Lukas brings to life the chaos of Boston s school busing crisis and racial conflict of the 60s and 70s His poignant account contrasts the experiences of three families from different communities poor inner city black, poor inner city Irish, and middle class college educated white Tracing each family s ancestry he illustrates the evolution of each community s values and then shows us how those values guide the families and communities response to the crisis Throughout Lukas digresses to vig Lukas brings to life the chaos of Boston s school busing crisis and racial conflict of the 60s and 70s His poignant account contrasts the experiences of three families from different communities poor inner city black, poor inner city Irish, and middle class college educated white Tracing each family s ancestry he illustrates the evolution of each community s values and then shows us how those values guide the families and communities response to the crisis Throughout Lukas digresses to vignettes of politicians and community leaders Mayor Kevin White, School Board Chairman Louise Day Hicks, Federal Judge Arthur Garrity, Boston Globe Editor Tom Winship, Cardinal Cushing, Cardinal Medeiros andHe also touches on national figures offering little tidbits on Joe and Ted Kennedy, Tip O Neil, John McCormack even George McGovern and Jimmy Carter The vignettes show us how ineffective, incapable and unprepared Boston s leaders were in handling the turmoil.Despite frequent interruptions to profile city leaders, the family stories are compelling We feel and sympathize with each family s hopes and fears We understand their differing perspectives and why their positions make sense even though they conflict with each other In this respect the book is a great accomplishment Unfortunately we are not left with hope rather we are left only with the intractability of the problem of fear and racial conflict The social disparities that had taken centuries to develop were not going to be solved in neat quick strokes Even though well intentioned, outsiders imposing formalistic solutions on the disadvantaged and dysfunctional were not going to achieve results Eventually everyone began to realize this, but there were no answers Today with the turmoil in Ferguson as a fresh reminder, solutions still appear distant Winner ofdifferent awards, this is a story of the busing crisis in Boston This is a masterpiece of a book It is about Boston in the 1970s, though if it had been described to me only as such I m sure I wouldn t have picked it up Instead, it was lent to me by a good friend who recommended it highly.Reading Common Ground felt a lot like watching The Wire, and I can t help but wonder whether David Simon read Lukas book and was influenced by it CG is not as focused on crime per se as is The Wire, but it is a similar and similarly successful attempt to tell the st This is a masterpiece of a book It is about Boston in the 1970s, though if it had been described to me only as such I m sure I wouldn t have picked it up Instead, it was lent to me by a good friend who recommended it highly.Reading Common Ground felt a lot like watching The Wire, and I can t help but wonder whether David Simon read Lukas book and was influenced by it CG is not as focused on crime per se as is The Wire, but it is a similar and similarly successful attempt to tell the story of the city through telling the stories of the characters Lukas does a good job of portraying the Divers, the Twymons, and the McGoffs as relatable and interesting characters, while also subtly showing the ways in which each is acted upon by the larger forces of race, class, politics, the justice system, the educational system, etc I think Lukas intends to tell the story as a classical tragedy in which the city is in some sense the protagonist, and the imposition of busing the tragic flaw or mistake That s not to say that it s a polemical book one of the things that makes it so tragic is that busing was so well intentioned and it s not at all clear if another course of action would have been any better But by the end of the book, bad things that happen to the characters seem basically inevitable Of course, the flaw went even deeper than busing Lukas writes the backstories of the characters as far back as possible, often into the 1800s and 1700s So much of the tension in Boston in the 20th century seems to trace back ultimately to the mass migrations of Irish and of freed slaves The punishments for the crimes of England and the South seem to be visited upon Boston, for the transgression of opening itself to the refugees This is one of the best nonfiction books I ve ever read, and an essential books for anyone interested in the complex ways that race and class play out in American cities and in education Watching David Simon s excellent HBO mini series Show Me a Hero inspired me to pick up Common Ground again, and I m grateful that I did One is about court ordered desegregation of public housing in Yonkers, the other about court ordered busing in Boston What strikes me about both works is the utter intrac This is one of the best nonfiction books I ve ever read, and an essential books for anyone interested in the complex ways that race and class play out in American cities and in education Watching David Simon s excellent HBO mini series Show Me a Hero inspired me to pick up Common Ground again, and I m grateful that I did One is about court ordered desegregation of public housing in Yonkers, the other about court ordered busing in Boston What strikes me about both works is the utter intractability of the law when it imposed desegregation Judge Sand in Yonkers and Garrity in Boston were emphatic that segregation could not stand and did not care in the least that in both cities, the people, the cops, the political will were not caught up.In Common Ground, Lukas is sympathetic with the efforts of the law to bring equality in education, but also understands the cost to white ethnics whose way of life is utterly upended, and to the politicians who have to deal with busing Busing utterly ruins Kevin White, for example, the most tragic figure in the book.Lukas book is written with great empathy towards the families that had to deal with busing, especially the McGoffs and their Irish American friends I have never read a truer examination of the white ethnic communities in urban late 20th century America The roughest part of the book has to do with the Divers, idealistic Harvard grads who want to remake the city as a progressive melting pot, only to be utterly frustrated by the intractable problems of crime I look at my Brooklyn and the mad rush to gentrify and wring he last penny by developers and I truly feel that the Divers dream of a multi racial urban life has become a dream of the past Several years ago, I was asked to give a Common Ground tour to a friend recently, in my current job, I got the assignment of working on a grant at the Charlestown Housing Development so have spent a fair amount of time there It has changed a lot since Lukas wrote the book, serving families from many ethnic backgrounds.The book is compelling It is a very odd experience reading this book as many of the characters in this book are individuals I have he Several years ago, I was asked to give a Common Ground tour to a friend recently, in my current job, I got the assignment of working on a grant at the Charlestown Housing Development so have spent a fair amount of time there It has changed a lot since Lukas wrote the book, serving families from many ethnic backgrounds.The book is compelling It is a very odd experience reading this book as many of the characters in this book are individuals I have heard about my entire life, and my father was interviewed by the author What makes Lukas story compelling is the way he shows the motivation of different factions within Boston, a city divided by race, by neighborhood, and by ambition Sadly, the angriest people in this book would have been better off fighting for better schools than fighting each other s race inspired fears This is a book that I had to read for a college course and I thought it was okay, but it really took a long time to get through and I didn t care that much in the end But when I read it again after college, I realized how great it really is It takes a look at three families one poor black family, one poor Irish family, and one young well off, idealistic Yankee family The book explores how they deal with each other during Boston s bussing crises of the 1970 s Admittedly, there is a LOT of This is a book that I had to read for a college course and I thought it was okay, but it really took a long time to get through and I didn t care that much in the end But when I read it again after college, I realized how great it really is It takes a look at three families one poor black family, one poor Irish family, and one young well off, idealistic Yankee family The book explores how they deal with each other during Boston s bussing crises of the 1970 s Admittedly, there is a LOT of detail given about each family s history, and it can get tiresome, but it s worth it In the end, this book is about racism, classism, gentrification, and sometimes failed idealism If this floats your boat, check it out But be warned it s pretty long My favorite genre is non fiction, though it isn t easy to find a good selection Either the author gets the history right but he she can t write, or the author is a good writer but gets the history wrong Common Ground by J Anthony Lukas, is a Pulitzer Prize winning masterpiece about an event in the 1960 s and 1970 s that nearly brought the great city of Boston, Massachusetts, to its knees It narrates the story of how a well meaning judge decided that the public schools in Boston were de facto My favorite genre is non fiction, though it isn t easy to find a good selection Either the author gets the history right but he she can t write, or the author is a good writer but gets the history wrong Common Ground by J Anthony Lukas, is a Pulitzer Prize winning masterpiece about an event in the 1960 s and 1970 s that nearly brought the great city of Boston, Massachusetts, to its knees It narrates the story of how a well meaning judge decided that the public schools in Boston were de facto segregated, and he ordered that they be integrated immediately The book relates the story of three families and how this decision affected them The Twymon s, an African American family living in Mattapan, were excited by the move,as it might improve the education for their children The schools in Mattapan, a conclave of Boston, were surely inferior to those in some other parts of the city The McGoffs, a white family residing in Charlestown, another part of Boston, viewed the decision as an attempt to change the dynamics of the town and saw the new students scheduled to be bussed of their schools as interlopers Even today, Charlestown is a close knit part of the city where residents refer to each other as Townies Finally, we meet the Divers, well meaning do gooders who move into the battle ground so as not to be seen also as merley do gooders, unaffected by the decision What binds this book together are the wonderful characters and authentic settings, right in the shadow of the Bunker Hill Monument Lukas manages to reach not only into the local politics and lifestyles, but his book extends all the way to Washington and to the Camelot that is the Kennedy legacy Common Ground is a page turner, an authentic look at one of the most tumultuous times in American history If you like non fiction, this is a must read It will change the way you look at both education in America and how politics ofter have nothing to do with what is right This book is hands down the most powerfully resonant book I ve read since college I devoured this book, and was changed by it History is very far from my favorite reading genre But this book was different for me in a number of crucial ways For one thing, it concerns the place I ve come to see as my home, greater Boston So the events of this book take place in places that I actually am familiar with unlike most history texts I can visualize the geography described here, and while reading This book is hands down the most powerfully resonant book I ve read since college I devoured this book, and was changed by it History is very far from my favorite reading genre But this book was different for me in a number of crucial ways For one thing, it concerns the place I ve come to see as my home, greater Boston So the events of this book take place in places that I actually am familiar with unlike most history texts I can visualize the geography described here, and while reading it, I would go out on my bike to check out the specific landmarks that are important in this book.For another thing, this book is written in a muchaccessible style than many other history books Instead of focusing just on broad movements and political changes, Lukas zooms in to focus on three families in Boston, so that you get to see thepersonal side of such earth shaking cultural upheaval But the most powerful reason why this book has affected me so greatly is because nearly all facets of my life today in Boston are defined and still affected by these events That was a unique reading experience as I read, I saw how the world I know especially from my position as a teacher in BPS exists as it does largely because of the events described in this book If you live work in the Boston area, you must read this book If you care about racial ethnic class relations in America, you must read this book If you are an American, you must read this book Forget it, everyone just READ THIS BOOK I lived in Charlestown, Mass for a year many years ago and really enjoyed finally coming to understand that place at least a little bit via this book I also liked learning about how JFK s dad bought him the Pulitzer Prize for Profiles in Courage, which hadn t even been on the recommending panel s longlist prizes are bullshit, exhibit 9,000 Also, the fact that for something like 50 years after the Irish started coming to Boston, Catholic priests weren t allowed inside Boston s hospitals, I lived in Charlestown, Mass for a year many years ago and really enjoyed finally coming to understand that place at least a little bit via this book I also liked learning about how JFK s dad bought him the Pulitzer Prize for Profiles in Courage, which hadn t even been on the recommending panel s longlist prizes are bullshit, exhibit 9,000 Also, the fact that for something like 50 years after the Irish started coming to Boston, Catholic priests weren t allowed inside Boston s hospitals, even to administer last rites which meant that if you were Irish Catholic and deathly ill you probably didn t go to the hospital, for fear you would end up in hell Crazy stuff Beyond that, this book is full of great stories and profiles maybe a little heavy on some of the outlying and ineffective political players I would have liked to have seen some coverage on the white students who were bused into black neighborhoods Seemed like a pretty heavy curtain drawn over that part of the story Also we learned very little about the black political leaders pressing for change other than MLK, who dies at the very start.Anyway in general, just an incredibly powerful book about a terribly depressing planet But it did have a few bright moments I actually went and looked up a couple of the high schoolers on Facebook, to see how they re doing now And some of them now approaching their 60s don t seem like they became actual demons So that s good Encouraging Took me so long to read, because it s 650 pages and teensy text, but well worth it especially for educators working in Boston.