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Tell Them Who I Am: The Lives of Homeless Women

3.89  ·  Rating Details  ·  270 Ratings  ·  36 Reviews
"One of the very best things ever written about homeless people in the nation."—Jonathan Kozol.
Paperback, 368 pages
Published April 1st 1995 by Penguin Books (first published 1993)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 638)
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Geoffrey Bateman
Even though this book is now over twenty years old, it still proves useful in the classroom. As an ethnographic study of a women's homeless shelter, it provides a strong introduction to some of the issues that women experiencing homelessness face, issues that sadly still confront women today. There are moments when it's a bit dated, and in class, it's useful to provide students with updated data and information about today's reality. But it's written in very accessible language and continues to ...more
Sep 29, 2009 Kimberly rated it liked it

This book is informative but quite boring. I didn't have a problem putting it down a few times to do something else instead. It clearly and accurately describes many the lives of homeless woman, which was enlightening but also frustrating for me. I felt like the author had mixed feelings of compassion and sympathy for these woman, but at times didn't at all. This is a good book to read if you're attempting to see different perspectives of life and want to gain the knowledge of the life of
In the late 1980's, after being diagnosed with cancer, Elliot Liebow spent a lot of time at homeless shelters for women in the D.C. area, namely The Refuge. He wanted to know how homelessness affected these women's lives (or how their lives affected their homelessness) During his time there, he got to know the women personally, and over time the women he saw frequently went to him to talk about their experiences. He explores all different aspects of their lives: jobs, family, friendships, their ...more
Oriyah Nitkin
This was my second ethnography on a homeless population, (the first being Sidewalk, which I thought was fantastic, and that certainly colored my opinion of this book, demoting it by a star.
It was interesting, moving, and important. It was potentially outdated (I'm not sure what the policies are in the US in 2016)...but it was also one-sided. The author calls for increased and improved government services for the poor and homeless, and while in theory it all sounds fine and dandy, having moved f
Jun 29, 2010 Stephanie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
This book was for a class my husband took in college. He didn't read it but I did. I wanted to become a pro bono lawyer for homeless men and women and their families. Ten years later I still think that if I were to do anything besides teach it would be this. This book made me think differently. I have picked it up many times to read it again and again.
Oct 23, 2011 Jody rated it liked it
Worthwhile in that we begin to understand why some of the "obvious solutions" may not be solutions after all.
Dec 23, 2010 Katie rated it it was amazing
Nancy Chin
Jul 19, 2012 Nancy Chin rated it it was amazing
Elliot Liebow is a well-known anthropologist who writes with insight, compassion, and clarity. I use this work in my graduate seminar in Qualitative Health Research Methods. He is transparent about his data collection methods, his approach to data analysis and what the women thought of him. Central to anthropology, and to this work, is data collection through immersion in the community of study. He volunteered at homeless shelters, accompanied women to appointments for housing, employment, and c ...more
Sep 25, 2007 David rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
Boring and dull. The guy's simply not the writer that, say, David Simon or Mark Bowden are, to put some snap into his sketches of assorted homeless women and the lives they lead in a couple shelters in DC.

His point of 'it could happen to anyone!' is kinda undercut by the fact that pretty much everyone it happens to in his couldn't happen to anyone. It can happen to any woman who's already destitute, and has a habit of taking up with alcoholic and abusive men, and possesses few marketa
Sandy H
Nov 06, 2013 Sandy H rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
It's my own fault, I'm sure. This book is nearly 20 years old now and our language and, hopefully to some extent, our attitudes have changed. However, I found myself stumbling over the author's use of terminology and what I perceived to be a slightly patronizing attitude. I wanted to like the book so much; it's an intriguing concept. But I couldn't make it through. I'm not faulting the author--I'm sure if he were to be writing this book today there would be a different feel to it. But I don't fe ...more
4fabfelines Cox
Jul 18, 2010 4fabfelines Cox rated it it was amazing
this book give the case histories of quite a few women in shelters and homeless states over a period of years.
It tells the stories of the women from their perspective in their language.
Some of the women are mentally ill or challanged some are just abused and downtrodden.
This tells the stories from a clear veiw point that they see from. Whether they are jaded from drugs, abuse and/or predudice..
These women tel it like it is.
Some of the stories are triumphant, the women going on to have a apartme
Pat Spears
May 22, 2014 Pat Spears rated it really liked it
I am currently researching homeless mothers and their children. Although this book is dated, I found it to be useful. I especially liked the case study approach to delving into the lives of homeless women. I recommend this book.
Jennifer Heise
Jan 30, 2015 Jennifer Heise rated it really liked it
I struggled with finishing this... in fact I didn't finish it... but the parts I did read resonated strongly with me. I don't think all that much has changed since Liebow wrote, either.
Sally Ooms
Aug 08, 2013 Sally Ooms rated it it was amazing
Written by an anthropologist who quit his job with the Institute of Mental Health when he was diagnosed with cancer and spent the last days of his life relating to and recording the lives of homeless women. Liebow worked in the shelter, and conducted his research by spending his time with the women —not just observing, but taking part in, their lives. These were lives filled with uncertainty and fear of the world outside. Readers are a witness to the women’s humanity and are urged to drop their ...more
Michelle Dunn
Aug 17, 2008 Michelle Dunn rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Women everywhere
Tell them who I am was a great read. what better way to share the stories of homeless women than to be right there with them day to day as they face each struggle and try to dig themselves out of the situation they are in.
Unless you have been there, you don't really understand. Elliot Liebow does a great job in connecting with each woman and sharing her story, how she feels and the tough choices she must make each day that people who are not homeless, are oblivious to.
To gain a better understand
Apr 26, 2007 Kennedy rated it really liked it
Heartbreaking. The plight of those at the bottom of society is so hopeless. Not only do they have very limited economic resources, but they are also more likely to experience many different forms of abuse. The author researched at three DC area shelters over several years and was able to tell they story of the shelter's inhabitants. One interesting part was the follow up with the women years later. The lucky ones were in subsidized housing. The author shows a fair portrayal of the women, how per ...more
Nov 06, 2011 Lola rated it it was ok
Written in the participant observer style which I didn't care for too much; would've been more interesting to me if written as a story. Information on the homeless women & how they came to be living in a shelter. They had to get up & out of the shelter by 7 A.M. & wander the streets, go to the library or other indoor places to get away from the weather; they then could return to the shelters at night for a meal & a cot to sleep on.
Dec 21, 2008 Emily rated it really liked it
Shelves: sociology
This book about homeless women isn't exactly hip and happening, and it's probably fairly elementary if you already have a firm grasp on issues facing the homeless. But I didn't, so I found this book to be pretty enlightening. It's a fast and non-academic read that will get you thinking about homelessness and the issues surrounding it. This is a valuable book that tells its story in the voices of its subjects.
Jul 13, 2013 Clare rated it really liked it
A very moving and thought-provoking book. The author's respect for these women shines out. It is a bit of a gentle portrayal of homelessness, as those who work with "street people" in any large city centre will recognise, but this is an important book because it has the potential to introduce many readers to the topic of homelessness in a way they can relate to and begin to understand.
Dec 16, 2011 Julie rated it liked it
I learned alot about the lives of homeless people and the numerous complications they face on a daily basis. Interestingly, many of their problems, like getting a job, seem similar to those of illegal immigrants. I can't imagine getting out of a shelter bed in the morning, being sick with a fever, and going to lay a park bench all day. Book is very eye-opening.
Feb 03, 2012 Deb rated it liked it
In general, this was a very thorough, enlightening study of the lives of homeless women. It read a little too much like a study though and it was difficult to keep all the names and stories straight because it jumped around a lot.

However, anyone who says we don't need safety nets for the poor should read this book NOW and then go volunteer at a shelter.
Apr 16, 2014 Genevieve rated it liked it
Informative, addresses all the subjects. A primer, I suppose. Woefully out of date at this point (1982-88). I do like his humility (as an outsider, academic, affluent male): he includes dissenting comments from his subjects as footnotes to the text.
Mar 22, 2012 Michelle rated it really liked it
I assigned this in a social work class I taught. It is a bit dated as far as the political and economical landscape. However, the reasons for women losing their homes is the same as it is day. Leibow does a fine job of illustrating that having a home goes beyond just shelter.
Jan 22, 2008 Shiloh rated it liked it
I had to read this book for a social work class, but it was very interesting and insightful to the lives of homeless women. This good read covers many different barriers and problems that these women face. It also breaks down some of the stereotypes of the homeless.
Aug 24, 2010 Alana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The author's insight into the lives of people who are,living in the underbelly of society, is touching and truthful. Except for the Grace of the Gods, anyone could be here. Everyone should read this book. Period.
Jul 13, 2010 Melissa rated it it was amazing
Read for a sociology class and was pleasantly surprised. Does have some language -but you will not look at a homeless person the same.
Brandon Fryman
May 12, 2010 Brandon Fryman rated it really liked it
A good read about how women live within a center that helps homelessness. Personal accounts from women and workers within the shelter.
Aug 24, 2010 Meen marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Meen by: Amazon from a "homelessness" search.
This is another one I just got for my research project. Again, it's a bit dated, but unfortunately the problem's only gotten worse. :(
Kim Kelstone
Jul 23, 2012 Kim Kelstone rated it it was amazing
amazingly rich description of a man's journey into the lives of homeless women. compassionate and powerful story.
Jul 28, 2012 Autumn rated it liked it
Book on women living in homeless shelters. A heavy subject but well written and interesting. Worth a read.
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Elliot Liebow was an American urban anthropologist and ethnographer. His works include Tally's Corner and Tell Them Who I Am, both being micro-sociological writings shaped as participant observer studies of people in poor areas.

Dr. Liebow, born in Washington, dropped out of high school to join the Marine Corps in 1942 and saw action in the South Pacific during World War II, when he earned his high
More about Elliot Liebow...

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