ASK ME WHY I HURT by Randy Christensen


The Kids Nobody Wants and the Doctor Who Heals Them
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A physician's memoir of his years working with homeless youth.

In 2000, while working at Arizona's Phoenix Children's Hospital, Christensen asked to be assigned a daunting task—leading a mobile health-care unit aimed at serving homeless children. In the world of modern medicine, this was not the obvious way to climb the career ladder toward regular hours and a hefty salary. With a small group of passionately committed providers, Christensen turned this small community-service unit into an integral part of the urban medical landscape. Along the way, he struggled to balance the emotional and psychological demands of treating vulnerable children with the pressures placed on his marriage and family life. Ultimately, the children he encountered on the streets of Phoenix become the real subjects of his memoir, co-authored with journalist Denfield (Kill the Body, the Head Will Fall: A Closer Look at Women, Violence, and Aggression, 1997, etc.). Christensen’s many subjects include: Sugar, the pregnant young prostitute who found her way to new life; the abused and neglected young man who discovered love in a community home; and a mentally ill young woman whose tragic murder resulted in part from the bureaucratic tangles that prevented anyone from truly helping her. The title of the book comes from the bracelet worn by one patient who was unable to tell the story of the systematic abuse that left her homeless. The author provides numerous heart-rending stories, yet, for such a serious subject, the narrative is written with obvious joy and an impassioned optimism for what health-care providers and communities can achieve.

Refreshingly free of moralistic lectures about the collective failure of the American health-care system, Christensen's book is a wry, sincere story that makes the need for change inescapably obvious.

Pub Date: April 12th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-307-71899-0
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Broadway
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2011


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