A haunting, inspiring chronicle of fortitude and perseverance.

A PLACE CALLED HOME

A MEMOIR

Moving testimony from a survivor of trauma.

In his riveting debut memoir, lawyer and child welfare advocate Ambroz recounts an early life of poverty, cruelty, and degradation. With his mother suffering from severe mental illness, he and his two older siblings moved from New York City to Albany to Pittsfield, Massachusetts, living on the streets, in shelters, and occasionally in crumbling apartments from which, inevitably, they were evicted. Caught in a cycle of “homelessness, hunger, housing, welfare, and homelessness again,” Ambroz tried to mitigate his mother’s volatility by insulating her from triggers that would set her off. Not least, keeping her stable meant protecting himself and his siblings from countless “inexplicable moment[s] of brutal, casual cruelty.” Besides exposing the “illness, infection, infestation, and unmet needs” that marked his childhood, Ambroz indicts a system of severely inadequate social services. “The system doesn’t trust people in poverty,” he writes, and his desperate pleas for help were ignored: “Over and over again the three of us were left with a woman who was clearly hurting us by people in positions of authority.” When they were removed from their mother, the path to foster placement was fraught with obstacles. Ambroz was considered a special problem: Though he feared outing himself as gay, therapists—and one macho foster father—tried to “fix” him. After temporary housing in a juvenile detention facility and group homes, he was sent to a family that abused and exploited him. One of 450,000 children in foster care, Ambroz managed—with the help of sympathetic supporters and his own fierce determination—to escape the system that threatened to relegate him to the same “slide from poverty to disaster” that dogged his youth. Beginning in high school, as a member of the National Foster Youth Advisory Council, he has worked for meaningful reform, and with this potent memoir, he urges readers to “become one of the changemakers.” The author is now the head of Community Engagement (West) for Amazon.

A haunting, inspiring chronicle of fortitude and perseverance.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-306-90354-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Legacy Lit/Hachette

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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An excellent look at lived experiences of Black Americans that should be required reading for all Americans.

THE WORLD RECORD BOOK OF RACIST STORIES

A perfect follow-up to the authors’ You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey.

Ruffin and her sister, Lamar, describe their second collaboration as a collection of stories not just about the two of them, as in their previous book, but “about our whole family, all our siblings and even some friends.” Here, the tone is heavier than You’ll Never Believe; the authors note that the text is roughly “50/50 silly/scary racist stories.” Their tales range widely—someone using a ridiculous racist phrase at work that required research to understand; a jaw-dropping example of “why we need diversity training at diversity training”; and a heartbreaking yet poignant account of Lamar leading a Zoom-based Q&A session regarding the first book with several “boys and girls homes across the US”—and offer a pleasingly diverse array of different generations, occupations, and environments. As in the previous book, the banter between the sisters is consistently funny, but the underlying social commentary remains incisive. Among countless others, standout pieces include Lamar’s description of an incredibly awkward first date and a story about a Black mother who was informed that when her children registered at a new school, they would need their pictures taken and “show it to all the students so they don't get scared.” Though obviously upset, the mother made the pictures because, as the authors write, “if these people need to see Black people in order to not feel scared, then there’s no telling what the fuck these little monsters are capable of.” Ultimately, Ruffin and Lamar provide a much-needed wake-up call for anyone who still doesn’t believe the severity of anti-Black racism in America. “What is a racist?,” they ask at the beginning. “Is it just a confused person who means well but blah blah blah? No. A racist is a turd.” Well said.

An excellent look at lived experiences of Black Americans that should be required reading for all Americans.

Pub Date: Nov. 22, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5387-2455-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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