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Suggested Books

Dr. Martin C. FergusDr. Martin C. Fergus of Fordham University suggests that the following books would be of particular interest to all who are seeking a deeper understanding of the root causes of hunger and poverty.

World Hunger: Twelve Myths

by Frances Moore Lappe, Joseph Collins and Peter Rosset with Luis Esparza, Grove Press, New York, Second Edition, 1998.

One of the best introductions to the issue of world hunger currently available. Provides an invaluable corrective to easy assumptions made by some that hunger is due to scarcity of food, natural disasters or overpopulation. Reveals serious limitations to commonly proposed solutions to the hunger problem such as Green Revolution technology, introduction of market institutions and expansion of international trade. The analysis is nuanced, compelling and marked by rich, informative detail. Argues that the root cause of hunger is found in the anti-democratic structures that exist from the village level to the level of international institutions.

Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger: Moving from Affluence to Generosity

by Ronald J. Sider, Word Publishing, 20th Anniversary Revision, 1997.

Introduces the poverty issue by contrasting the lifestyle of the world’s hungry with that of the affluent minority. Subsequent parts of the book explore Biblical perspectives on the poor and possessions, the causes of poverty, and strategies for implementing solutions to the poverty problem. Throughout the book there is an emphasis on personal lifestyle choices, building communities of caring within churches, and the need for structural change and greater social justice. Noteworthy for its moral reflection, economic and social analysis, and practical suggestions for action.

Let Them Eat Ketchup! The Politics of Poverty and Inequality

by Sheila Collins, Monthly Review Press, 1996.

This book begins by examining inequality in the United States, arguing that that the persistence of poverty must be understood in the context of gender, race and class. After examining the politics of setting the poverty level in the United States, the book turns to an analysis of research that has been done on the causes of poverty. This is followed by an overview of government anti-poverty programs from the New Deal of Franklin Roosevelt through welfare reform during the Clinton Administration. The final section of the book suggests that the new globalized economy makes things more difficult for working people and briefly explains how the nation can change course. A key argument is that some members of society benefit from the presence of a class of poor people and change requires mass-based political activity.

No Shame in My Game: The Working Poor in the Inner City

by Katherine S. Newman, Vintage Books and Russell Sage Foundation, New York, 2000.

This book provides a corrective to undue stress by both policy makers and academics in the 1990s on the issue of welfare reform, focusing instead on an oft-neglected group in the United States, the working poor. Primary attention is paid to workers in fast food restaurants in Harlem, who are introduced in the beginning of the book through a series of vignettes. Attention is also given to national statistics on the working poor and reasons why such workers are trapped in poverty. The book concludes with an examination of various approaches for assisting the working poor to escape from poverty. Attention throughout the book is less on the characteristics of those living in poverty, the primary focus of the 1990s analysts, and more on the circumstances that limit opportunities for the working poor, including poor schools, racism and the scarcity of jobs paying a living wage.

Storm Signals: Structural Adjustment and Development Alternatives in the Caribbean

by Kathy McAfee, South End Press in Association with Oxfam America, Boston, 1991.

While focusing on just one region, the book’s findings about the impacts of U.S. foreign aid, free trade, and International Monetary Fund structural adjustment loans clearly have relevance for countries throughout the developing world. So too does McAfee’s discussion of alternatives to the standard, top-down model of development and her emphasis on the unique role that can be played in successful poverty reduction by Nongovernmental Organizations, including both indigenous NGOs and NGOs from developed countries. Her outline of a self-reliant, holistic development strategy is both instructive and refreshing.

Reasons for Hope: Instructive Experiences in Rural Development

edited by Anirudh Krishna, Norman Uphoff and Milton J. Esman, Kumarian Press, West Hartford, Connecticut, 1997.

The majority of poor people in developing countries live in rural areas, so any solution to the poverty problem must include rural development. Further, poor people possess the capacity to work their own way out of poverty if provided the opportunity to do so. This book provides a series of case studies detailing such rural development in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Among the chapters is one on the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh written by bank founder Muhammad Yunus. While the case studies are sometimes technical, they are accessible and provide an excellent introduction to the complexities of real world solutions to the poverty problem. One lesson that emerges clearly is that successful rural development requires changes from below, often referred to as grassroots development, not just change directed from above.

The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time

by Jeffrey D. Sachs, the Penguin Press, New York, 2005.

Drawing upon the author’s experiences as a consultant to a number of developing countries and his role as special adviser to the Secretary General on the UN Millennium Development Goals, this book makes the case that it is possible to end extreme poverty in the world by the year 2025. It provides vivid illustrations of the human impact of poverty in developing countries, especially in Africa, examines some of the reasons nations suffer from hunger and poverty, lays out a technique — ” clinical economics — for diagnosing the specific barriers each nation faces, prescribes policies and programs for successfully addressing the problem of extreme poverty, and presents a plea for action based both on morality and self-interest. An excellent overview of some of the current thinking on poverty-focused foreign aid.

Other books of interest suggested by members of our Advisory Board.

African Women: Three Generations

by Mark Mathabane, Harper Collins, New York, 1994.

In African Women, the author tells deeply moving, often shocking, but ultimately inspiring stories of his grandmother, mother, and sister. Coping with abuse, gambling, drunkenness, and infidelity from the men they love or have been forced to marry, all three women defy African tradition, and the poverty and violence of life in a modern urban society, to make fulfilling lives for themselves and those they love in the belly of the apartheid beast in South Africa. “The stories of Florah, Geli, and Granny are told in their own words in alternating chapters that demonstrate how similar are the problems faced by each generation: all three women discover the need for an independent income; all three are the victims of the traditional assumption that women are property; all three suffer from the terrible hardship imposed not only on women but also on black men by the system of apartheid in South Africa.

Fast Food Nation

by Eric Schlosser, Houghton Mifflin Co.

Fast food has hastened the malling of our landscape, widened the chasm between rich and poor, fueled an epidemic of obesity and propelled American cultural imperialism abroad. That’s a lengthy list of charges, but Eric Schlosser makes them stick in his debut book, an artful mix of first-rate reportage, wry wit, and careful reasoning. Schlosser documents the effects of fast food on America’s economy, its youth culture, and allied industries, such as meatpacking, that serve this vast food production empire. The coming together of so many diverse social, scientific, and economic trends in a single industry makes this book a relevant, compelling read and a cautionary tale of the many risks generated by this ubiquitous industry. Judged BEST BOOK by WHY’s Harry Chapin Media Awards 2001.

Generation Fix: Young Ideas for a Better World

by Elizabeth Rusch, Beyond Worlds Publishing.

Written for kids ages 8 to 18, Generation Fix tells the inspiring stories of more than 15 young people who saw a problem in their community and did something about it. These are ordinary kids who have done extraordinary things: They have collected more than 5,000 boxes of cereal for food pantries, recycled 30,000 gallons of oil, raised a quarter of a million dollars to buy school supplies for needy kids, invented a sensor to better control acid rain, and marched with picket signs to stop violence. One even rode a lawnmower across the country to raise awareness of organ donation.

If the World Were a Village: A Book about the World’s People

by David J. Smith

Kids Can Press tells us who we are, where we live, how fast we are growing, what languages we speak, what religions we practice, and more. David Smith has shrunk the globe to create a powerful new lesson in geography for both children and adults.

Nickle and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America

by Barbara Ehrenreich

Metropolitan Books reveals low-wage America in all its tenacity, anxiety, and surprising generosity–a land of Big Boxes, fast food, and a thousand desperate stratagems for survival. A rare view of how “prosperity” looks from the bottom.

Rethinking Globalization: Teaching For Justice In An Unjust World,

edited by Bill Bigelow and Bob Peterson

Rethinking Schools Press alerts readers to the challenges we face–and also spotlights the enormous courage and creativity of people working to set things right. This essential resource includes role plays, interviews, poetry, stories, background readings, hands-on teaching tools, and much more.

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down A Hmong Child, “Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures”

by Anne Fadiman, Noonday Press, a division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, NY, 1997 (Reviewed by Ellen Meyers).

The first half of the title of Anne Fadiman’s “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down — A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures” refers to epilepsy in the language of the Hmong. The central individual in this meticulously researched and beautifully written book is the beloved young epileptic daughter of a Hmong refugee family. In the weaving of Lia Lee’s story, the author also describes the history of the Hmong, leading up to their role as counter insurgents in the War in Vietnam and their subsequent emigration to the United States. It’s the story of a people who against all odds struggle to retain their cultural values and traditions. The tragic clash of cultures in the treatment of Lia’s epilepsy exemplifies the chasm between Eastern and Western medicine. At the back of the book is a Reader’s Guide, including questions and subjects for discussion. (Thought-provoking questions for the classroom) The book won the National Book Critics Circle Award.


by Sylvia Ashton-Warner Simon & Schuster, Inc., NY, 1963.

Teacher was first published in 1963 to excited acclaim. Its author, who lived in New Zealand and spent many years teaching Maori children, found that Maoris taught according to British methods were not learning to read. She devised a method whereby written words became prized possessions for her students. Today her findings are strikingly relevant to the teaching of socially disadvantaged and non-English-speaking students. Teacher is part diary, part inspired description of Ashton-Warner’s teaching method in action. Her fiercely loved children come alive individually, as do the unique setting and the character of this extraordinary woman.

This Organic Life

by Joan Dye Gussow.

In a book author Michael Pollan has called “one part memoir, one part manual, one part manifesto,” Joan Dye Gussow, internationally known nutrition educator has written a series of lively stories about her 25 year search for a way to eat sustainably in a culture dedicated to consuming the world. This Organic Life is a funny, impassioned, food-growing memoir about lessons learned while the author tried to prove-by-doing that she could live on locally-produced food in the cold northeast. Best-selling novelist Barbara Kingsolver has called her new book, This Organic Life ” one of the most important books I’ve read in a long time.” Joan Gussow is a member of the KIDS Advisory Board.

Beyond Heroes and Holidays: A Practical Guide to K-12 Anti-Racist, Multicultural Education and Staff Development,

edited by Enid Lee, Deborah Menkart and Margo Okazawa-Rey published by Teaching For Change.

Following are excerpts from the review of David Stone (Ohio State University) in Democracy and Education Fall 1998… “Beyond Heroes and Holidays is a find. It offers insight into how the traditional American educational system perpetuates racism in all curricular areas, It provides a rich array of resources, models and strategies for promoting multicultural education. And it can be used by all teachers-new as well as experienced, K-12 as well as university-level. This book is for anyone who has either wondered or been asked, ‘How can I incorporate multicultural education into my classroom?'”

Beyond Heroes and Holidays may be ordered for $35 plus shipping from Teaching for Change, PO Box 73038, Washington, DC 20056, or from their website

Healthy Foods From Healthy Soils

by Elizabeth Patten and Kathy Lyons invites teachers and their students (k-6) to discover where food comes from, how our bodies use food, and what happens to food waste. They will participate in the ecological cycle of food production, compost formation, recycling back to the soil, while helping children understand how their food choices affect not only their own health, but farmers, the environment, and your local community.

This guide uses simple concepts and fun activities to show children “the big picture” of food-how quality soil is the basis of nutritious foods, and how eating a variety of wholesome foods leads to healthy bodies. This resource enhances existing curricula through methods that include writing, art, scientific investigation, music, and puppetry. Inspiring, experiential lessons encourage you to adapt the program to your needs, small scale or large, urban or rural.

This guide is a good introduction to Finding Solutions To Hunger: Kids Can Make A Difference.