The Future of Us

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I confess to having somewhat prematurely judged this book by its cover. It’s dominated by a large photo of the author surrounded by women, holding the hand of one child while carrying another in his arms. Everyone in the photo is a person of color; Dr. Irwin Redlener is white. The image had something of a white-savior quality to it that made me skeptical of its motives. But, of course, I had run afoul of that old chestnut about judging a book by the cover—because that judgment was entirely wrong.

The Future of Us is in reality a deeply moving memoir and call to action. Dr. Redlener has spent decades of his life bringing medical care to the most vulnerable and underserved children in America. Redlener is co-founder of the Children’s Health Fund, an organization devoted to the well-being of America’s neglected children. As Redlener is quick to point out, most Americans don’t fully grasp the brutality of poverty’s effects on American children. Early on, the book offers vignettes of several children Redlener has encountered in his work. Each of these accounts is intensely moving. There are success stories, yes, but there are many more stories of young lives dismantled by poverty. All of the children he encounters have the dreams and promise inherent in every child. Yet, there are other kids just like them who are simultaneously healthy and on their way to college while they’re left behind, often battling chronic, easily treated conditions and struggling to attend classes simply because of the economic situation into which they were born. Because of their economic situation, most will be shuffled endlessly between shelters and foster homes and will receive no consistent healthcare or education. They’ll vanish into a system woefully underfunded and routinely sabotaged by those in power.

The Story of Us documents Redlener’s career, yes, but it also strives to educate the reader on the state of poverty in America and the urgent need to recognize these children and to help them. Redlener’s book attempts to educate in the hope that, once the reader sees the injustice of poverty, they’ll act. They’ll insist government strengthen its institutions devoted to fighting poverty. They’ll insist that lawmakers stop their rhetoric demonizing the poor. They’ll donate to institutions, and they’ll check up on the population of neglected children in their own city to find out how they can help.

Amid rhetoric about the undeservingness of the poor and successful efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, The Future of Us vividly lays out the state of poverty in America and points to the immense injustice that such stark inequality exists in a wealthy, advanced nation. I highly recommend it.

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Star Count /5
Format Hard
Page Count 271 pages
Publisher Columbia University Press
Publish Date 2017-Sep-19
ISBN 9780231177566 Buy this Book
Issue June 2018
Category Biographies & Memoirs


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