When I became homeless, I suddenly began seeing people on the street that I had never noticed when I was a white-collar professional commuting from suburbia. They were now my neighbors in the shelters and on the streets. But there were still a few that I did not feel empathy with. Sympathy maybe, but not empathy. I did not identify with the street drunks and the drug addicts.
Then I read Earle Thompson's poetry. Even the street drunks became companions, people I knew.
Now I have read Lee Stringer. And I will never feel the same way about a crackhead or other drug addict again.
Lee Stringer lived on the streets of New York, often in the warrens underneath Grand Central Station. His description of the homeless life is as accurate in Seattle as it is in New York. He wrote for the New York street-paper Street News, and eventually became its Chief Editor. His account gives a close-up look at what this kind of paper means to many of us.
Lee Stringer makes me proud to be a writer. He managed to trade in the addiction of crack cocaine for the addiction of writing. (Not easily -- nothing in this book is easy.) I wish he was writing with StreetWrites and Real Change. He describes life on the streets without ever getting maudlin; he honestly reports charity scams and the violence done by homeless people themselves without ever sacrificing our empathy or our hope.
It is one of the rare educations that can actually be enjoyed. Get it.
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