When a writer finds an author and a book who speaks to their soul, this is how we see it.
Hope’s Boy by Andrew Bridge
I love this book. I love the way Andrew Bridge uses words. I love the flow of the story. I love the pictures painted on the pages. I love this book.
If you know me at all, you know that I’m not a fickle book lover. Some books I like. Some books I very much dislike. There are very few on the Love List. The Bible, Dr. Zhivago, These is My Words they are on the Love List, but not much else.
Hope’s Boy is at the top of the Love List.
Apparently, I am not the only one who loves this book. Within one week, Hope’s Boy was named a New York Times Best Seller and a Publisher’s Weekly Best Seller.
Andrew Bridge draws the reader into the mind and emotions of a foster child. He begins at the same level that most people do when they encounter an abused child; from the outside. He is the lawyer sent to investigate a facility to report on the treatment of children. The neglect and abuse that he finds strengthens his resolve to do more.
And then he tells you why he is driven to do more.
His story begins with scenes of life with his grandmother in Chicago and carries you to the streets of Los Angeles with his mother. Try as she might, Hope could not take care of her son. Try as he might, Andrew could not take care of his mother. Andrew was only seven when the authorities took him from his mother. Growing up in foster care wasn’t the worst thing that might have happened to him physically, but the emotional scars run deep. A tale of determination and strength follows until you realize that the end has brought you back to the beginning. Along the way, Andrew has grown into the recipient of a Wesleyan scholarship, become a Harvard graduate and a Fulbright Scholar. You will cheer his success as though he were your brother.
More than that, however, Hope’s Boy stirs compassion. Rather than a victim’s tale of woe, Hope’s Boy is the story of a child who sees the struggles of the adults around him and understands. This foster child didn’t become a statistic, but found a way to succeed. With Andrew’s resume, he could have become a Wall Street corporate lawyer jet-setting with the big firms. Instead, Andrew gave his skills back to those without a voice.
Although Andrew has represented children through a number of channels beginning in Alabama, his work with the Alliance for Children’s Rights in Los Angeles, CA may have had the widest impact. Beyond providing legal services to children, Andrew has been instrumental in linking health and education services to children as well.
In my personal opinion, Andrew’s greatest work has been the attention drawn to children at the edge of emancipation. In the past, foster kids turned 18 and they were on their own. Just like that. If the foster parents didn’t feel a need to help them beyond 18, they didn’t. Most foster kids had no real contact with their birth families by that point and so the birth family didn’t help them, either. The state, certainly, didn’t help them. Statistics show that the strong majority of foster kids fail after emancipation. They don’t go to college. They can’t hold a job. They abuse their kids. They spend their adult lives trying to find a solid place to stand. Most fail. Under Andrew’s supervision, The Alliance for Children’s Rights has implemented model programs to assist kids beyond the age of 18.
Perhaps, this book is important to me because I was raised in foster care. Like Andrew, I lived in a home where my physical needs were well cared for. Like Andrew, I learned that love and failure can be elements of a parent’s character. Unlike Andrew, I have never really found a way to go back and help those who come behind.
For those who want to be involved in the legal side of foster care, Andrew suggests working with the Court Appointed Special Advocates program, also known as Guardians ad Litem. Andrew states, “These are volunteers who work with kids in the foster care system, who most often take on the kids most in need, and find solutions to problems that have eluded dozens of lawyers and judges that have preceded them. They do a great, great job and there are far too few of them. It would be tremendous if someday every kid in care could have one.” Beside this suggestion, Hopesboy.com lists several resources for various advocate programs. I recommend checking out the site and finding a place to put your talents to use.
If you work with kids, if you have ever considered becoming involved in foster care, if you were raised in a foster home; Hope’s Boy is required reading.
Hope’s Boy is not a book that you read. It’s a book that you experience. Thank you, Andrew, for giving the story a voice.