This is not your average rock memoir. Patti Smith lives a quiet life in rural Michigan with her cats and half-empty paper coffee cups. She reads a lot. She travels—Berlin, Tokyo, Reykjavik, London—but doesn’t trash hotel rooms. She drops names, but they are the names of her favorite authors and film directors. She watches The Killing and CSI: Miami on TV.
There are, broadly speaking, two ways to reform institutions: from the top down, via an alliance of elites; and from the bottom up, with the impetus coming from those who are affected by the system and want to see it altered. Elites pushing social change ought not to forget that the legitimacy that will sustain their reforms will come from the bottom.
The Prize is a meticulously reported case study of one elite alliance’s attempt to reform public education in an American city. The alliance in this case is comprised of Mayor (now Senator) Cory Booker, Governor Chris Christie, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.