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Sleepaway School: A Memoirby Lee Stringer
Synopses & Reviews
In Sleepaway School, a boy becomes a man. The way Lee Stringer tells it, that is by itself more than enough for an enthralling story.--Kurt Vonnegut, from the foreword
In a riveting memoir, the author of the acclaimed Grand Central Winter: Stories from the Street (1998) goes back to his 1960s troubled childhood as a foster kid growing up poor and black in a wealthy white neighborhood in upstate New York. . . . Told in more than 30 connected stories, the eloquent, present-tense narrative has the immediacy of Tobias Wolff's This Boy's Life. . . . It's an unforgettable coming of age.--Hazel Rochman, Booklist (starred review)
Lee Stringer proves that talent travels. In Sleepaway School, he hones the sharp wit and keen perception that made Grand Central Winter so memorable to create a lyrical and deeply moving tribute to a troubled childhood. Most memoirists are well out of gas by their second book; Stringer is taking off and heading for the clouds. He is an authentic original voice.--Peter Blauner, author of The Intruder and The Last Good Day.
The most surprising thing about Sleepaway School is that it is not grim. In fact, much of it is lighthearted and free from bitterness. Caverly's voice is appealing, and his innocence and helplessness are convincingly conveyed.--Rocky Mountain News
Lee Stringer is the author of the acclaimed Grand Central Winter: Stories from the Street, a New York Times Notable Book and USA Today Top Ten pick, which has been translated into a dozen languages. He also is the author, with Kurt Vonnegut, of Like Shaking Hands With God: A Conversation About Writing. He currently serves on three nonprofit boards: Project Renewal in New York City, the Friends of the Mamaroneck Library, and the Youth Shelter Program of Westchester.
There are family-like bonds that can form within the larger human family, when one’s own family life has been broken into fragments. Such is the case throughout Sleepaway School, Lee Stringer’s recounting of his years at Hawthorne Cedar Knolls—a school for kids at risk—and the events that led up to them.
The clash of being poor and black in an affluent, largely white New York suburb begins to foment pain and rage which erupts, more often than not, when he is at school. One violent episode results in his expulsion from the sixth grade and his subsequent three-year stint at Hawthorne, the "sleepaway school" of the title. What follows is an intensely personal American journey: a universal story of childhood where childhood universals are missing. Excluded at first by his peers, Stringer develops an outsider’s eye, enabling him to see some things more deeply from without than from within. Such insight, however, is not enough to assuage the anguish he feels over his isolation. And when this spills out Stringer finds himself in yet another, darker institution.
In Sleepaway School, we experience how a child fashions his life out of the materials given to him, however threadbare. This is a boy-meets-world story, the chronicle of one child’s struggle simply to be.
Lee Stringer is the author of the acclaimed Grand Central Winter: Stories From the Street (Seven Stories Press, 1998), which chronicled his twelve years of crack addiction and homelessness on the streets of New York City. It has been translated into eighteen languages, and prompted Stringer’s appearance on Oprah and many other national television shows, newspapers and magazines.
Like his brother before him, Stringer was surrendered to foster care, shortly after birth, by his unwed and underemployed mother-a common practice for unmarried women in mid-century America. Less common was that she returned six years later to reclaim her children. Rather than leading to a happy ending, though, this is where Stringer's story begins. The clash of being poor and black in an affluent, largely white New York suburb begins to foment pain and rage which erupts, more often than not, when he is at school. One violent episode results in his expulsion from the sixth grade and his subsequent three-year stint at Hawthorne, the sleepaway school of the title.
About the Author
Lee Stringer lived on the streets in the '80s and '90s. His first book, Grand Central Winter, was an international bestseller in 1998. He serves on the board of Mamaronek Libraries and Project Renewal. In addition to other memoirs, Stringer's writing has appeared in The Nation, New York Times, and Newsday.
Table of Contents
Three fatherless sons walking — The thing is, I did fine --At the back of the lot — My mother has a Victrola — When the cops get to — I do just as the cops say — The next morning — We're all in the auditorium when it happens — It's a Friday when the car from — First, there is — For most of its history — They are short one — We're in the van — My mother brings along-- Our day — They took me — All of us — Every Tuesday after — This new kid, this Walter — Red-haired — Steve has pictures, sexy pictures — Curiosity and urgency — I've begun to halfways suspect — I think it's stepping back from — If I peer through — I don't go back — A week before --On the inside of my — We're down in the — The flu is — It's around midnight, and — A Friday, a gray — Princess is long and — There's a big.
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