Based on a year Kozol spent interviewing the poorest of New York's poor, Amazing Grace unveils the truth about squalid living conditions, gutted educational facilities, crime, disease, and pandemic depression that plague these neighborhoods where the city effectively conceals its underclass, keeping them out of sight and out of mind. Kozol says the crucial questions we should be raising are not those that try to identify the current problems in our society, or the strategies to use in dealing with those problems. Rather, he says we must question the structure of our society - do we want to be one society? Or two? Kozol believes we must deal with the problems inherent in our current societal structure before the problems within it can be addressed or solved. Until that time, he believes that reports, charity, and pilot programs will all be nothing more than pretense. Kozol says, "I don't think this nation will act until its conscience is shaken. Jolted." Kozol takes the reader from the comforts of our experiences to the trials of less fortunate people - a grandmother whose neighbors' children have been attacked by rats, disfigured by fires, humiliated as they seek medical attention. Kozol broadens this argument, asking how slums like the South Bronx could exist after three decades of affirmative action and "consciousness-raising" about racial injustice. He cites convincing statistics on culturally biased school-entrance exams and employment cutbacks that target the urban working class. Forced to turn to the state for assistance, minority families find themselves in a dead-end spiral that lands them permanently in the ghetto. "Subsidized housing" in the South Bronx invariably means a rat-infested tenement straight out of Dickens's London, where the elderly freeze and children plunge to their deaths in elevator shafts. Venturing into the street could mean death by a stray bullet; jobs, for those lucky enough to find them, pay subsistence wages at best.