Many thanks to Amy Cheney for sending in the following about today’s reviewed book:
Deborah Jiang Stein came to visit the teen girls in Alameda County Juvenile Justice Center on the last day of September. Born in prison to a heroin addicted mother, she spoke about secrets and shame. About prison, drugs, crime, rage, revenge – and hope. Clean, sober, the mother of two girls, her life is now about writing and speaking to women in prisons all across the country.
After hearing her speak, 29 of the 30 girls listening wanted a copy of the book. Nyla (not her real name) was so excited about the book she gushed for over five minutes the next time I saw her. I suggested she write to the author. She wrote, “I finished your book in 3 days and I am breath taken and I have so much respect for you. So much hurt but it was so much happiness I felt too, and I cried at some parts of the book.”
Adult/High School–Jiang Stein was 12, at home, grounded, and looking through her adoptive mother’s dresser drawer when, underneath the perfumed liner, she found a letter whose contents both changed and made sense of her life: she was born in prison to a heroin addicted mother and lived with her for a period of time before being sent to foster care and finally adopted. She was living with a mother who wore pearls and sent her to ballet classes, who couldn’t be more different than the one she was born to. This letter explained why the child’s skin color didn’t match that of her white adoptive family. Why she was unloveable. Why she was angry, stole, was addicted, violent, plotted murder, hated everyone… or more accurately, simply explained the rage and myriad issues she faced. Jiang Stein became mute, locked down emotionally, unable to give or receive. She writes, “Silence, my only power then, the only thing I could control: whether I speak or not. More often I don’t speak: not one word. It takes me years to figure out how to use my voice…. Better to take years to know the value of words and language and silence at the right time than to spend a lifetime with no voice.” Her personal struggles and insights will resonate with teens dealing with their own angst. This beautifully written memoir, written in short, punchy, and sometimes poetic language, will linger with readers long after the last page is turned.–Amy Cheney, Alameda County Library, Juvenile Hall, CA