Born Bright: A Young Girl's Journey from Nothing to Something in America

C. Nicole Mason (Me First) is "both the subject and the authority on the matter" of poverty as a black woman who grew up poor in Los Angeles and got a full scholarship to Howard University. A common view of the poor is that they are "lazy, infantile, morally corrupt, and in need of direction and supervision"; individual responsibility is what will save them. But for most people born into poverty, escaping it "is like winning the lottery." Mason is now a poverty scholar and advocate. "I am a winner no matter which side of the aisle you occupy. Yet I do not feel like a winner." She spent years wondering how she managed to get out when her equally gifted and industrious peers did not. Her intimate memories and scholarly expertise illuminate and empower this vivid memoir.

Mason had a chaotic, often violent and hungry childhood in which school became her main source of stability and self-worth. She was always moving, usually with a drug dealing adult or two in the house and the constant presence of fear and death. She writes with love, cooled anger and empathetic resignation about her beautiful, determined and sometimes violent teenage mother; her father who dealt drugs because he couldn't find consistent legitimate work; her kind, generous grandparents and aunt; her siblings, classmates and teachers. Mason's breadth of personal and academic knowledge makes her a rare and valuable voice in the poverty policy debates, and this heartfelt memoir will have broad appeal. --Sara Catterall

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