Live Through This

IMG_0277A friend of mine took a Tin House Workshop in the Northwest. While she was there, she had the opportunity to work with Debra Gwartney. She told me about what a wonderful teacher she was, and I found it to be an amazing coincidence because I had just picked up her memoir Live Through This from the library.

Gwartney’s memoir is her account of her two eldest daughters who became teenage runaways. At the time, she was a divorced mother of four trying to keep all of her girls under one roof. As she works and tries to keep a stable home for her four growing girls, the eldest two become inseparable, playing hooky and meeting other kids on the street. Gwartney’s memoir details the years where she relentlessly chased her daughters across the west coast, trying to bring them home, all the while trying to maintain a good home for her two younger daughters, and keep a job.

I have traveled to other countries and witnessed first-hand the overwhelming amount of teenage and child homelessness. When I picked up Gwartney’s memoir, I had initially believed that most teenagers weren’t homeless, that most were within the foster care system, which is why I never saw younger boys and girls panhandling in the streets. But Gwartney’s memoir made me understand that there is a large community of young runaways, kids in overgrown clothes hopping on freight trains to get to other parts of the country. In particular, her prologue to the book made me reexamine people I see in the world and the fact that there are people under 18 who are homeless.

I realize that Gwartney’s memoir isn’t about shining a light on teenage homeless, but more of a mother desperate to gather her daughters together and keep them safe. The memoir is written from the perspective of a woman who has clearly given a lot of time and reflection to what happened over the span of those years. This was an amazing story, well-written, and worth reading!