An anthology of homeless women's writings that offers a glimpse of inner lives rarely seen. This collection grew out of the editors' experiences as participants in WritersCorps, a division of AmeriCorps, President Clinton's community service program. WritersCorps offers writers a small stipend and the opportunity to teach at-risk youth, substance abusers, and others whose stories are seldom heard. Pugh and Tietjen, clearly very gifted teachers, ran writing workshops for homeless and incarcerated women in Washington, D.C.; some of the memoirs produced in those workshops are offered here. Despite the hardships she has faced, Georgia's clearest memories, drawn from her rural southern past, are almost idyllic—she remembers, for instance, making pancakes that met with her tough grandfather's approval. Gayle writes about her crack addiction. Ann, who has been diagnosed as manic-depressive, writes of how it felt to be discharged from the US military. Hers is perhaps the most engaging piece, because she writes frankly about her often unnerving behavior. Dionne is the poet whose lyrics provide the anthology's powerful title. She is in prison, HIV-positive, and recovering from drug addiction and sexual abuse. Angie has struggled with both mental illness and physical disability while raising three sons. The women's narratives all provide the solid beginnings of stories, but most leave numerous questions unanswered. The editors realize this, and have tried to fill in the holes with their own lengthy, somewhat intrusive interpretive essays, which add biographical information about the writers; we end up hearing too much of Pugh and Tietjen's voices and not enough of the homeless women's. But despite some awkwardness in presentation, these stories deserve the attention of anyone interested in the power of autobiography to redeem a life.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 1997

ISBN: 0-9647124-2-3

Page Count: 220

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1996


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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