Written by or about individuals who have experienced the struggles of homelessness, the books on this list include both memoirs and fiction titles. Each book provides the reader with new perspectives while also creating space for empathy-driven dialogue.
All We Had: A Novel by Annie Weatherwax
For thirteen-year-old Ruthie Carmichael and her mother, Rita, life has never been stable. The only sure thing is their love for each other. Though Rita works more than one job, the pair teeters on the edge of poverty. When their landlord kicks them out, Rita resorts to her movie-star looks and produces carpet-installer Phil, "an instant boyfriend," who takes them in. Before long, Ruthie convinces her mother to leave and in their battered Ford Escort, they head East in search of a better life. When money runs out and their car breaks down, they find themselves stranded in a small town called Fat River where their luck finally takes a turn.
At the Edge of the Haight by Katherine Seligman
Maddy Donaldo, homeless at twenty, has made a family of sorts in the dangerous spaces of San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. She knows whom to trust, where to eat, when to move locations, and how to take care of her dog. It's the only home she has. When she unwittingly witnesses the murder of a young homeless boy and is seen by the perpetrator, her relatively stable life is upended. Suddenly, everyone from the police to the dead boys' parents want to talk to Maddy about what she saw. As adults pressure her to give up her secrets and reunite with her own family before she meets a similar fate, Maddy must decide whether she wants to stay lost or be found.
Brave Girl, Quiet Girl: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde
Brooke is a divorced single mom, financially strapped, living with her mother, and holding tight to the one thing that matters most: her two-year-old daughter Etta. Then, in a matter of seconds, Brooke's life is shattered when she's carjacked. Helpless and terrified, all Brooke can do is watch as Etta, still strapped in her seat, disappears into the Los Angeles night. Miles away, Etta is found by Molly, a homeless teen who is all too used to darkness. As unpredictable as her life is, she's stunned to find Etta, abandoned and alone. Shielding the little girl from more than the elements, Molly must put herself in harm's way to protect a child as lost as she is.
Little Family by Ishmael Beah
Hidden away from a harsh outside world, five young people have improvised a home in an abandoned airplane, a relic of their country's tumultuous past. Elimane, the bookworm, is as street-smart as he is wise. Clever Khoudiemata maneuvers to keep the younger kids--athletic, pragmatic Ndevui, thoughtful Kpindi, and especially their newest member, Namsa--safe and fed. When Elimane makes himself of service to the shadowy William Handkerchief, it seems as if the little family may be able to keep the world at bay and their household intact. But when Khoudi comes under the spell of the "beautiful people"--the fortunate sons and daughters of the elite--the desire to resume an interrupted coming of age and follow her own destiny proves impossible to resist.
Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder
Employers have discovered a new, low-cost labor pool, made up largely of transient older Americans. Finding that social security comes up short, often underwater on mortgages, these invisible casualties of the Great Recession have taken to the road by the tens of thousands in late-model RVs, travel trailers, and vans, forming a growing community of nomads: migrant laborers who call themselves workampers. Bruder hits the road to get to know her subjects, accompanying them from job to job in the dark underbelly of the American economy, while celebrating their resilience and creativity.
The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeanette Walls
A remarkable memoir of resilience and redemption, and a revelatory look into a family at once deeply dysfunctional and uniquely vibrant. When sober, Jeannette's brilliant and charismatic father captured his children's imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and how to embrace life fearlessly. But when he drank, he was dishonest and destructive. Her mother was a free spirit who abhorred the idea of domesticity and didn't want the responsibility of raising a family. The Walls children learned to take care of themselves. They fed, clothed, and protected one another, and eventually found their way to New York. Their parents followed them, choosing to be homeless even as their children prospered.
This Is All I Got: A New Mother's Search for Home by Lauren Sandler
Camila is a twenty-two-year-old new mother. She has no family to rely on, no partner, and no home. Despite her intelligence and determination, the odds are firmly stacked against her. Award-winning journalist Lauren Sandler tells the story of a year in Camila's life--from the birth of her son to his first birthday--as she navigates the labyrinth of poverty and homelessness in America. As Camila attempts to secure a college education and a safe place to raise her son, she copes with dashed dreams, failed relationships, and miles of red tape with grit, grace, and resilience.
Undocumented: A Dominican Boy’s Odyssey from a Homeless Shelter to the Ivy League by Dan-el Padilla Peralta
A Princeton University salutatorian describes his experiences as an undocumented immigrant youth in New York City, relating his efforts as a scholarship student in a private school that sharply contrasted with his street life in East Harlem.
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