Elevate Difference

Reviews tagged poverty

The Orphan Rescue

The Orphan Rescue opens in Sosnowiec, Poland in the late spring of 1937 as twelve-year-old Miriam and her grandfather take her younger brother David to an orphanage. Miriam’s grandparents have no other choice. The Depression has been a financially trying time for everyone, and when her locksmith grandfather injures his hand and can no longer work, the family is faced with a difficult decision.

Threads of Hope

I have to admit to watching this film with much trepidation. Too many films and documentaries are dedicated to analyzing the poor state of women’s lives in the developing world, but few dedicate their focus to researching and explicating the systemic inequalities rooted in patriarchy, that exist to reinforce women’s conditions. However, while watching I was determined to keep an open mind and value the work and perspective of a young woman of color, endeavoring to make a difference in the world by documenting women’s lives in Kolkata, India.

Beautiful Thing: Inside the Secret World of Bombay's Dance Bars

Beautiful Thing is an eponymous title. It is journalist Sonia Faleiro's first book, about the dancers and not-so-secret prostitutes of the “dance bars” of suburban Bombay (Mumbai). These now-illegal establishments offered the tripartite pleasures of alcohol, enticing women, and Bollywood music. Their dancers were “bootiful” young girls, sometimes in their initial teenage years, and well aware that their “booty”—pun unintended—is what defines them, and keeps them fed and clothed.

The Company of Heaven: Stories from Haiti

Marilène Phipps-Kettlewell's collection of short stories, The Company of Heaven, is an unkind narrative of Haiti and Haitians. It is unkind in the way one can be unkind when recalling a sibling’s awkward puberty or seeing for the first time, the humiliation of a parent by a stranger in a public place. She is unkind to her Haitians and yet she remains a family member, intimately invested and loyal. It is difficult to like even one of her characters, however, it is even more difficult to look away from them.

Take It From Me

Take It From Me makes an emotional statement even more than a political one. This documentary film chronicles the time period after the passing of the 1996 Personal Responsibility Act, which placed a five-year limit on public assistance. Emily Abt, the producer and director, is a former social caseworker in New York City. She offers us the daily lives of four women who are struggling against great odds to raise themselves and their children up out of poverty.

Muscogee Daughter: My Sojourn to the Miss America Pageant

On the surface, Susan Supernaw’s memoir Muscogee Daughter: My Sojourn to the Miss America Pageant is a story about an unlikely Miss Oklahoma winner and her trip to the 1971 Miss America pageant. The true story, however, is Supernaw’s struggle to escape a childhood marred by extreme poverty and violence and earn the Native American name revealed to her during a near death experience.

Cold Snap: Bulgaria Stories

There is hardly anything more satisfying to read than well-crafted short stories. Cynthia Morrison Phoel’s debut collection of tales from Bulgaria intertwines the stories of several families living in fictional Old Mountain, many sharing a concrete post-Communist apartment building, neighbors in crumbling plaster houses; and often, surviving similar struggles in their attempts to find love and meaning in life and to escape the poverty they have always known.

Homeless: The Motel Kids of Orange County

Orange County, California is known for both wealth and political conservatism. In fact, the most recent American Community Survey reports that the largely Caucasian locale boasts a median household income of $81,260. But as filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi’s latest documentary, Homeless: The Motel Kids of Orange County, demonstrates, more than ten percent of OC residents live below the poverty line.

Entre Nos

Mariana and her children, Gabriel and Andrea, are stranded in New York City. Two weeks after her husband Antonio asked them to leave their native Colombia and join him in Queens after a lengthy separation, he left $50 in an envelope, headed for Miami, and stopped answering his phone. A family friend tells Mariana that he isn’t coming home. Undocumented and completely broke, Mariana tries to sell homemade empanadas on the streets while also accepting random jobs as they come.

The Japanese Wife

Here’s what I can muster for Aparna Sen’s film The Japanese Wife: I still don’t quite get it. The Japanese Wife is not as simple as Madame Butterfly, but I think a similar analysis applies.

The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between the Rich and the Poor in an Interconnected World

Would you give up a promising career in international banking to pursue a lifetime of attempting to understand and eradicate global property? Jacqueline Novogratz began her career as an international banker at Chase Manhattan Bank. As a member of the Credit Audit team for Chase Manhattan Bank, Novogratz was responsible for reviewing the quality of the bank’s loans in other countries, especially in troubled economies. As time went on, Novogratz began to explore the possibilities of working with the poorest people.

Jesus Boy

Star-crossed intergenerational love between a Christian matriarch and a young church pianist sounds like an unlikely fictional masterpiece, but in Jesus Boy, Preston L.

The War on Welfare: Family, Poverty and Politics in Modern America

In The War on Welfare, Marisa Chappell compiles a comprehensive record of decades of antipoverty and anti-welfare movements and coalitions, the policies and programs they influenced, and the biases that both shaped and undermined their objectives.

Fig Trees

It’s hard to explain Fig Trees. It’s an opera yet it's also a documentary. There’s an albino squirrel and a nun. It scrutinizes the critical circumstances of the AIDS epidemic, from the 1980s to the present day, and points out, with sharp observations, the irony of consumer-driven AIDS campaigns. The main issues addressed are the ineffectiveness of governments and the greediness of pharmaceutical companies, but popular culture is not completely innocent either. In Fig Trees, director John Greyson documents the story of South African AIDS activist, Zackie Achmat.

Woman's Prison

Although Woman’s Prison is not a documentary, writer/director Katie Madonna Lee presents a realistic story of poverty and the struggles women, children, and to some degree, men face who experience it. From birth, Julie Ann Mabry is a quiet, shy person, who just wants to be safe with her mother (played by Lee). Sadly, her father takes away that option by murdering her mother, and she is left quietly battling predators, including her uncle. When Julie encounters heart-wrenching situations, she does not lose hope.

The Social Philosophy of Jane Addams

Personally, what’s best about The Social Philosophy of Jane Addams by Maurice Hamington is something he left out. His focus stays on Addams’s political and philosophical thought with absolutely no mention of her having had, as I do, a twisted spine. When my condition had just been detected, my eighth-grade health teacher singled me out to write a report on Jane Addams. My classmates got to choose. I was mortified.

Infectious Ideas: U.S. Political Responses to the AIDS Crisis

From the early appearance of AIDS as deviant in conservative America in the early 1980s to a full blown global battle in the 2000s, Infectious Ideas charts the activism behind the disease and how it never once wasn’t a political problem. What readers will learn with this book is that knowledge of the disease evolved alongside activist work.

An Angle of Vision: Women Writers on Their Poor and Working-Class Roots

In An Angle of Vision, we are presented with a series of extraordinarily well-written essays centered upon one of the most taboo topics in U.S. culture: class. More specifically, we are presented with first-person, female-centered examinations of two groups who are steadily disappearing from both the public discourse and the popular culture of the United States: the poor and working class.

Mississippi Damned

Mississippi Damned opens with a display of rural setting, piano music, and kids playing. Based on a true story, the film is shown through the eyes of Kari Peterson, a young black girl, who lives in a poor, violent, neglectful family. Even though she is a little girl, nothing is hidden from her view-the adults are too busy drinking, gambling, and beating people to notice her during the intense moments.

Black and Green: Afro-Colombians, Development, and Nature in the Pacific Lowlands

Black and Green is a publication based on Kiran Asher’s doctoral thesis in political science, a field she came to by ways of a masters in Environmental Management and much field experience in Costa Rica, Belize, China, and now Colombia.

Poto Mitan: Haitian Women, Pillars of the Global Economy

The opening shots in Poto Mitan: Haitian Women, Pillars of the Global Economy, a fifty-minute documentary narrated by Edwidge Danticat, reveal an island paradise: turquoise waters, green hills, beautiful, and colorful flowers. But these scenes don’t last long. Almost immediately, we’re introduced to numerous working-class and poor women, nicknamed poto mitan, Creole for the pillar around which everything revolves.

The End of Poverty?

I haven’t seen Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story, or any of his films, but I rejoice that he made these films, especially this last one, which dares to challenge “our” economic system.

The Woman You Write Poems About

Most of the time when I read poetry books, I’ll dog-ear the pages of poems I really like. I started to do this with Danielle (Dani) Montgomery’s collection, The Woman You Write Poems About, but within the first twenty pages I realized I didn’t have one non-bent-down page corner; every single poem in this collection is intriguing and amazing in its own way.

Enterprising Women in Urban Zimbabwe: Gender, Microbusiness, and Globalization

In the early 1990s, Mary Osirim took a team of interviewers to several urban areas in Zimbabwe to learn about the lives and financial status of women working in the “microenterprise sector.” She found that while women were largely excluded from education and much of the Zimbabwean economy, some had found a niche as crocheters, seamstresses, hairdressers, and “market traders” in fruits and vegetables and other goods. There is plenty of sociological theory—the author is, after all, an eminent sociologist—much of it concerning the damage wrought by globalization generally and more specifically

Trailer Trashed: My Dubious Efforts Toward Upward Mobility

Hollis Gillespie is a mother, writer, friend, sister, girlfriend, daughter and more. Her third book, Trailer Trashed, is comprised of touching and hilarious essays that shed light on all the different aspects of her life.


This short film was Sushrut Jain's final project at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. He plans to expand the character study into a feature length film. Shot on the street in a Mumbai suburb of the same name, Andheri does an exceptional job of communicating what it feels like to walk down the street in urban India. Every movie with an Indian scene seems to have a few crowded streets where the camera jostles and token cows, beggar children, and colorful saris move through the frame.

Kanchivaram: A Communist Confession

There are two times in a Hindu's life when one is supposed to wear silk: at one’s wedding and at one’s own funeral. In the village of Kanchivaram (Kanchipuram), the silk weavers are only ever able to have enough silk to tie the toes of the dead together, and no daughter of a weaver has ever worn a silk sari on her wedding day. Kanchivaram tells the story of a man of change. Weaving silk for a pittance, as his father did before him, Vengadam wants nothing more than to weave his daughter a silk sari for her wedding day.


Tapologo is a full-length documentary shot in Northwest Province, South Africa. Directors Gabriella and Sally Gutierrez Dewar chronicle a handful of the 20,000 displaced African refugees in a squatter camp called Freedom Park. Here we are exposed to life and death in a place where fifty percent of the women are infected with HIV. The film is divided into two parts. Part one opens inside the shack of an emaciated woman receiving care from two local nurses.

The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World

Many well-meaning people and organizations throughout the world have had grand visions for African and Indian aid over the years, but many of these projects and initiatives have not had a lasting impact for the poorest people. Author and Acumen Fund founder Jacqueline Novogratz has written a book that will change the way you think about Africa, India, philanthropy, and probably your own life. Novogratz, who had been an international banker, knew she wanted to make a difference in the world. Like many of us, though, she wasn’t sure how.

Freedom From Want: The Remarkable Success Story of BRAC, the Global Grassroots Organization That's Winning the Fight Against Poverty

The truism tells us that if you give a woman a fish, she’ll eat for a day, but if you teach her to fish, she’ll eat for a lifetime. This philosophy undergirds the work of Building Resources Across Communities (BRAC), an international NGO located in Bangladesh. The group began in 1972 as the Bangladesh Rehabilitation Assistance Committee, but quickly outgrew the moniker.