The 1989 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award was presented to Neil Sheehan for A Bright Shining Lie and Jonathan Kozol for Rachel and Her Children. A Bright Shining Lie, which also won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction in 1989, tells the story of Lieutenant Colonel John Paul Vann, perhaps the most clear-sighted, outspoken, and honest American figure on the ground in Vietnam from 1962 to 1972. Rachel and Her Children is based on the months Kozal spent among America’s homeless, and describes the desperate and often nightmarish conditions of the nation’s shelters.
Neil Sheehan spent three years in Vietnam as a war correspondent for United Press International and The New York Times and won numerous awards for his reporting. In 1971, he obtained the Pentagon Papers, which brought the Times the Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal for meritorious public service. Sheehan lives in Washington, D.C. He is married to the writer Susan Sheehan.
Jonathan Kozal has received numerous literary awards and honors for his writing. He has been working with children in inner-city schools for nearly fifty years. His newest book is The Theft of Memory: Losing My Father, One Day at a Time.
Honorable Mention: Within Our Reach: Breaking the Cycle of Disadvantage by Lisbeth Schorr
In this solidly researched book, the authors demonstrate that the knowledge and techniques exist to decrease the incidence of welfare dependency, poor single-parent families and alienated, uneducated youth. In addition to providing a detailed account of the problem, they describe twenty-four programs that have proved successful in changing the lives of seriously disadvantaged children.