Friday, July 23, 2010

Book: The Glass Castle

Recommended by: coworker and boss
Found book at garage sale for a quarter.
Read book while flight was delayed 4 hours.

The author, Jeanette Walls, describes the life of her and her siblings growing up with anything but normal parents. Her mom was a self-absorbed artist who claimed to want to foster her children to be self sufficient while truly she was not interested in taking care of them. Their father was a alcoholic who, though intellectually brilliant, couldn't hold a job or fulfill any of his wild fortune making schemes.

This left their 3 children caring for themselves from a very young age. The book opens by recounting how Jeanette was terribly burned while trying to boil hot dogs for herself and needed to be taken to and admitted to the hospital for six weeks. She was three.

She would have stayed longer in the hospital but her father believed doctors/hospitals/police/teachers/politicians/bosses/and any other variety of people were either run by the mob or so corrupt that they were the mob. So with this the three children and his wife moved around, from trailer park to abandoned train depot to car to shack living a pale shadow of life.

The parents frustrate you. The children inspire you. At a very young age (upper elementary) the children were self sufficient and by the first years in high school they were on paths to take them away from their current life and into a whole different world.

As a teacher this was a humbling and irritating book because of everything the children had to deal with. Lack of food, clothing, warmth, or responsible & traditional adults robbed them of a childhood. The risks beyond just starving were even more horrifying. While the parents claimed they knew their children would figure out how to survive any situation, being sexually assaulted, abused by extended family, and poor living conditions which in turn froze or burned them.

As a teacher, I am glad I read the book to get a glimpse of what chaos some students live with.
As a human, I'm glad to have seen the author overcome so many challenges to become successful. Yet I'm so frustrated that adults calling themselves parents can subject children to these conditions. Yet it seems to be proof that against all odds some people can rise up like a phoenix from their current lives and thrive!