Book Review: “Ellen Foster”

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“Ellen Foster” by Kaye Gibbons

It’s funny to talk about a book by bringing up a movie but I think seeing the movie Philomena made me want to read this book again. It’s one of the books that I read when I first joined my book club but it has stayed with me as one of the most memorable books I’ve ever read.  It’s the story of a young girl who loses her momma, and is left to the care of a late stage, abusive alcoholic father.  What is riveting about it though, is there is no trace of “victim” in the girl’s persona.  She tries to get taken in by her aunts and grandmother who refuse her, but when her situation becomes dangerous and she is rescued by someone who cares for her, the state disallows the adoption and gives her to her grandmother who didn’t want her to begin with.  Unable to be with people who genuinely want her, Ellen takes matters into her own hands and sets about finding a home for herself.  Reading this book I felt broken-hearted about this adorable little orphan and wanted to adopt her myself, but I also felt proud as a parent when she picked herself up and moved on. The courage and moxie of this child will put a tear in your eye, but at the same time lift your heart.  Gibbons won two literary awards for Ellen Foster, the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction and a citation from the Ernest Hemingway Foundation.

If you don’t like to read, or don’t have time (this is a short read however) “Ellen Foster” was also made into a movie by Hallmark, and Ellen was delightfully portrayed by Jenna Malone.  I was able to rent a DVD of it from my library. On a side note, (and I haven’t seen it), there’s a TV show called “the Fosters” on ABC with similar stories.  They probably got the idea for the show from this book.

Facts about homeless Teens…

1.      There are approximately 1.7 million homeless teens in the U.S.
2.     39 percent of the homeless population is young people under 18.
3.     About 75 percent of homeless teens use drugs or alcohol as a means to self
medicate, to deal with the traumatic experiences and abuse they face.
4.     5,000 young people die every year because of assault, illness, or suicide
while on the street.
5.     A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services study found that 46
percent of homeless youth left their home because of physical abuse.
17 percent because of sexual abuse.
6.     Approximately 40 percent of homeless teens identify as Lesbian, Gay, or
7.     Over 50 percent of young people in shelters and on the streets report that
their parents told them to leave or knew they were leaving and didn’t care.
8.     The average age a teen becomes homeless is 14.7 years.
9.     1 in 7 young people between the ages of 10 and 18 will run away.
10.   Teens age 12 to 17 are more likely to become homeless than adults.
11.   The HIV rates for homeless young people are 2 to 10 times higher than
reported rates for other samples of adolescents in the U.S.


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