Tuesday, April 22, 2014

How Long Will I Cry?: voices of Youth Violence, edited by Miles Harvey

I realized that I should put up a link to my book review of How Long Will I Cry: Voices of Youth Violence. It's at Escape Into Life. Sometimes the reviews that I put over there are a bit random, but this one wasn't. The book was suggested to me by Kathleen Kirk, who handles the poetry end of things over there, but is also the chief factotum, whether officially or no. I don't know how she came across it, but I suspect that her connection with Illinois theatre may have had something to do with it, as the book was originally inspired by the effort to mount a theatre production based on the lives of Chicago youth in neighborhoods in which there is a lot of violence.

My own interest in the project was piqued by the fact that, for ten years, my cousin Ann Graham Deuel ran a home for at-risk kids on the South Side of Chicago called Jamal Place. Blond blue-eyed woman from outside the city though she is, her efforts for the kids who had been dismissed by the powers that be paid off, although trends in funding proved ultimately disastrous for her project. I think the book, among other things, shows that this result is not unusual. Just as the kids are vulnerable to the point of life and death, so are the programs that get off the ground to help them. Although my review points out that individual efforts are crucial in individual lives, in fact, without a societal will to change the story in the kinds of neighborhoods depicted in this book, what one person can do can turn out to be quixotic. This isn't a reason to despair, however. This is a clarion call to action.

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