Cover Image: Live to See the Day

Live to See the Day

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Member Reviews

An eye opening punch in the gut/wake up call for the rest of us who aren't familiar with the day to day struggles that so many grow up knowing. This is a portrait of Kensington, Philadelphia and follows along with 3 Puerto Rican children as they come of age in poverty and surrounded by violence and turmoil. How do we help-how can we help? This book explores this and more.

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Nikhil Goyal's "Live to See the Day" centers around three teenagers who grow up in Kensington, a marginalized community in the northern part of Philadelphia. Mass incarceration, substandard housing, poverty, and urban blight are just a few of the themes that are part of the painful reality of the lives of many Philadelphia, especially its young people. Goyal does a great job using Emmanuel, Giancarlos, and Ryan's experiences in Philadelphia's chronically underfunded schools as a cause for and effect of poverty. Too many students who live in poverty have heard that they aren't doing well because they don't care, but the abuses of poverty that underscore every facet of the lives of these three teenagers and what they do to obtain a high school education discredits all negative assumptions. I liked how Goyal takes the narratives a step further by providing a history of the rise and fall of Philadelphia's industrial sector and uses other sources to show the conditions that have created lives filled with much hardship. This is a really good read and is especially relevant if you are a Philadelphian.

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In 1983 we moved from Kensington to Olney, from a church parsonage to our own home. Just a year and a half before, my husband had accepted a two-point charge in Kensington; one church was situated at Front and Allegheny, the dividing line where the white neighborhood began, and the other at Kip and Cambria, nestled in the three-story rowhouses built to house textile workers a century before, including Stetson Hats and Quaker lace, long closed.

The first thing the teenagers taught us was the code of the street was “don’t get mad, get even.” Many of the young adults were unemployed, living with their parents even after becoming parents. They hung out at corners under the streetlights at night, and greeted my husband with “Hello, Father,” as he returned home from evening meetings. They kept an eye out for the elderly in the ‘hood.

Every corner had a bar or a corner store. An empty warehouse loomed behind the house, which was teeming with cockroaches and mice. Homeless people slept in our old VW Beetle housed in an unlocked garage off the alley. We heard that police escorted teachers into the school across the street.

My husband had arrived already burned out. He left the parish ministry and we bought a house in Olney. It was a post-war rowhouse on a street with houses still occupied by the original WWII refugee owners, black couples including policemen and nurses, Hispanic couples, and one rental filled with students from the school of optometry a block away.

To the west and south were poor black communities, and to the north an upscale area that had seen better days. We could walk to the train station or the last subway stop in a few minutes.

We lived there for seven years, watching it turn into Koreatown with bilingual street signs. When our son was born. I couldn’t let him play in the park because of the broken glass all over the ground. The local kids come to see him in his stroller, and we watched them break dance on flattened cardboard boxes on the street.

In 1990 my husband left his job in New York City and we returned to Michigan. The long commute and frequent travel had meant he was rarely home and he wanted to be more involved in our son’s life. Plus, things were changing. Crack cocaine had arrived in the city. Twice our dog’s alert thwarted a theft of our car. Houses were being broken into by through the skylight.

There was a time when he couldn’t have imagined living beyond twenty-one, let alone having a well-paying professional job.
from Live to See the Day by Nikal Goyal

When I saw that Live to See the Day was set in Kensington and Olney I had to read it.

The book follows the stories of three North Philadelphia Puerto Rican boys growing up in poverty, with food insecurity, meth addicted parents, and school systems more interested in criminalizing students and ignoring systemic problems than in the welfare of students. And, it traces the generational trauma that warped lives.

We feel compassion for these young people, understanding the towering challenges they face. We feel anger at how they have been marginalized and ignored, and guilty for our complacent ignorance.

Through the stories of these young people, Goyal shows the political reactions to systemic problems that got us to ‘here,’ the ways policies have failed, and the innovate approaches that allowed these boys to succeed.

All they wanted was to finish high school and get the diploma that would allow them an opportunity for a better future.

In other countries, governments support families in need. My Finnish exchange student daughter had lost her job when she married an unemployed teacher, but they had an apartment and food through the state. Here, we break up families and give foster children the support that, if given to their families, would have kept the family intact. Here, children who are not safe at home live on the streets or friend’s couches or in substandard and insecure shelters.

And yes, the book was alive for me because I had been to the places described, although in somewhat better times, but also because it is a masterpiece of narrative nonfiction. Goyal raises important issues and, thankfully, shares an example of approaches that succeed.

Thanks to the publisher for a free book.

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AGH! This was so well done and I'm so thankful to Macmillan Audio, Netgalley, and Nikhil Goyal for granting me advanced audiobook access to this grotesquely horrific depiction of America's impoverished communities, being dealt very little and even less as time goes on. With politicians touting Pro-Life sanctions left and right, it's pretty corrupt given how government and the system it runs couldn't get a rat's ass about children growing up and getting handed around from bandaid fix to another.

I think this was really sad, but also really informative of how things are set up, unfortunately. I think everyone should listen or at least read this book, because it was so profound.

Live to See the Day hits shelves on August 22, 2023.

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It felt like a long news series than a cohesive book. It did not say anything that most people would not know about the tribulations of school and as a teenager. The stories were intertwined by city but each story was not as distinct.

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from Booklist - Sociologist and journalist Goyal follows his 2016 critique of American public school systems, Schools On Trial, with an examination of poverty’s far reaching effects on the lives and education of three Philadelphia students. Kensington, where Emmanuel, Ryan and Giancarlos live, was once a robust Philadelphia industrial neighborhood capable of supporting a middle class. Now one of the poorest areas, its major commerce is the city’s largest open-air illegal drug market. Even before birth, their lives are negatively affected by poor access to health care and food and housing insecurity. Growing up, poverty, violence and instability are hallmarks of all aspects of daily living. The under-resourced neighborhood schools have few tools besides unyielding discipline to ineffectively deal with the effects of the traumatic daily lives of students, and become the first step in the school-to-prison pipeline. Charter schools siphon off funding and will not help students dealing with the issues that plague Emmanuel, Ryan and Giancarlos. An alternative school provides a lifeline that enables them, against terrible odds, to get their high school diplomas. Goyal’s compelling writing and extensive research make this an excellent counterpart to Matthew Desmond’s Poverty, by America, and the works of Jonathan Kozol.

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This was a powerful read but also sad at the state our country is in. While focused on Philadelphia, these issues could be seen in any other major city. The trauma as well as socioeconomic disadvantage was heartbreaking.

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This is a very important read about the state of education and how it affects kids in very low socio-economic homes. I enjoyed getting to really know the boys in this book, and understanding more how generational trauma can impact a family for many decades.

I think this book could've been trimmed down a touch--a tighter edit was needed in my opinion. While I did enjoy the in-depth writing style, there were times when there was just too much unnecessary description. Not everything needed to be spelled out or detailed, especially some of the more mundane details.

Overall, I think this book is a well-written account of how the cards are stacked against so many who were born into certain socioeconomic circumstances. While this book focuses on areas in Philadelphia, this is clearly a national issue.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me an advanced reader copy in exchange for my honest review.

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I picked this up because the sociologist in me needs to know about things like social security payouts, racism, underfunded schools, and just about anything else that affects our society.
This book hit all the spots for me.
I loved how they introduced us to the boys and told us their story, while also introducing us to their parents and communities.
There is a theme of teen pregnancy and jobs that do not pay a living wage, as well as housing that isn't stable. We, as country, know how to fix these things but we opt not to.
I already have three friends in mind I will be recommending this book to.

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