A Hope in the Unseen

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Cedric Jennings is poor, black, and attends a troubled inner-city high school in Washington, D.C. He has been moved from apartment to apartment for as long as he can remember, whenever his single, working mother has been unable to pay the bills. His estranged father is in prison. His one wish: to go to college—not just any college, but an Ivy League school.

A HOPE IN THE UNSEEN: AN AMERICAN ODYSSEY FROM THE INNER CITY TO THE IVY LEAGUE is based on a two-part series for the WALL STREET JOURNAL for which author Ron Suskind was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Feature Writing in 1995. For the book, Suskind spent three years recording Cedric’s journey from crime-infested Ballou Senior High, where academic excellence is a curse rather than a blessing, to Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. The story does not end with Cedric’s acceptance into college, however, but continues over his freshman year, as he struggles to keep up with his more academically advanced and economically advantaged classmates, as he clashes with his white upper-middle-class roommate, and as he tries to reconcile his past and his present in order to determine his future.

Suskind does an excellent job of portraying Cedric; although Cedric works hard and is very dedicated, he is also proud and has a quick temper. While Cedric’s background may be foreign to most readers, his struggles on both an academic and a personal level strike a universal chord. A HOPE IN THE UNSEEN is inspiring, poignant, entertaining, and sobering.