Book Reveiw 8-6
Sunday, April 12, 2009

Cedric Jennings’ story is the true American story.

As the protagonist in the bestseller A Hope in the Unseen, by award-winning journalist, Ron Suskind, Jennings’ story is the story of a number of young Black boys and girls in this country.

It is a story of inspiration. It is a story of perseverance. It is a story of hope, carried in

the hearts, minds and souls of so many people who know what it is like to have the odds against them.

And it is a story – about the rise of someone considered disadvantaged, who overcomes their surroundings and obtains a better life – that at some point will not need to be told anymore.

But for now, at a time when history has been made with the election of the first ever president of color, the book and its title is very much appropriate.

A Hope in the Unseen is the story of Cedric Jennings, a young boy, born and raised in Washington, D.C. The product of a single parent (his mother) home, he is the youngest of three siblings – all of different fathers. He attends Ballou Senior High, a school which at one point produced some of the best and brightest students, but during Jennings’ time the school is ridden with crime. Yet for Jennings, there is hope.

As Barbara Jennings’ youngest, Cedric is one of the top students at Ballou, yet he is not prepared for what is to come in the form of other schools post-high school. At Ballou he is a star, but else where he is out of his league.
We get to know Jennings through Suskind. We celebrate with Jennings as he graduates from Ballou, and even before then when he is accepted into a summer program at MIT. Yet we realize, while we want him to succeed, how unprepared he is for what he has to accomplish after Ballou.

We share Jennings’ joys and pains, cares and concerns, even frustrations and fears. And we learn just how much we, the readers, have in common with Jennings; whether young or old, parents or child. It is not through sympathy, but understanding that we embark on this journey with Jennings, from Ballou to Ivy League Brown University.

I am all too familiar with Jennings’ story. No, I was not born and raised in D.C., but his story is my story. I am my parents’ youngest. And out of my mother’s three – two older girls and myself – I am the first to attend and graduate college. I come from a family of government employees, factory workers, building maids, etc. And I have had to overcome a number of setbacks.

I have felt like I did not fit in. I know what it is like when trying to put together a class schedule during registration – wanting to get the right classes, but at the same time find classes where I am guaranteed to succeed because if I fail then that only proves how out of my league I am. I have found myself frustrated when I thought I had done well, only to receive a grade far from what I thought I earned.

I have been Jennings.

A Hope in the Unseen is 373 pages of the lives of many young people of color. It gives a great view of a timeless world where success is the driving force for survival. And while it is Jennings’ story, it truly is everyone’s story. Whether it is their background, their neighborhood, the trials and tribulations of success, or adjusting to a roommate and their habits, we all have experienced what Jennings is living, right in front of our eyes. It is a great piece of writing, but is more than just a book. It is a guide.


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