An empathetic overview of life as a homeless youth in America.

THOSE WHO WANDER

AMERICA’S LOST STREET KIDS

A portrait of homeless children in America.

Former San Francisco Chronicle criminal justice reporter Ho takes to the streets of the Bay Area and other urban regions of the country to show readers how children are surviving on the streets without parental supervision, housing, or employment. She begins by discussing the 2015 murders of Audrey Carey and Steve Carter by three homeless youths, examining what led the three perpetrators, Haze, Lila, and Sean, to the moments when they shot each of the victims. It’s a sad yet eye-opening story of physical and sexual abuse, rampant drug use, mental illness, and botched stays in foster homes. Although Ho focuses the narrative on these three youths, she does share the stories of several other homeless kids she met, which gives readers a wider view of the day-to-day existence of a homeless youth. Even though they often watch out for each other, they are also known to harm each other. They also lie, steal, abuse drugs, and are on the move constantly to avoid the police. Some have chosen this lifestyle and enjoy the freedom it gives them; others know that life at home is worse than on the streets despite the fears of being raped, drugged, or robbed. “After that first burst of freedom and escape,” writes the author, “their lives become one prolonged dehumanizing fight for survival, and with each day spent on the streets, they drift farther and farther away from being able to leave this existence when they come to the decision to do so.” Ho provides clear descriptions of this lifestyle via her interviews with the homeless, yet she sometimes repeats small details, particularly about Haze and Lila, which makes some of the book repetitive. On the whole, though, she provides sufficient information and shows compassion to her interviewees. The lingering question—how to keep these kids off the streets and in stable homes—goes unaddressed.

An empathetic overview of life as a homeless youth in America.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5039-0373-9

Page Count: 220

Publisher: Little A

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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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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