i dont normally critique a book before i finish it...but lets just be real honest here...i am less about finishing books these days then starting them...i am currently *actively* reading 5 books..."The Year of Living Biblically", "The Prodigal God", "Lonely Werewolf Girl", "The Known World" and this one..."The Glass Castle".
i am almost done with it...but it has my attention and focus...which to give you a funny background story - i thought that this book was actually a YA (young adult) read...i thought it was a fantasy fiction...long story short i had a conversation with girlfriends about the "Golden Compass" and one of them started talking about this book and i must have forgotten her comments because i had thought it somehow connected...wow that was a boring story...anyway...i started reading it and was thinking to myself that they better start picking this story up because how depressing then i read the back cover and realized this is a MEMOIR and NOT a fantasy...all about this woman's poverty stricken childhood story...
for the past 5 years i have worked with the children at Mary McLeod Bethune Transitional Center in Long Beach, which serves the children of parents in the transitional centers at the Villages at Cabrillo. they are "homeless" children waiting to find housing and to be transitioned into a "regular" school. i have learned volumes working with these kids...not just on their resilience of character...not just on our attitudes towards the homeless...not just on our cultural taboo on class...but above all how to help the kids by not actively helping, but passively being a positive presence. that is an ongoing lesson...we all want to be "active" but what most of them need is a passive presence...which is more difficult...it requires a commitment and a consistent presence, which is more than most of us can give unfortunately.
reading Jeannette Walls' story has really impacted me. i have been researching her because her story intrigued me and found this Q&A and wanted to share one of them with you:
Debbie Teubert, of Irvine, Calif., writes:
First of all, I have to comment that your life-loving, positive attitude is absolutely refreshing. What worries me is that, I might not have recognized you (or your brother) as kids in need. You are probably sensitive to those signs. What are some of those signs? Would you have wanted any "outside" assistance? And if so, how would you TODAY approach a kid in the same situation? I wouldn't want to offend or interfere with the parents either.
That is such an interesting, intelligent, sensitive question -- and I'm not sure how to answer it. I'm not certain that some well-meaning person's interference would have helped. I honestly don't know. The times I was most insulted when I was growing up were when someone called us needy or poor or tried to help in a heavy-handed way. One time, a teacher announced in front of a class full of students that I needed to dress better and she handed me a bag full of clothes from a church drive. It was just awful. On the other hand, there was another teacher, the one I was named for (see question 4), who stepped in and made sure that I wasn't kicked off the high school newspaper when some people felt that someone like me shouldn't be allowed into the newspaper offices. I'll never forget that act of kindness. There's such a fine line between help that makes someone feel inferior and assistance that genuinely improves someone's life. Thank you so much for caring enough to ask.
There was another story in her book that spoke about her mother wanting to make Christmas really special for her kids but not being able to afford a tree, so she went on Christmas Eve to try to find a bargain. She found a tree marked at $5 and told him that the tree should not be more than $3...the man looked at her kids and probably realized their situation and told her "Lady, this tree has just been marked down to $1". i started tearing up. that man showed such love and kindness through his lack of *charity*.
knowing what i know about homeless children in our school system...that in Naples in Long Beach, one of the most wealthy neighborhoods...that still there are a dozen homeless children enrolled in their schools (their parents live on boats) and that they are everywhere you wouldn't assume...it makes me all the more want to be more involved...in some ways as a passive presence and others as an active presence - i.e. - teaching my kids that if another kid doesn't dress the way that they do or act in the same way or eat the same foods - it doesnt make them any less or more of someone than they and that they need friends too...
a statistic i learned early on with my work with the homeless is that the average age of a homeless person in an urban setting is 11...the homeless family is in the background, but such a stronger reflection of the problem than the beggar in the street. they aren't in your face because they live in cars, or motels, or boats...but there they are.
i know many a parent who has school aged kids and parents with kids about to enter school and felt it on my heart to share and hope that book may enter their library and their hearts. the saying "it takes a village" should also ring true in the urban setting as well.
if this is something you also feel on your heart and want to help in just ask your child's principal about the homeless consultant for the school district. i know Rhonda Haramis is the spokesperson for the Long Beach School District. In Long Beach we have a uniform rule in our schools and one way to help is dropping off gently used uniforms to be re-used by those who maybe can't afford it.
even though i can't fully endorse this book since i haven't finished it...so far it is an amazing read and i would highly recommend it at this point!