassion.
Guy R. Brown