Before I get into the more important aspects of this book, I don’t want to neglect how well-written it is, how careful Moore is with his research, how grounded he stays in the concrete, how careful he is about moralizing or generalizing, how smoothly he glides between 1st and 3rd person, how he knows when to stop each section and the whole book.
Moore took advantage of a remarkable coincidence. At the same time as he was finding his way in the world, his namesake was finding his way into prison. So he went to meet with his counterpart, he sought the answer we’d all like to know: what makes a difference in a child’s life? In his Epilogue and Afterword, Moore reports that this question came to the forefront as the reaction to his book came back to him. People pointed to familiar and important factors – mentors (like Baltimore mayor Kurt Schmoke – willing to carry as he climbed), families, education, the military – and Moore acknowledges all of these (though I think he overlooks travel). In the end, though, he explains that he thinks it is “the decisive power of information and stories” (182, emphasis in the original) that makes the difference. To this end, he provides a substantial resource guide at the end of the book (and, in general, makes a better argument for non-fiction than any Common Core advocate ever has).
When a book is called inspiring, it is easy for me to be skeptical, if not cynical. But when Moore describes his observations and insights in South Africa and explains the term ubuntu, I was truly moved.