4.5 - One of the best non-fiction books I've ever read that aims to illuminate something through sociological methods. I lopped off half a star becaus4.5 - One of the best non-fiction books I've ever read that aims to illuminate something through sociological methods. I lopped off half a star because much of the first half of the book can feel like one is reading a laundry list of opinions from women with citations as to where you can find their full story in the book. Lots and lots of 'Deena, 18 year old mother of 2 children ages four and six (covered in chapter 4) thinks......' I feel like the book probably could have been organized better in that regard but as you get farther the narrative is a lot less chopped up in that manner and you get larger parts of the stories.
Regardless, it doesn´t invalidate the importance of the opinions and life stories of the women and the incredible set of values and beliefs held by them. I learned A LOT - Edin and Kefalas completely smash the stereotypes about poor teenage and unwed mothers that those of us in the middle and upper class brackets just seem to take for granted despite never even having known or interacted with them. It also completely revealed that my own opinion of 'they just need to know about or be able to afford birth control' and everything will be hunky dory, a-ok, was an utterly ridiculous, uninformed assumption on my part that invalidates much of their life experiences.
This was also the perfect accompaniment to Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx, which I loved, but also felt incredibly frustrated because I didn't understand WHY things I took for granted in terms of the way my life should go didn't seem to be the same for those profiled in the book. Trying to keep in perspective that they led lives so much harder and so much different than mine didn't always help, but Edin and Kefalas illuminate the thought processes.
I hope to give a more in depth review in the future, but my internet time is limited at the moment....more
I feel like I've read a string of books in the past few months that haven't lived up to the hype of the words of praise across their covers or their aI feel like I've read a string of books in the past few months that haven't lived up to the hype of the words of praise across their covers or their award/shortlisted status. I picked this up at a library sale - I'd seen it a few times but for some reason I always came away thinking it was fiction. Desperation for something to read made me more careful about my selection this time around.
My stomach clenched for the first 30 pages or so - incredibly depressing, stunning stuff and I figured this would be just another one of those disappointments but resolved to read it anyway. I assumed I would come away feeling so emotionally exhausted and miserable by the end as I seem to have a really low tolerance for depressing things these days. Instead, by page fifty I was completely absorbed by the women in the book, holding onto a precarious hope that things would get better for them and amazed by their tenacity. I brought the book home Friday and I haven't been able to put it down since - Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were a frustration given I could barely keep my nose out of it but risked being rude as I stole moments to read here and there....more
I decided it was about time to finish Storming Caesars Palace in an effort to have a clean slate for 2011 and began Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony atI decided it was about time to finish Storming Caesars Palace in an effort to have a clean slate for 2011 and began Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony at about the same time. The opening lines of Silko's book bewildered me, and I set it down to read it when in a more meditative mindset:
Their evil is mighty / but it can't stand up to our stories. / So they try to destroy the stories / let the stories be confused or forgotten. / They would like that / They would be happy / Because we would be defenseless then.
On finishing Storming Caesars Palace, the meaning in that passage seems so clear and is something that comes up time and again throughout my research. It is essential to preserve histories and the stories of the voices that a hegemonic culture would sooner gloss over and destroy.
Orleck's book is an essential counterpoint to Reagan's "black welfare mother" driving her Cadillac and getting rich off public funds, now a popular and harmful stereotype in public discourse. It is the story of the women who ran Operation Life, a community group that was deemed the most successful and effective model in its delivery of social and health services to the poor community of Las Vegas.
Thanks to her interviews with the women of Operation Life, Orleck expertly sets the backdrop of what it was like to be an African American in the South in the 50s and 60s. It is both riveting and infuriating to read about what the women and their families were up against from the very beginning. The intersectionality of racism and sexism here is glaring and appalling.
Despite constant setbacks, the women of Operation Life worked for nearly twenty years to develop their community and bring about true reform. I'm so grateful that this story has been preserved - it's essential to understand that poverty is not just about "BOOTSTRAPS" but things such as deeply embedded structural racism and sexism. There is a history and a politics to this kind of thing that needs to be preserved if we are to ever bring about true reform and change....more