How and why do some disadvantaged American families manage to stay together and become self-reliant despite the grip of overwhelming poverty?
"I have wandered the nether world of poverty for the past thirty years," writes Stephen Shames in his introduction to this book. "I wondered why do some poor children turn out fine while others fail so miserably. Isn't there something we can do as individuals, as neighbors, and as a nation to help poor children succeed?"
Working for three years with the Chicago-based Family Resource Coalition, Shames, a noted documentary photographer, visited community programs in culturally diverse areas from Maine to Hawaii to record how community-based programs help families achieve financial and emotional stability.
Here are inspirational stories, in the families' own words, about rebuilding strong relationships between husband and wife, parent and child, neighbor and neighborhood. One of the many examples in the book is a young father working with the Avance Family Support and Education Program in San Antonio: "I used to get mad and scream...Spank [the children] without even stopping and thinking about it. And then Avance showed me about this five-minute time out. You know, take a break and then come back....I learned how to communicate with my wife without getting mad and stomping around the house...Avance did a lot for us by making us realize that no goal is greater than what we feel towards each other and what we want to do later in the future."
Pursuing the Dream is about successful and often daring community-based family support programs across America that enable families and their children to overcome devastating cycles of poverty, drugs, and violence. These are uplifting stories, in the families' own words, about recapturing love, achieving financial stability, and building supportive neighborhoods. Included is a statement from the Chicago Bulls on their commitment to community centers for the whole family.
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Stephen Shames is a socially concerned, award-winning photographer whose pictures have appeared in Newsweek, US News and World Report, Life, The New York Times, and other major magazines and newspapers. For his work on child poverty, Shames has received the Kodak Crystal Eagle award for excellence in journalism, the Leica Medal of Excellence in Journalism, and awards from the National Press Photographer's Association, the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Foundation, and the International Center of Photography. He is author of the acclaimed Outside the Dream: Child Poverty in America, published by Aperture in 1991, now in its third printing, and founder of the Outside the Dream Foundation. Mr. Shames lives in New York City.
Roger Rosenblatt is a contributing essayist for Time and the New Republic and is a regular essayist on the News-Hour with Jim Lehrer on PBS. During his long career in journalism, Rosenblatt has won numerous honors, including two George Polk Awards, and Overseas Press Club and the American Bar Association awards, and an Emmy. Author of a number of books and plays, his latest book is The Man in the Water, a collection of his writings. Mr. Rosenblatt lives in New York City with his wife and children.
Kathy Goetz Wolf is director of publications for the Chicago-based Family Resource Coalition, a national membership, consulting, and advocacy organization that has been advancing the movement to strengthen and support families since 1981. A former magazine journalist, she has worked with and has written extensively about community-based family support programs. Ms. Goetz lives in Chicago with her husband.
"Stephen Shames has created the perfect follow-up to his landmark book Outside the Dream: Child Poverty in America. His photos sensitively capture the children and families being helped to succeed by hundreds of committed individuals in communities across the country. This special book is for everyone who has ever asked, "What can we do to help?" Pursuing the Dream beautifully portrays the essence of what works and why, and challenges us all to do more-- now."--Marian Wright Edelman, President of the Children's Defense Fund
"Stephen Shames has captured the spirit of thousands of programs across our country that are quietly but stubbornly making the lives of children and families better in spite of the bleak circumstances in which they live. The faces in his photographs show us what can happen inside a child's heart when a caring person reaches out to him. This book can inspire all of us to seek out the many opportunities already available in our own communities to make a difference in the lives of others."--President Jimmy Carter
"What helps children and their families succeed? With his roving camera, Stephen Shames has documented some practical answers to this question in this timely and instructive book. The youngsters whose hopeful faces stare back at us from these pages are living proof of the difference that a healthy start, a safe place, a caring adult, and a chance to learn and grow can make in the life of a troubled child."--General Colin L. Powell
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