Tuesday, September 11, 2012

TOP TEN TUESDAY: The Top Ten Books That Make Me Think About Poverty

Top 10 Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. Today’s topic is the Top Ten Books That Make Me Think About Poverty

I know, I know, I know… super depressing topic. BUT on Saturday I am giving a book talk at Urbana School District’s American History Teacher’s Collaborative Focus Workshop on Poverty so I am already hunting down those books and it’s on my mind. So I’ll just be the buzz-kill for the day. Hooray!

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
The Great Depression + the Dust Bowl + lots of sadness & people dying = really sad book that focuses on the poverty and horrible conditions of people living in the 1930s. It is written in verse so although it is not the happiest book, it is a quick read and will get you thinking.

Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
I almost couldn’t believe that people actually lived like this in the south in the early to mid-1900s. It really was difficult to think that in AMERICA, where people are supposed to be free and have chances to succeed, that thousands of people lived with so little due to sharecropping and Jim Crow las.

Letters from Rifka by Karen Hesse
Karen Hesse is the queen of sad historical fiction books. Seriously. Her books are great, but they definitely don’t leave you jumping for joy. This book focuses on the poverty made so many immigrate to America between 1880 and 1920 AND that their lives weren’t all that great flowers once they got here.

You Wouldn’t Want to Be an American Colonists: A Settlement You’d Rather Not Start by Jacqueline Morley
Ok, I love these “You Wouldn’t Want to Be…” books. They are hilarious but really do make you think about the hardships people faced long ago. 

Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright While the family in this book wasn’t necessarily in complete poverty, that was a very real possibility if there was no rain and their crops failed. I kept thinking about this book all summer as we would go weeks without rain and the news showed withered crops. Sometimes one bad season is all that stands between us and poverty.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Centuries ago when Americans were allowed to have slaves, those who were enslaved were the lowest of the low. They worked in rough conditions, had little food, and, worst of all, didn’t even have their freedom. Uncle Tom’s Cabin stirred the rage of Americans and fueled the abolitionist movement. There is no way that Harriet Beecher Stowe could have known what a huge impact she would have when she wrote this book about the conditions of slaves in the south. Good for you Ms. Stowe!    

A Child Called “It” by David Pelzer Although the families David lived with may not have been monetarily poor, he had to live through impoverished and dangerous conditions at times. David (like many children today) did not receive basic care, emotional support, or attention due to the cruelty and ignorance of some adults.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
Esperanza may live in a poor part of Chicago, but she has hope. And hope is what gets her through assaults, having meager resources, the ups-and-downs of friendships, boys, and experiencing negativity around her. I like books that have hope.

Trash by Andy Mulligan This book broke my heart. In a city in a third world country the only hope people have of survival digging through garbage day after day and hopefully finding something useful or edible. Beyond the vivid descriptions of the garbage dump and shacks piled together (and on top of each other), Mulligan gives faces, names, and personalities of the young people affected by intense poverty. 

The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeanette Walls
This was one of those books that I wished I could talk (or yell!) at the characters- especially the parents. Jeanette Walls’ story of growing up was frustrating to read because there were opportunities for the family to not live in poverty but adults made bad (or selfish) decisions and the children suffered the consequences.

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