I was born with the desire to know what it’s like to live more than one life. If you’re a reader, you understand what I mean. That’s why we read. For the time it takes to read a novel or memoir, we can get inside someone else and look through his or her eyes at the world around us. Better yet, we can hear that writer or character’s heartbeat.
When I choose a book I tend to choose a memoir or fiction that is closely tied to one protagonist. But I just finished a book that is a compilation of memoirs by a group of writers.
These writers are bound together by a writing class and a commonality: they have all experienced being homeless. Writing Our Way Home is subtitled “A group journey out of homelessness.” Edited by southern writer and blogger Ellen Morris Prewitt, whose touch is so light her name is not on the cover or title page, this book weaves together the stories of fifteen writers and organizes them thematically.
I began reading slowly because I wanted to isolate and listen to individual voices in the group and not confuse them with each other. I needn’t have worried. Very early on, I began to “hear” who was “speaking” within the first sentence or two of each brief entry. I listened to Leroy Scott’s straightforward prose, Cynthia Crawford’s engrossing storytelling, Tommy Payne’s brilliant and varied writing style, Latasha Jackson’s pattern of detailed imagery (sipping peach wine in the bath, the lost doll collection), and other unique voices. As Tommy himself says, “It is easy to tell a book written by James Michener from a book written by Ian Fleming. An Ernest Hemingway novel from a play written by Shakespeare.” And so it is with these writers.
Most importantly, I learned what these fifteen people had to say about their own lives and about the condition of being without a home.
The book developed from a writing class that Ellen teaches in Memphis. The class and the Door of Hope organization that runs the class seem to be based in Christian teachings, although I don’t find much about religion on their website other than that they offer contemplative prayer classes, as well as creative writing.
If you have ever—even once–looked at a homeless person and forgot that he or she has a whole history of living, relations, emotions, and past belongings, as well as current needs, hop over to Amazon and pick up a copy of this book! If you want to find out if you should give a handout to someone who asks, you will find eleven answers.
Now that I’ve read Writing our Way Home and had time to let it settle into my bones, I feel it’s permanently changed me. A big thanks to Roderick Baldwin, Donna Connie, Cynthia Crawford, Jacqueline Crowder, Veyshon Hall, Tamara Hendrix, William L. Hogan, Jr., Latasha Jackson, Anthony Johnston, Robbin K., Rhonda Lay, Jockluss Thomas Payne, Leroy Scott, WJS, and Master Major Joshua Williams for inviting me into your lives.
21 responses to “A Group Journey Out of Homelessness: A Book Review”
Sounds like a wonderful book! I love books that are true personal stories. A good ending only adds to it all. Thanks!
It is a wonderful book! I’m so glad I read it!
Wonderful idea for a book. It’s quite eye-opening, I’m sure. Thanks for the review.
Carrie, it is. It’s really an engaging read, too. I loved the individuality of hearing their very different stories.
I’d read about this book elsewhere and then promptly forgot about it. Thanks for the reminder!
Yes, go look for it, Elyse! You won’t be sorry!
Sounds like a great book! I’m not surprised that these writers are easy to distinguish from one another. I don’t need names on papers from my students, either, so distinct are their voices.
Is that because your students all have individual personalities, having lived long lives? When I taught, many of my students were young college students, often just out of high school, and while a few stood out with original “voices,” many sounded exactly alike.
I think they write the way they are. Therefore, they might find it difficult to assume different voices for their writing.
I’ll certainly add this book to my reading list, Luanne. It sounds like an emotional read. Thanks for the review.
Jill, you won’t be sorry!
Sounds like a good one!
It’s such an unusual book and such a rewarding read.
Any book that you feel has permanently changed you must be amazing. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this one, Luanne xxx
Dianne, it’s fascinating to feel as if I am sitting in a room with these people all telling their stories and hearing what they have gone through in life. Some of their stories show such insight into their own paths, too.
Thanks so much, Luanne, for your review of the book. I can’t wait to return to Memphis and share it with the writers. And, yes—we answered the question about what to do when someone asks for a handout because a friend who knew about writing group asked for their opinion. The answers show so clearly you can’t lump everyone into “the homeless” and expect uniformity—their opinions are as varied as they are.
Hah, so true. I was thinking I could pick the answer I like the best ;), but in truth I guess one has to go with the person and the circumstances and hope for the best.
And, for me, my reaction varies over time and with my mood and what is basically a split-second decision–it’s an exercise in listening to the Spirit, which in my case resides sometimes in the gut.
Good advice, Ellen!
I love that first line Luanne, because it’s exactly how I feel! These lives and voices sound intriguing and inspiring.
I can’t imagine having to just “be me,” if that makes sense. What a boring world it would be! Their voices are fascinating!