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Criminal of Poverty: Growing Up Homeless in America


Criminal of Poverty: Growing Up Homeless in America Cover

ISBN13: 9781931404075
ISBN10: 1931404070
Condition: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Eleven-year-old Lisa becomes her mother's primary support when they face the prospect of homelessness. As Dee, a single mother, struggles with the demons of her own childhood of neglect and abuse, Lisa has to quickly assume the role of an adult in an attempt to keep some stability in their lives. "Dee and Tiny" ultimately become underground celebrities in San Francisco, squatting in storefronts and performing the "art of homelessness." Their story, filled with black humor and incisive analysis, illuminates the roots of poverty, the criminalization of poor families, and their struggle for survival.


"We are not the same after reading this hellish tale of a young girl's struggle to survive." Yannick Murphy, author of Here They Come


"She opens up an important window onto a reality looked upon by many but truly seen by few." Piri Thomas, author of Down These Mean Streets


"If your heart is unmoved when you finish this memoir, then it's made of stone." Ayelet Waldman, author of Love and Other Impossible Pursuits


"Lays bare the devastating effects of inheriting a life of poverty, as well the real redemption and power in finding your voice." Michelle Tea, author of Rose of No Man's Land and Valencia

Book News Annotation:

"Tiny," aka Lisa Gray-Garcia (the founder of POOR Magazine), presents her family memoir growing poor in the United States, where being poor is a criminal act. She describes the experiences of three generations of poor women: her grandmother, "an Irish immigrant, teenage mother and battered woman in pre-New Deal patriarchal America;" her mother, "a mixed-race child surrendered to foster care, a survivor of abuse who tried for many years to escape her childhood torture until one day the struggle became too great"; and herself, who experience homelessness and gradually became a radically politicized anti-poverty activist. Annotation ©2007 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)


A daughter's struggle to keep her family alive through poverty, homelessness, and incarceration.

About the Author

Lisa Gray-Garcia became homeless at the age of 11. She is the founder of Poor Magazine, a literary and visual arts magazine, and Poor News Network (PNN), a monthly radio show focusing on issues of poverty and racism. Her journalism has been featured in Common Dreams, the SF Chronicle, as well as many other local and national media outlets.

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jgeneric, October 31, 2007 (view all comments by jgeneric)
Struggle and hope. That's what I thought of this May the 1st of 2006, when seemingly millions of people across the US, mainly Latinos, rallied to support so-called illegal immigrants. These immigrants have literally spent a long time struggling both in the nations they came from and here in the US as business people get rich from their labor. But that day there was hope. In this day of globalization where corporations have the ultimate freedom to cross borders at will in the search for higher and higher profits, while workers cannot without becoming "illegals", it was a day that seemed to signify that "Si, se peude!" They stood up to a government punishing its own people trying to escape a poverty created by the economic policies created by that very government.

What exactly is going on at the US-Mexican border? It seems so far away to me, but in a town I grew up near, you can see the backlash and blame on immigrants for US citizens losing jobs to what is really that fault of neo-liberal attacks like NAFTA. In Hazleton, PA (about 45 minutes from my native Carbondale), some of the most draconian laws against immigrants ever passed sailed through recently. But it all comes back to the border. It turns out that Mexican immigrants are not so docile after all,and that they, just like any people who have been wronged over and over, will stand up for themselves. David Bacon, a labor journalist who works for the Nation, illustrates this well in "The Children of NAFTA: Labor Wars on the U. S./Mexico Border".

Bacon looks at what exactly is happening on the border. He starts by exploring the grape pickers of Southern California. Most had come to the US to seek higher wages than they could have possibly gotten in Mexico. But after NAFTA (North American Free Trade Association), the companies at which they had won better wages after decades of fights with the Caesar Chavez's United Farm Workers (UFW), many suddenly found that they lost these jobs as they moved to Mexico's Mexicali Valley where they could pay those workers as much as a third less than the mainly Mexican immigrants in the US. In the Mexicali Valley, farmworkers (who often bring their children to the fields since there is no affordable school or daycare) could barely afford to pay their bills or get groceries, leading to many families sharing homes in order to pool their resources.

Along this same border has risen the infamous Maquiladora (duty-free and union-free factories) industry, which is now a global term but originated as a term for clothing manufacturers along the US-Mexico border. These have swelled since NAFTA, and one of the allures is that it is very hard to form an independent union in Mexico. However, Bacon illustrates that over the past decade of NAFTA Mexico, several independent unions have arisen in the face of a hostile ruling PRI, and then PAN, governments. At the same time, US unions have begun to pull away from their former cold-war, anti-communist sentiment and have slowly recognized that American workers and Mexican workers both lose because of NAFTA and that they must work together in order to survive, The UE, (United Electrical), an independent union, sent the first support to the new independent unions and conducted co-campaigns on the border to organize Maquiladoras into unions to demand better conditions and wages. Interestingly enough, it also began the question of shifting their tactics, since while US unions usually pressure companies until they can win or get some of their goals, Mexican unions usually see the government as their main enemy since the Mexican government maintains industry control over wages and will often not let companies raise wages if it will effect an entire industry (another reason US companies like moving to Mexico).

Some of the stuff in this book honestly was shocking how far 1st world companies would go to crush 3rd world workers. There are countless stories in "Children of NAFTA" of brutal beatings of union organizers. They (factory managers) shipped in temps in many stories to vote for the company government-sanctioned union in factory-wide elections, which too seemed many times to galvanize Maquiladora workers against the management. Black-lists, revenge wage-reductions, and brutal attacks on factory workers' pro-union demonstrations almost made reading it unbearable. However, as the labor organizers learned to deal with NAFTA, the one thing I came away from is that the only hope that we human beings fighting for a better future for our children have is that we can never turn our backs on anyone in a struggle. If global corporations can be everywhere, labor unions must be too. While we engage in these struggles locally, our minds must think globally, as the phrase goes.
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Product Details

Gray Garcia, Tiny
City Lights Books
Gray-Garcia, Lisa
Gray-Garcia, Tiny, aka Lisa
Gray-Garcia, Tiny
Gray-Garcia, Tiny
Tiny, aka Lisa Gray-Garcia
Gray-garcia, Lisa
Gray-Garcia, Tiny, aka Lisa
Tiny, aka Lisa Gray-Garcia
Homeless persons
Women's Studies - General
General Biography
Specific Groups - General
Personal Memoirs
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
8.4 x 5.4 x 0.7 in 15 oz

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Related Subjects

Biography » General
History and Social Science » American Studies » Poverty
History and Social Science » Gender Studies » Womens Studies
History and Social Science » Sociology » Poverty

Criminal of Poverty: Growing Up Homeless in America Used Trade Paper
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$13.50 In Stock
Product details 287 pages City Lights Books - English 9781931404075 Reviews:
"Review" by , "We are not the same after reading this hellish tale of a young girl's struggle to survive."
"Review" by , "She opens up an important window onto a reality looked upon by many but truly seen by few."
"Review" by , "If your heart is unmoved when you finish this memoir, then it's made of stone."
"Review" by , "Lays bare the devastating effects of inheriting a life of poverty, as well the real redemption and power in finding your voice."
"Synopsis" by ,
A daughter's struggle to keep her family alive through poverty, homelessness, and incarceration.
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