(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Jonathan Kozol is a critical observer of the contemporary scene after the manner of Charles Dickens as well as a skilled polemicist in the tradition of Victor Hugo or Lincoln Steffens. He begins his study with a statistical analysis of the problem of the homeless in the United States, focusing on New York City, then clothes the facts of the case by examining the daily lives of homeless people. In the process, he gives a voice to those who must cope with what has been termed the “culture of poverty” and thereby attempts to demolish, or at least seriously undermine, the myths which stand in the way of any alleviation of this tragic situation.

In his first work, DEATH AT AN EARLY AGE, Kozol charged the Boston School Committee and the system they administer with nothing less than “spiritual and psychological murder.” In RACHEL AND HER CHILDREN, he discovers that the same indictment may be made with respect to the system which deals with those who find, in most cases through no fault of their own, that they no longer can secure an independent existence for themselves or their children. As the unsettling case studies unfold, the reader is disturbed by the seemingly indifferent and unreasonable bureaucracy often faced by the homeless.

Some may believe that Kozol’s solution to the problem is a bit simplistic--that the problem of the homeless in America results simply from a lack of affordable housing seems to obvious--yet his recitation of the facts is...

(The entire section is 467 words.)