Is it only January? Yes. Have I maybe read the best nonfiction book of the year already? Also, yes.
In this narrative nonfiction that reads like a novel, Invisible Child by Andrea Elliott chronicles the true life of one family, and really one girl, living in extreme poverty in New York City. We meet Dasani and her family in one of the city’s biggest and least maintained family shelters, along with the mice and mold that have also made the shelter their home. We follow Dasani as she struggles and triumphs in school, as she wades through her parents’ marital problems, as she tries desperately to care for her (seven!) siblings, becoming a mother of sorts when she is still just a child.
Dasani’s life is never stable—they move from shelter to shelter, apartment to apartment, school to school. She is chronically absent due to the exhaustion that is trying to survive in poverty in America. But she is strong. And smart. And she has a few adults that see her potential and fight for her. And, most importantly, she loves her family more than life itself.
What stood out to me the most was how much this family leaned on each other for survival. Her mom, Chanel, at equal turns made me want to scream and also high five her. Whatever you can say about her that is not great, she hustles for her kids. At every turn, she is doing what she can for them.
The other thing that stood out to me is how truly broken our welfare and child protection and social services systems are in this country. Being this poor is a full-time job. I couldn’t even imagine any time where Dasani’s parents could go to an actual job, after spending hours in lines to get immediate needs like food and shelter taken care of.
Read this one, friends. It is tough. Read it with a buddy. I was so glad to have @notesonbookmarks
along with me—all the sobbing emojis and praise hands and hearts and angry faces. It’s all here. This book has the power to change minds and hearts and laws. What a masterpiece.