Tag Archives: Education

Review: Make Your Home Among Strangers

Make Your Home Among Strangers

Make Your Home Among Strangers
By Jennine Capò Crucet
Picador, 9781250094551, July 2016, 416pp.

The Short of It:

A young woman is pulled between her family at home, her studies at school, and the political turmoil over the forcible removal of a young Cuban boy and his return to his father back in Cuba.

The Rest of It:

Many of you may recall the story of Elián González. He was the center of an international custody battle back in 2000. Make Your Home Among Strangers includes a fictionalized account of his story in the form of Ariel Hernandez.

Lizet is the first in her family to attend college but when she announces her acceptance, she is met with disappointment. Her sister just found out she is pregnant and Lizet’s mother was just left by her husband and the house has been sold out from under her. No one in the family is happy about this turn of events but Lizet is curious about a life outside of what she knows and goes, leaving some bad feelings behind.

At school, Lizet struggles. The schooling she’s had prior to college did not prepare her for the rigorous work that is expected of her. Her ties to home and the guilt she has over not helping her sister during this time, cause her to visit home often which confuses her more.

In the midst of all this, Lizet’s mother has joined with others to protest the removal of Ariel Hernandez. He lost his mother leaving Cuba and they feel that since he made it to the US, that he should be allowed to stay but the possibility of his removal looms large as the rest of the story unfolds.

This was a quick, one-two punch of a read. Crucet’s writing is genuine and thoughtful. Lizet is a very believable character. Not perfect, but trying. My discussion group chose this book for next week’s discussion. I had to go back to read up on Elián González because I had forgotten a lot of the particulars. Do you remember his story?

Source: Purchased
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: Hillbilly Elegy – A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

Hillbilly Elegy
Hillbilly Elegy
By J.D. Vance
Harper Paperbacks, 9780062300553, (Paperback) May 2018, 288pp.

The Short of It:

An important read, even if you think you won’t be able to relate to it.

The Rest of It:

Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis–that of white working-class Americans. The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, has been reported on with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck. – Indiebound

I had been avoiding this book when it was selected by my book club. Truthfully, I wasn’t interested in it because I knew it would hit too close to home, and it did. I didn’t grow up in the same region as Vance but I could identify with nearly everything Vance encountered growing up: addiction, abuse, poverty, and having what seemed like no other options for living.

But I could also identify with a need to belong, a need to succeed and the well-meaning intentions of some of the folks around me. Vance tells his story with brutal honestly but his story is peppered with hope throughout, which makes this memoir a very interesting read about the long-term effects of class decline on future generations and it begs the question, how can we fix it?

The full impact of this memoir didn’t hit me until the last third of the book. That is when Vance gets to the point. The never-ending cycle of poverty for some, make it impossible for them to rise above it. How could they without the realization that there is more out there?  If the norm is poverty and abuse, and it’s all they see, what motivation exists to change their situation for the better?

I know some people will argue with that logic. That people have a choice and they choose to be poor but for many, they grew up that way. They were never shown or given the opportunity to live differently. Vance suggests that the people who manage to pull themselves out of this cycle are the ones who were introduced to something different. I agree. It’s the number one reason why I work with teens and the homeless. I had people in my life that showed me a different way and that made all the difference. I want to be that person to someone else.

Hillbilly Elegy is a powerful read and if you don’t want to read it or think you can’t relate to it in some way, try, because it’s important to know how other people live. For our society to flourish we need role models to show us a better way because no matter where you stand politically, brokenness is evident all around us if you look.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.