Synopses & Reviews
This moving collection brings together the stories of fifteen women who share the common experience of homelessness. Drawing on interviews conducted in Seattle, Washington over the course of nearly two decades, these accounts range across the United States, from New York to Louisiana to Los Angeles. Included here are memories of living in the South at the tail end of Jim Crow, of growing up gay and Black in the Pacific Northwest in the 1960s, and of surviving childhood abuse in Harlan, Kentucky in the 1970s. These women reveal the formidable struggles they face every day, from catastrophic health issues to routine threats of physical and sexual assault. But they also speak about their own intellectual interests and spiritual lives, and their activism with organizations such as Women in Black, which has held vigils to mark the deaths and honor the lives of the hundreds who have died homeless in the city that spawned Microsoft, Starbucks, and the WTO protests. Illuminating the rich and complicated humanity of its narrators, this book challenges stereotypes about homeless people and provides jarring, unforgettable insights--taken from shelters, drop-in centers, and the streets--into civil society in the United States.
'Hellegers presents 15 oral histories of homeless women whom she interviewed several times during the 1990s and 2000s in Seattle, Washington. The 15 women are stunningly articulate, and Hellegers steps out of their way to let their voices come through. Recommended.' - CHOICE
"No Room of her Own will take its place next to Liebow's Tell Them Who I Am as a definitive contemporary human document on the lives of homeless women." Mitchell Duneier, Maurice P. During Professor of Sociology, Princeton University
"Some of my deepest conversations have been with wise homeless sisters of all colors on the underside of America - yet they have a rich understanding of America! Don't miss this book!" Cornel West, Princeton University
"Heartbreaking and inspiring stories of courageous women enduring and triumphing over adversity few of us can imagine. Desiree Hellegers brilliantly collates and connects the stories of disparate homeless women. We learn much about these citizens with no addresses. They have been studied to death but rarely do we hear their voices. Hellegers skillfully and with compassion weaves the tapestry of these women's testimonies. From Sweet Pea to Debra and Marlowe, their accounts of survival and dignity reveal hidden truths of gender relations and our political and social culture. No Room of Her Own breaks the silences surrounding the national disgrace of homelessness. These women must be heard." David Barsamian, founder and director of Alternative Radio
"After reading No Room of Her Own, I'm more convinced than ever that unless we bend toward justice, years hence, our children will look back upon current policies - that are producing poverty and homelessness alongside peopleless homes - as a societal experiment that is far worse than the Tuskegee study, in which the ravages of syphilis were studied while the individuals were left untreated." Stephen Bezruchka M.D., M.P.H., School of Public Health, University of Washington
"Hellegers carefully and contextually places the reader into the individual lives of un-housed women who unmistakably form the very subtext for social justice." Neil J. Donovan, Executive Director, National Coalition for the Homeless
"No Room of Her Own is a gift to readers who want to understand the lives of women who have no home. Hellegers provides a platform for each woman to tell her story in her own vivid, heart wrenching language. As I read the book I felt as if I trudged uphill with each woman as she searched for a place to shower, a chance at a job a safe bed - or even a doorway - for the night. Any image I had of homelessness as a position of inert helplessness has been dispelled by reading the stories of women on the move to improve their situations. Violence, depression and anger are potent parts of the women's struggles. External threats to safety and health frequently erode confidence. But hope and courage regularly rise up to triumph over despair." Ginny Nicarthy, author of Getting Free: You Can End Abuse and Take Back Your Life
"The reality that sings out from Desiree Hellegers' remarkable book is that women who lack a roof to sleep under at night are not lacking in competence, will-power, a way with words and a generous spirit of activism. The first-hand stories gathered here, framed by Hellegers' cogently political introduction, show how in the USA's grossly class-divided, racist and sexist society, housing is not a right but a privilege. Homelessness is a punishment for being already disadvantaged. No Room of Her Own will be an inspiration to activist women, both homeless and housed." Cynthia Cockburn, feminist research and writer, member of Women in Black London. Author of From Where We Stand: War, Women's Activism and Feminist Analysis (2007)
"Desiree Hellegers presents fifteen heart-wrenching portraits of the lives of homeless and formerly homeless women. These women's stories are not sanitized to elicit sympathy from the reader. Rather, Hellegers offers us multidimensional narratives that resist the objectifying tendencies of other portrayals of the un-housed. In doing so, she aids the women's persistent struggle to assert value in their lives in the midst of constantly being undermined by a society that treats them as disposable commodities. This book will be an important contribution towards understanding the reality of those who struggle on a daily basis to survive on the streets." - Daniel Kerr, Assistant Professor of History, American University
"No Room of Her Own: Women's stories of Homelessness, Life, Death and Resistance is a well researched piece of work, and sobering reminder that for women who experience homelessness in the United States, they face many of the same horrid injustices as their sisters around the globe. By recording and presenting the voices of women who have struggled through the trauma of the streets, we can better understand the beautiful and tragic story of the human experience. It's also a call to action, and a reminder we all have a part to play. Israel Bayer, Executive Director of Street Roots, a street newspaper in Portland, Oregon, and former board chair of the North American Street Newspaper Association (NASNA)
This oral history collection brings together extended interviews with fifteen women who share the common experience of homelessness. While all the interviews were conducted in Seattle, Washington between 1991 and 2008, the women’s stories zigzag across the country, from Baltimore and New York City, to Louisiana and Kentucky, to Los Angeles and San Francisco. The narrators recount stories of growing up in the south at the tail end of Jim Crow, of growing up gay and Black in the Pacific Northwest in the 1960s, and of surviving childhood molestation in Harlan, Kentucky in the 1970s. The stories illuminate the part that gender roles play in ensnaring women in cycles of domestic abuse and homelessness. They speak to the physical stresses of homelessness, and the toll it takes on bodies already weakened by high blood pressure, strokes, sickle cell anemia, and epilepsy and the routine threats of physical violence that homeless women in particular encounter on the street. At the same time, these accounts move beyond monolithic stereotypes about the homeless, revealing their narrators' diverse experiences and rich, complicated humanity.
This oral history collection brings together extended interviews with fifteen women, illuminating the part that gender roles play in ensnaring women in cycles of domestic abuse and homelessness and highlighting the physical stresses. It also challenges liberal myths about homeless people, and homeless women in particular.
About the Author
Desiree Hellegers is an associate professor of English and a founding co-director of the Center for Social and Environmental Justice at Washington State University Vancouver. She is the author of Handmaid to Divinity: Natural Philosophy, Poetry, and Gender in Seventeenth-Century England (2000) and a board member of Portland Peace and Justice Works.
Table of Contents
Mama Pam * Annamarie Tailfeathers * Elizabeth Thatcher * Sweet Pea * Debra Martinson * Anitra Freeman * Roxane Roberts * Loann Winston * Mona Caudill Joyner * Jessie Pedro * Marie * Janice Connelly * Flower * Arnette Adams * Marlowe