Book 21

21. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
I never read this series of books as a child, but I absolutely loved the PBS movies. In fact I still do. I was looking for something to read online at work the other day, and I found these. So I read the first book in the series, Anne of Green Gables. I found it to be a good book. They definitely held almost perfectly true to at least this particular book in the movie. There were a few minor changes here and there, but other than that reading it was almost like watching the movie. I probably would have enjoyed these a lot as child. Reading it now I think I’m enjoying it more for just remembering the scenes of the movies and whatnot. But it’s still good, so I have it an 8 out of 10.

Book 20

20. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
I recently watched the movie Capote and after viewing it decided I should read the book In Cold Blood. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the book, but I was really into it. Even though I basically knew everything that happened in the book from having seen the movie it kept my attention and made me not want to put it down. So the writing was really well done. I think he probably imbellished the goodness and wholesomeness of the family that was murdered because it seemed a little over the top to me, but I didn’t feel like it detracted from the book. So I give it a 9 out of 10.

Book 19

19. Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum

I’m not sure what I was expecting from this book. The title had always caught my eye when I was working at Barnes and Noble. I finally decided to read it. Basically the book discusses racism more as an institution as opposed to specific acts by racist people. The author creates a theory about race relations and racial identity development. It was somewhat informative, but not the most exciting book to read. If you’re really into race relations and theories behind racial identity development I’m sure it’s a great book. But I will leave it with a score of 6 out of 10, mostly for boring me.

Book 18

18. Everything Bad is Good for You by Steven Johnson

This book discusses popular culture such as television, film, videogames and the internet and how despite popular belief these things are actually good for cognitive development. The author discusses how television shows are much more complex today and create more engagement and mental challenges than shows of the past. Video games too create cognitive challenges and much more paticipatory than one might think. I give the book an 8 out of 10.

Book 17 and some thoughts

17. On Their Own: What Happens to Kids When They Age Out of the Foster Care System by Martha Shirk and Gary Stangler

This was an excellent book that chronicled the lives of 10 foster care kids as they were getting ready to age out of the foster care system. It also delved into their pasts describing how they wound up in foster care placement and what had happened to them since entering the foster care system. Most of the stories are incredibly sad. Some of the kids fighting against major odds seemed to be making a go of their lives, but others just seemed doomed to failure. Reading about the things that happened to all of them was really heartbreaking. I’ll give the book a 9 out of 10.

This book and other things I’ve seen and read about the foster care system just makes me so angry about how screwed up it is. The kids that are placed in foster care have already been through so much in the homes they were removed from. Plus they go through the trauma of being taken away from their families. No matter how screwed up a family is, it is amazing how much children want to be with their parents. Then many of these kids get thrown into situations that seem almost as bad as what they left. How can that be I wonder? What kind of system takes you out of a horrible situation just to put you in another one? I know not all foster parents or group homes are bad. Some help their kids thrive, and of course it’s easier to point out the bad ones because it’s more sensationalistic. But really the point is that bad foster care homes should not exist. If the state’s goal is to put the kids into a healthy, safe place then how can they continue placing kids in awful places? How do they not know what is going on? I have never understood the idea of placing a bunch of foster kids in one home unless it is designed to be a group home. How can the state realistically expect one parent or sometimes two to look out for sometimes as many as 10 kids at one time. That is entirely unrealistic and unless a foster parent is taking in a large group of siblings I really think foster care should be limited to 3 foster kids. I really think people that take in that many kids just want the money.

And speaking of just wanting the money, I’ve also read about people who don’t use the money they get to pay for the foster kids. They spend it on themselves and just leave the kids with nothing. One of the girls in the book I read was placed in a home with a bunch of other foster kids where the foster mother would only feed them 2 meals a day and if they missed it they got nothing. Additionally they weren’t allowed to eat snacks in the house even if they spent their own money on them. I have witnessed this in my own personal experience and it’s just so sad. When I was working at a camp for emotionally and behaviorally disturbed kids several years ago, many of the kids were in foster care. One of the boys in my group was obviously falling subject to his foster mother not spending his money on him. His clothes were too small for him and kind of worn out. The saddest though was that on a trip to Six Flags he lost one of his shoes at the water park part of it. We searched all over but never could find it. So the next Monday I was expecting to come to camp with a new pair of shoes, which he needed anyway. Instead he showed up with the remaining shoe from the pair he had and another shoe that didn’t match that was obviously part of an old pair he had outgrown. It was really heartbreaking.

I sometimes think about being a foster parent at some time in the future. It would be a huge commitment and it would mean dealing with a lot of troubled kids. But it would be nice to make a difference and hopefully be a good home for these kids even temporarily. I don’t know if I’ll ever do it, but it’s a thought. Particularly if I do decide I want to have kids, which I’m still unsure of at this point in my life. My body might not be able to handle it. Plus I would have to go off some of my meds to have a baby. One of the side-effects listed on my methotrexate is literally abortion. Nice, huh? So if you take that and decide to get pregnant you have to be off it for at least 3 months, but I still don’t know about that. I guess there is some science that determined that being off it for 3 months is enough to make the chance of birth defects negligible, but if it’s true that women have all the eggs they are ever going to have when they are born, I don’t really see how this drug can’t be affecting all my eggs. So perhaps I should just give a kid who needs a safe and happy home a chance instead of having my own. Who knows? Something to think about for the future.

Book 16

16. American Dream: Three Women, Ten Kids, and Nation’s Drive to End Welfare by Jason DeParle
This book written by a reporter for the New York Times chronicles the decade (1994-2004) following Bill Clinton’s ending of welfare as it was previously known. It details all the political stuff leading up to the changes in the welfare laws and all the bureaucratic mess that followed including non-profit and for-profit companies who were supposed to be using state money to help welfare recipients instead stealing welfare money and using it for other purposes and not at all keeping up with their cases.

It also chronicles the impact of the welfare laws on 3 women living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It was a wondeful book, and a heartbreaking look at the struggles the poor go through. Some of it through their own making, but some of it seemingly out of their control even when they’re trying to do their best to succeed. I would rate this book a 9 out of 10.