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Left Out in America: The State of Homelessness in the United States Paperback – October 5, 2006
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The answer to that question and many more is found in this concise and powerful book, "Left Out in America: The State of Homelessness in the United States" by broadcaster and journalist Pat LaMarche. The vignettes found in these 37 short chapters are so arresting that you will read it in one sitting. And then read it again. The pictures of life on the edge that LaMarche paints with her words will stay in your mind forever - and compel you to act.
LaMarche combines the first person reporting skills of a Barbara Ehrenreich with the power of our best short story writers. After years of researching, writing, and volunteering in homeless shelters as an outgrowth of her concern for children and the poor, she decided to go on a 14-day trip to 14 homeless shelters across America. With the precision of a haiku, each shelter and its residents is brought to life. Without undue sentimentality or harsh moralism, she relates the stories of domestic violence, health crises, and unfortunate decisions that have brought so many of our neighbors to the brink.
You will never forget the 4-year-old who drew life-like pictures of her mommy, baby sister and herself, and then, in a child's recognition of the futility of her existence in a shelter, crossed out the faces of each person. Or the elderly woman who lashed out at anyone who tried to help her make her bed, her teeth bared at those trying to help but not understanding how her dignity and self-image were represented by the folded sheets on her rickety cot.Read more ›
Pat LaMarche tells the stories of many homeless Americans during her 14-day journey through homeless shelters around the country. The stories of these unfortunate souls are different yet there are themes that seem to appear throughout the miles. Many of these people have jobs but still cannot afford rent. Some are running from abuse. All of them are trying to make the best they can of a desperate situation.
I was angered by the fact that children had to walk to their old bus stops to create the illusion that nothing was wrong, lest they be teased and/or beaten by the other students. All of these folks try to maintain a sense of normalcy in a completely abnormal situation.
I applaud Pat for undertaking this sojourn. For unlike most people running for office, she did it to call attention to the homeless situation in America as opposed to drawing attention to herself or her party. I do not believe that Pat wants to be vice president, or governor, or senator. No, I believe that she wants to serve the public at the highest level at which she can affect change. Whether it be as an elected official, an author, a speaker or a server on a foodline at the local homeless shelter. This book is a public service. It serves to open the eyes of the fortunate to the plight of the less than fortunate. Let's hope it moves them to action...from the shelters in the streets all the way up to Pennsylvania Avenue.
You will learn a lot about conditions in the shelters and how many of the characters have jobs but don't make enough money to make the rent. But the main value of the book emerges in the stories of the people who will teach you things about life that you might never have known.
Full disclosure: I am a Green Party activist who has known and supported Pat LaMarche when she was the GP candidate for Vice President and Governor. There are political policies I will disagree with Pat about, but I will always admire and support those like her who give so much of their own hearts for people and the social movements that will make our world a much better place.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Strong emotional story. The writer is definitely choosing the parts of her experience that best support her political views and skews the others. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Jesse Charles Grotholson
This book illuminates one of the things that we tend to forget about as we go through our daily lives...the fact that most of us, who are able to afford this book, have it easy. Read morePublished on August 19, 2013 by Kasey
Left Out in America tells the story of the homeless community that has been cast aside by mainstream society. Read morePublished on August 9, 2013 by Zaw
LaMarche has created a masterpiece. With finesse and linguistic skill she does not paint a picture of what it might be like to live in a homeless shelter... Read morePublished on July 30, 2013 by chrissic
Keeping a level mind is difficult when you're thinking about situations that you would never experience. Read morePublished on July 29, 2013 by Danny
While many public figures participate in philanthropy solely to boost their resumes, Pat has demonstrated a true interest in helping better the lives of people who need her help... Read morePublished on July 19, 2013 by Chelsea Reid
Being a privileged member of society has evidently not caused Pat LaMarche to forget about the people who don't have as much. Read morePublished on July 19, 2013 by Amazon Customer
This book provided an amazing view into the lives of the working poor, and made me want to help. The problem is, as the author points out, there's not a whole lot that we can do on... Read morePublished on July 18, 2013 by perryb