Sometimes the planets align. This week they did. Two different settings (Rust Belt of America in the 1980s and the mining area of England in the 1960s) and two different genres (nonfiction and fiction), but the story is the same: the devastating effects of childhood poverty. Of course, we know from research quite a bit about the terrible problems that result from childhood poverty (here is a summary of some of these), but nothing is as powerful as a story.
In Hillbilly Elegy, J. D. Vance grew up in a single parent home with a mom who struggled with drug problems and man problems, but Vance was able, with the help of his grandparents as a stabilizing force and a stint in the military as a stabilizing force, to overcome his childhood and create a life for himself as an adult with solid relationships and a steady job. I thought he made the road from poverty to the Ivy League look a little too easy, and I wished he'd waited another ten years to write his memoir, time that would have given him depth and reflection and honesty that I found this memoir sometimes lacked.
Barry Hines' A Kestrel for a Knave, though fiction, seems to me to be a truer and deeper look at childhood poverty than Elegy. Kestrel takes us for a walk through a day in the life of Billy Caspar during one of his last days at school before he is to quit and begin working, probably, like many others in his town, in a dead-end job at the mine. Billy finds little to eat in his home before he heads to his part-time job before school, and learns his brother has taken his bike, leaving him to distribute his newspapers on foot. School is no easier, with teachers and peers who laugh at him and bully him. His brother, too, bullies him and ridicules him. The only moments of happiness Billy finds are those he spends with his kestrel, teaching him to hunt. Even that is taken away from him in the end....there's no Ivy League future for this young man, I think.
Imagination Soup has a great post about books that facilitate empathy for those in poverty, and it lists several of my favorites, including Last Stop on Market Street, Out of the Dust, and The Hundred Dresses.
After a week reading nothing but sad stories of childhood poverty, I've picked up a couple of reads that (hopefully) will be less bleak:
On Living is Kerry Egan's stories of people she has met in her job as a hospice chaplain. All These Wonders is true stories told at The Moth.
I'm continuing to read Anne of Green Gables (a character that suffered from childhood poverty herself but always had her imagination to pull her through), and I've just started Ron Chernow's Alexander Hamilton. (I'd hoped to see Hamilton when I go to NYC at the end of May, and there are tickets available, but I just don't feel justified in spending $500 for a seat there....I think I'll read the book and listen to the soundtrack.)
What are you reading today??
What is the Sunday Salon? Imagine some university library's vast reading room. It's filled with people--students and faculty and strangers who've wandered in. They're seated at great oaken desks, books piled all around them,and they're all feverishly reading and jotting notes in their leather-bound journals as they go. Later they'll mill around the open dictionaries and compare their thoughts on the afternoon's literary intake....That's what happens at the Sunday Salon, except it's all virtual. Every Sunday the bloggers participating in that week's Salon get together--at their separate desks, in their own particular time zones--and read. And blog about their reading. And comment on one another's blogs. Think of it as an informal, weekly, mini read-a-thon, an excuse to put aside one's earthly responsibilities and fall into a good book. Click here to join the Salon.
The Sunday Post is a meme hosted by Kimba at Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It's a chance to share news and recap the past week.
Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia at The Printed Page. We share books that we found in our mailboxes last week.
It is now being hosted here.
Stacking the Shelves is a meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews in which you can share the books you've acquired.
It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is where we share what we read this past week, what we hope to read this week…. and anything in between! This is a great way to plan out your reading week and see what others are currently reading as well… you never know where that next “must read” book will come from! I love being a part of this and I hope you do too! It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is now being hosted at The Book Date.