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A riveting account of a year in the life of a young, homeless single mother, her quest to find stability and shelter in New York City—and the journalist who got too close while telling her story. More than forty-five million Americans attempt to survive under the poverty line, day by day. Nearly 60,000 people sleep in New York City-run shelters every night—forty percent of A riveting account of a year in the life of a young, homeless single mother, her quest to find stability and shelter in New York City—and the journalist who got too close while telling her story. More than forty-five million Americans attempt to survive under the poverty line, day by day. Nearly 60,000 people sleep in New York City-run shelters every night—forty percent of them children. This Is All I Got makes this issue deeply personal, vividly depicting one woman's hope and despair and her steadfast determination to improve her situation, despite the myriad setbacks she encounters. Camila is a twenty-two-year-old new mother. She has no family to rely on, no partner, and no home. Despite her intelligence and determination, the odds are firmly stacked against her. Award-winning journalist Lauren Sandler tells the story of a year in Camila's life—from the birth of her son to his first birthday—as she navigates the labyrinth of poverty and homelessness in America. As Camila attempts to secure a college education and a safe place to raise her son, she copes with dashed dreams, failed relationships, and miles of red tape with grit, grace, and resilience. This Is All I Got is a dramatic story of survival and powerful indictment of a broken system, but it is also a revealing and candid depiction of the relationship between an embedded reporter and her subject and the tricky boundaries to navigate when it's impossible to remain a dispassionate observer.


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A riveting account of a year in the life of a young, homeless single mother, her quest to find stability and shelter in New York City—and the journalist who got too close while telling her story. More than forty-five million Americans attempt to survive under the poverty line, day by day. Nearly 60,000 people sleep in New York City-run shelters every night—forty percent of A riveting account of a year in the life of a young, homeless single mother, her quest to find stability and shelter in New York City—and the journalist who got too close while telling her story. More than forty-five million Americans attempt to survive under the poverty line, day by day. Nearly 60,000 people sleep in New York City-run shelters every night—forty percent of them children. This Is All I Got makes this issue deeply personal, vividly depicting one woman's hope and despair and her steadfast determination to improve her situation, despite the myriad setbacks she encounters. Camila is a twenty-two-year-old new mother. She has no family to rely on, no partner, and no home. Despite her intelligence and determination, the odds are firmly stacked against her. Award-winning journalist Lauren Sandler tells the story of a year in Camila's life—from the birth of her son to his first birthday—as she navigates the labyrinth of poverty and homelessness in America. As Camila attempts to secure a college education and a safe place to raise her son, she copes with dashed dreams, failed relationships, and miles of red tape with grit, grace, and resilience. This Is All I Got is a dramatic story of survival and powerful indictment of a broken system, but it is also a revealing and candid depiction of the relationship between an embedded reporter and her subject and the tricky boundaries to navigate when it's impossible to remain a dispassionate observer.

30 review for This Is All I Got

  1. 5 out of 5

    Joan Cook

    As a trauma psychologist, I have listened to survivors’ stories for over 20 years and am no easy sell. In this incredible book, Lauren Sandler uses immersive journalism, chronicling a year in the life of Camila, a 22-year old, homeless, single mother, as she navigates the labyrinth of finding housing stability and shelter in the richest city on earth. As I entered this dramatic and deeply personal story, I was open to experience and learning. But, what I learned about myself and my own privileges As a trauma psychologist, I have listened to survivors’ stories for over 20 years and am no easy sell. In this incredible book, Lauren Sandler uses immersive journalism, chronicling a year in the life of Camila, a 22-year old, homeless, single mother, as she navigates the labyrinth of finding housing stability and shelter in the richest city on earth. As I entered this dramatic and deeply personal story, I was open to experience and learning. But, what I learned about myself and my own privileges were just as revealing as what I learned about poverty and homelessness in America. Sandler’s storytelling skills are exceptional. She slips in substantive information on the structural and systemic causes of homelessness so deftly, you don’t even realize you’re receiving an education on the deepening inequalities in America. Among other things, we learn that most people in poverty are women, particularly single women of color with children. Neglected by her birth father and abused by her mother, Camila was born into an adverse situation, unsafe circumstances and unsanitary conditions. She didn’t receive the love and care that every child deserves, nor was she able to see healthy appropriate role models of adult functioning. As I followed Camila’s high hopes and pits of despair, I was deeply moved. I cheered at her triumphs and screamed at a few of her unhelpful choices. I grew weary with her as she tried to manage her endless commutes, a sleepless, crying baby, college courses and the shuffle to childcare. I was stupefied at the relentless maze of legalese, and the ineptitude and brutality of the system. I was amazed by Camila’s tenacity to transverse it and cheered for her to bust out. I felt desperate for someone, anyone to give Camila encouragement, respect, a sense of belonging, and a teeny tiny break. I wanted to pick Camila up, rock her in my arms and soothe her like the child that she still was. My hopes would rise as it looked like Camila was finally going to have some luck in this world. And I cried when the system kept delivering crushing blows. It was a privilege to bear such an intimate witness to Camila’s deep psychological pain, her crashing dreams, and humiliations, and her small joys. With Camila’s family’s multigenerational poverty, no models of school or career ambition, you realize how hard it is to live a different life. Even with all of Camila’s tenacity, intelligence, poise, courage, determination, optimism, and a smile on her face. As a therapist, although I hear people’s stories, the vivid detailed descriptions of Camila’s life with constant instability, limited power to effect positive change, and few and brief glimpses of hope gave such a moving perspective. It wasn’t just Camila’s story, but Sandler’s telling it. She is a master -- the perfect phrases, the moving metaphors, an eye for the dramatic, the revealing windows into other people’s lives, the perfectly worded and strategically inserted facts about contributing factors to homelessness, the housing crisis, the broken welfare system, structural inequality and single motherhood. Though hardened and broken in some places, Camila’s skill and resilience in managing these horrendous circumstances was remarkable. And one breathes in Camila’s experiences, one can’t help but to exhale heavy-hearted in the reality, that she is only one among millions of women deeply stuck, struggling to survive. How does anyone make it through our national epidemic of housing instability, and how can we stand by and not strategically intervene for mothers and their children? It’s an investment in humanity and housing vouchers we can’t afford not to make.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    This book is absolutely exceptional. Wow, wow, wow! Lauren Sandler is a journalist who wanted to tell the story of homelessness and poverty in America, New York City in particular. On her quest, she meets 22 year old Camila in a homeless shelter for single mothers. From there, we get to follow along as Lauren chronicles a year in Camila’s life, from the birth of her son, all the way up though his first birthday and beyond. Holy cow. This is not my typical read at all, but it absolutely opened my e This book is absolutely exceptional. Wow, wow, wow! Lauren Sandler is a journalist who wanted to tell the story of homelessness and poverty in America, New York City in particular. On her quest, she meets 22 year old Camila in a homeless shelter for single mothers. From there, we get to follow along as Lauren chronicles a year in Camila’s life, from the birth of her son, all the way up though his first birthday and beyond. Holy cow. This is not my typical read at all, but it absolutely opened my eyes and changed my opinion on so many things I thought I knew. It was meticulously written, researched, and detailed, and I truly felt like I knew Camila and was there with her through all of her struggles and triumphs. Camila had a tough childhood but was determined to be successful. Instead of following in the footsteps of neglectful parents, she heads off to college where she becomes pregnant. She is forced back “home,” but it turns out she doesn’t actually HAVE a home. She hops from shelter to shelter as a single, homeless pregnant woman with practically no support system. We see her struggle, fight, and stomp through the city as she searches for stability and assistance. I can’t even really explain it, except to say that Camila had astounding determination. She wanted better for herself and her son. She wanted to pursue an education and have a career. She had dreams and aspirations that she fought for from a homeless shelter with no one standing behind her. In short, she was incredible. Full of grit. She inspired me in her fight and ability to overcome nearly anything. I honestly had no idea how the cycle of homelessness and poverty really worked until I read this story. I had my own assumptions that have been completely altered by what I read. I hated to close the book for the last time, feeling like I was being forced to say goodbye to Camila. I felt like I knew her by that point, and am sad to say I couldn’t find much info or any new updates about her online (probably due to privacy concerns with the publication of the book). But honestly? Bravo a million times over to this young mother, and bravo to the author for granting us this painstakingly real look inside Camila’s life and journey. It was a roller coaster ride and I felt every emotion known to man while reading it. It was riveting, emotional, raw, and almost lifechanging. I don't care who you are or what you think you know... read this book. Everybody. Read it. I picked it up on a complete whim, because this is not my usual type of read, and man am I glad that I did. I will honestly never forget this book or the story of Camila. It taught me a hell of a lot and broke my heart a thousand times. But still, I’d read it again and again if I could, and would highly recommend it to literally everyone.

  3. 4 out of 5

    vanessa

    A gripping account of a young woman's struggle as a new mom, facing homelessness in New York City. If you keep books about social inequality and poverty on your TBR, this is one to keep on your radar. The journalist, Lauren Sandler, is a wonderful narrator of the audiobook, too. Through Sandler's writing, I felt like I knew Camila very well: her highs and lows, her perseverance, the way she views her family and the romantic partners in her life. I valued Camila's narrative because it is imperfec A gripping account of a young woman's struggle as a new mom, facing homelessness in New York City. If you keep books about social inequality and poverty on your TBR, this is one to keep on your radar. The journalist, Lauren Sandler, is a wonderful narrator of the audiobook, too. Through Sandler's writing, I felt like I knew Camila very well: her highs and lows, her perseverance, the way she views her family and the romantic partners in her life. I valued Camila's narrative because it is imperfect... Camila's choices are sometimes questionable, but I always ended thinking whether she did this or that, the system/bureaucracy is still going to be against her. I so valued how Sandler peppered in information and facts about homelessness, poverty, and single motherhood in the United States. For fans of Matthew Desmond's Evicted.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Erika B.

    Absolutely stunning. You need to read this now.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Nadia

    This book made me deeply uncomfortable for a number of reasons, but I think is absolutely essential reading for anyone who thinks that there is a system in place to help the struggling people of this country. Anyone who thinks of poverty as "an individual failure, rather than a systemic one" should be prepared to confront their prejudice and rethink some of what they believe. While nothing in this book is perfect, it does reveal some of the glaring and dangerous gaps in support and assistance wh This book made me deeply uncomfortable for a number of reasons, but I think is absolutely essential reading for anyone who thinks that there is a system in place to help the struggling people of this country. Anyone who thinks of poverty as "an individual failure, rather than a systemic one" should be prepared to confront their prejudice and rethink some of what they believe. While nothing in this book is perfect, it does reveal some of the glaring and dangerous gaps in support and assistance which are presumed to be available. The impossibility of working within the system, the futility of trying, the apparent lack of humanity or empathy which is run up against day after day. It is trying, and exhausting, and that is well conveyed. The author is balancing on a thin line in many respects, which bothered me in the beginning but less so by the conclusion. She is clearly too close to the subject, whom she calls Camila, in ways that irked my understanding of ethical journalism. Then, because she has inserted her own presence in the narrative, including what she believed to be motivations of various people she encounters, as well as just positioning herself at Camila's side throughout, her reticence to act, to intervene, to help, seemed callous. I understand the need for a remove in nature shows - don't protect the cute small thing from being eaten by the big hungry thing - but that didn't sit well with me when we're speaking of human lives. Of a child under one year old. At the same time, her presence wasn't acknowledged in crucial moments, and what role her presence next to Camila has isn't interrogated as having altered anyone's interaction with her, which of course it must have. Her conversations wouldn't have been the same alone as they would be with a white woman standing next to her. This struck me as problematic. On the one hand, she does a good job of not making Camila a case of an exceptional minority, while still acknowledging that she was in a better position than others. Despite those things which gave her an advantage over others in similar situations, the system still failed her, and continues to fail her. It isn't difficult to imagine the fates of those without Camila's edge. As I think about it further, I'm also struck by how Camila's "Search for Home," as indicated by the subtitle of this book, refers not only to a house, but also to her repeated attempts to connect with her biological family, romantic interests, and even (though not much acknowledged) with the reporter herself, who admits to their relationship and it's similar trajectory to Camila's other interpersonal relationships, only at the end. The search for home is about a structure, and a person, and a family, and a country, and (Spoiler alert) she never finds it. Ultimately I finished this book drained. Furious. Hopeless. Impressed and annoyed by the author. Wishing for a happy ending, against all hope. Dejected. But I was grateful to the author's call to action at the end. I'm still not sure how I feel about her role in the playing out of this woman's life, and might not ever. But I'm glad to have witnessed it.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ms. Jacobs

    This is the story of a journalist who followed and documented the story of Camila, an unwed, homeless mother for one year in New York City. I read books about poverty and social injustice b/c it opens my eyes to a completely different way of life, to ways I might be contributing to the problem, to ways I might be part of the solution. One quote that stood out to me was “People feel their own scarcity based on the rungs above, not below.” And I believe that to largely be true. That is how we tend This is the story of a journalist who followed and documented the story of Camila, an unwed, homeless mother for one year in New York City. I read books about poverty and social injustice b/c it opens my eyes to a completely different way of life, to ways I might be contributing to the problem, to ways I might be part of the solution. One quote that stood out to me was “People feel their own scarcity based on the rungs above, not below.” And I believe that to largely be true. That is how we tend to measure ourselves. And there was another quote I can’t directly find but it was to the effect that poverty is often viewed as an individual problem rather than the system wide failure that it is. And b/c of that we tend to place the blame in the wrong place rather than offering empathy, sympathy, and compassion at the very minimum. Our social services system is broken, and for those born at the wrong time to the wrong people in the wrong place (like a homeless shelter) seem doomed thru no fault of their own. It’s a tragedy that this happens in a country as rich as this one.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lindsey

    One of the best books I’ve read this year. The writing is sharp, clear, and honest, the pacing strong, and the narrative gripping. But the book’s greatest strength is that it quietly and consistently builds a powerful case from Camila’s life for how America so badly fails its citizens on the margins. It urges us to look and to care.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    Unique and very well-done non-fiction. Sandler follows a young woman for a year who is struggling to secure housing, welfare, food, etc. for herself and her newborn son in NYC. This is definitely only for the reader interested in the nuances of this experience. We all know the system is fucked, but this really gets down to the specific failures and frustrations of the red tape and hoop jumping when it comes to navigating the system with little to no resources. It didn't change my opinions but de Unique and very well-done non-fiction. Sandler follows a young woman for a year who is struggling to secure housing, welfare, food, etc. for herself and her newborn son in NYC. This is definitely only for the reader interested in the nuances of this experience. We all know the system is fucked, but this really gets down to the specific failures and frustrations of the red tape and hoop jumping when it comes to navigating the system with little to no resources. It didn't change my opinions but definitely gave me specifics to broaden my knowledge. Camilla was a perfect subject for such an account. She was certainly not a model mother or person-- I was honestly quite annoyed with her throughout the book-- but she definitely had her head on straight when it came to trying to navigate the system, keeping track of appointments and paperwork, and being aware of the requirements of her city. This helped to show what an utter failure the "system" was. It was painful to read over and over about the red tape designed to keep people from getting what was promised to them. Sandler did a remarkable job of keeping the journey as the focus, when she could have easily made it pure sympathy (or even judgment). Highly recommend for anyone interested in the subject matter.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jenna

    2021 Popsugar Reading Challenge: a book about a social justice issue. 2021 Reading Women Challenge #23: nonfiction focused on social justice.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Myles

    Admirers of Tara Westover’s memoir “Educated” will recognize the parallels in Lauren Sandler’s anti-heroine, Camilla Alvarez, a semi-educated single mom of Dominican heritage navigating the jungle of welfare offices in New York City. Impoverished upbringing. Strange family. Hope for a college degree. Magical thinking. Only the names have been changed in this true life story to protect the character and her anti-social parents. Changed more likely to protect the protagonist from retaliation. Sandler Admirers of Tara Westover’s memoir “Educated” will recognize the parallels in Lauren Sandler’s anti-heroine, Camilla Alvarez, a semi-educated single mom of Dominican heritage navigating the jungle of welfare offices in New York City. Impoverished upbringing. Strange family. Hope for a college degree. Magical thinking. Only the names have been changed in this true life story to protect the character and her anti-social parents. Changed more likely to protect the protagonist from retaliation. Sandler started out trying to report on women living in New York’s shelters and ended up telling quite a different story, two stories. The first story is largely what it takes to crawl out of poverty in the urban jungle when you have no education, no money, no family support system, and have a child out of wedlock. The second story is simply about housing in New York City. It is a city of unimaginable wealth and a growing army of homeless people, many living on the streets, but even more living hand-to-mouth in shelters. And for a variety of reasons many of the homeless avoid the shelters. Some avoid them for the very rational reason that they are unsafe. Homeless moms tend not to live on the streets for simple reason that it is unsafe for them and their children. But people with mental disorders do not get treatment in shelters. The uneducated do not get smarter living shelters. And nobody earns enough money while living in shelters to acquire permanent housing. In these respects, shelter living is not all that different from prison living. At least in prison you get to work out at the gym and get medical attention. In Camilla Alvarez, Sandler found a woman who if anybody could make good of her situation it ought to have been this woman: she is talented academically; she is organized; she has a fine memory; and she is attractive. What Alvarez has going against her: a pathological belief that somewhere there is a man (or THE man) who will share the burden of raising a child and find a steady home; that money will find a way to her; that a college degree will give her sufficient opportunity to escape poverty. Alvarez travels miles daily by bus and subway to school, to daycare, to welfare meetings, to court paternity hearings, to medical appointments. She loses sleep, she loses her health, and eventually blows her shelter accomodation and her benefits. Neither her mother or father are capable of caring for her, and her mother only escaped the same total destitution by being lucky enough to grow up in an era when New York really made an effort to build affordable housing. Not today. Along the edges of the story are themes we see in many other fine books on the urban landscape and its problems: the proximity of organized crime to the poor (Alex Kotlowitz’ “There Are No No Children Here”), the crisis of low income housing (Matthew Desmond “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City”), domestic violence (Rachel Snyder “No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us”), low wage jobs (Barbara Ehrenrich’s “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America”), and the racial divide (Michelle Alexander’s classic “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Era of Colorblindness”). And this book doesn’t even get into what it means to be aged and poor. So many of these poor New Yorkers even those who have nuclear families live in overcrowded apartments. Affordable living just doesn’t apply to the thousands of wage workers in New York’s service industries. Employees of fast food chains, WALMART stores, gig-economy workers, and Amazon warehouse workers: many of these people are on some form of social assistance. The vast majority will never be able to afford a home. And New York’s neighbourgood’s continue to be raised to create flashy new condominium projects for the upper middle class. And for the billions being socked away away by offshore bandits. Sandler focuses on the American urban landscape, but you and I know she is talking about a much bigger urban landscape: from Toronto and Vancouver to Mumbai, and Rio, London, and Paris. The increasing urbanization globally makes more room for the oligarchs and less for the migrant workers. This story does not have a happy ending. It doesn’t really have an ending, although Sandler does update the reader on Camilla’s situation after the book ends. It also gave me further appreciation for what Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter have accomplished after Jimmy left the office of President of the United States. As builders of homes.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    My walks through the streets of NYC will never be the same after reading this book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jill Diamond

    Gripping story of a single mother’s constant struggle to find housing, battle the system, pull herself and her young son up and out of poverty. Movingly reported by a journalist who follows her for a year.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Betsy McGowan

    Huh! This book, the story of a year in the life of Camila, a homeless Dominican new mother in NYC, was fascinating, and I learned so much about the housing system and welfare system. Also though, the authors way of shining a harsh light on everyone in the story but herself grated, and her privileged background made her a weird but familiar type of narrator for the story. She went through the motions of being reflective and contrite about it, but it felt hollow. That said, the book was powerful a Huh! This book, the story of a year in the life of Camila, a homeless Dominican new mother in NYC, was fascinating, and I learned so much about the housing system and welfare system. Also though, the authors way of shining a harsh light on everyone in the story but herself grated, and her privileged background made her a weird but familiar type of narrator for the story. She went through the motions of being reflective and contrite about it, but it felt hollow. That said, the book was powerful and I’m so glad I read it. She’s the one who wrote the book. So how upset can I be? I think the lesson is that next time I read this type of book, it’s on me to seek out an author who has personal experience with the topic. 4 stars because I just learned so much, and even with these caveats would still recommend it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bobby

    This is a really good, and really important book. The story is heartbreaking but also told with a lot of empathy and clarity. Lauren Sandler does anOne thing that I think is especially important is for readers to see the bureaucracy of judgment and rejection that is inherent in means-tested social welfare programs, and what it does to people who are clearly need the services they were set up to provide. Whenever politicians talk about "targeting" programs, often with the claim that "targeting" i This is a really good, and really important book. The story is heartbreaking but also told with a lot of empathy and clarity. Lauren Sandler does anOne thing that I think is especially important is for readers to see the bureaucracy of judgment and rejection that is inherent in means-tested social welfare programs, and what it does to people who are clearly need the services they were set up to provide. Whenever politicians talk about "targeting" programs, often with the claim that "targeting" is more progressive because it ensures no benefit will go to people who don't really need it, the reality of what they're endorsing is exactly what happens to Camilla throughout the year documented in this book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    Among American society's many current failings, housing is one I've not paid much attention to. This chronicle of a bright, motivated mother's battle through the thickets of byzantine bureaucracy in New York brought that failing unforgettably to life. It is a work of rich, compelling, necessary journalism, and one depressing enough to convince me to take a moratorium from public policy readings (in my free time) for the rest of the year. Among American society's many current failings, housing is one I've not paid much attention to. This chronicle of a bright, motivated mother's battle through the thickets of byzantine bureaucracy in New York brought that failing unforgettably to life. It is a work of rich, compelling, necessary journalism, and one depressing enough to convince me to take a moratorium from public policy readings (in my free time) for the rest of the year.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    Lauren Sandler wanted to follow a homeless mother for a year in order to write about her story and the effect of poverty and homelessness on a new mother. She meets Camila at a private shelter run by a Catholic charity. Camila is twenty-two, graduated from high school and was enrolled in college before her pregnancy derailed her plans. She grew up in poverty with an abusive and mentally ill mother who kicked her out as a teenager. After that Camila lived in group homes and finally on her own. De Lauren Sandler wanted to follow a homeless mother for a year in order to write about her story and the effect of poverty and homelessness on a new mother. She meets Camila at a private shelter run by a Catholic charity. Camila is twenty-two, graduated from high school and was enrolled in college before her pregnancy derailed her plans. She grew up in poverty with an abusive and mentally ill mother who kicked her out as a teenager. After that Camila lived in group homes and finally on her own. Despite her circumstances growing up Camila was smart and determined to do better with her life. And she was - until she got pregnant. Camila knew the social services system - all the rules, all the intricacies and contradictions, often more than the employees she interacted with. But, that still didn't help her get out of poverty with her child. Sandler follows Camila and her son from the day he's born until shortly after his first birthday. Along the way Camila tries desperately to find some permanent housing and continue going to college, but time after time she hits roadblocks. She can't get child support without a DNA test proving paternity - that takes until her son is 9 months old - even though she knows who the father is. She's expected to either work or be going to school to qualify for state aid money, but is required to go to offices spread all over New York City and wait for hours only to find out they lost a paper or a form is now outdated, etc. Camila's story highlights just how little help there is for struggling people - even less so for single parents. But, it also highlights how if she just had some small measure of help - a family member's house to crash at for a few months, her son's father willing to pay for diapers or food or helping care for their son, a day care closer to her school, etc. could make a HUGE difference in her and her son's life. With none of this Camila is 100% on her own and toward the end of her son's first year she is barely surviving. When the author catches back up with her a few years later it's clear she's been struggling just as much all along and ended up dropping out of college. And while you feel terrible for Camila, it's hard not to judge her mistakes and choices. She starts dating someone and thinks she's pregnant again when her son is 5 months old - I was like WHY ARE YOU NOT USING BIRTH CONTROL?!?! When she comes into some money from an workplace injury lawsuit she decides to use some of it to go to the Dominican Republic where her family is from. But, you're thinking you're homeless and you're going on vacation?! In her son's first year she dates and tries to find a partner, but each guy seems worst than the one before. Overall, it's a hard and sad book to read, but it does make me realize how much of a safety net I had growing up with my family. Just one or two small things could have made all the difference for Camila and her son. I would be curious for the author to follow up with her in another few years and see what if anything has changed for her. A quote I liked: "Camila gripped hope in her fists so tightly it was like she was trying to transform it into reality by pure pressure." (p. 46)

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sadie Nott

    I count myself as someone who has a fairly good idea, from professional knowledge, of the inequities of our public and affordable housing systems - but this book was eye-opening nonetheless. I was especially taken with the undercurrent of the reporter and subject’s friendship - and ethical dilemmas surrounding it. I’ll be recommending this one for the rest of this year (and beyond!).

  18. 5 out of 5

    Alyssa Potasznik

    Wow. I'm not sure if I can articulate my thoughts on this book very well. First off, it is critically important, incredibly well-written, and you should absolutely read it. In this book, the author, Lauren Sandler, follows a new New York City mother ("Camila") in her quest for housing, while trying to stay in school, care for her newborn, and navigate the insane bureaucracy that is our social services "net". Things have gotten much, much worse, with rising inequality and the utter decimation of our Wow. I'm not sure if I can articulate my thoughts on this book very well. First off, it is critically important, incredibly well-written, and you should absolutely read it. In this book, the author, Lauren Sandler, follows a new New York City mother ("Camila") in her quest for housing, while trying to stay in school, care for her newborn, and navigate the insane bureaucracy that is our social services "net". Things have gotten much, much worse, with rising inequality and the utter decimation of our safety nets for our country's most vulnerable. And the horrifying thought I had after reading this is that in our post-COVID world, things are going to get much, much worse. I realize these are systemic problems and Sandler does an excellent job of bringing them to light. But I couldn't help but get frustrated at the idea of Sandler profiting off the homelessness and struggle of Camila and bearing witness to her desperate search for housing and stability while doing absolutely nothing to help. I understand journalistic ethics. And Sandler does talk about this in her book; she definitely doesn't gloss over it. But that whole part of it made me feel conflicted, and the reason I can't really rate this book. Nevertheless, I do feel that it's an essential read for any American.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sharron

    * I received a free copy in a Goodreads giveaway. Like Evicted, it's an investigative journalist telling the personal story instead of numbers, statistics and legalities. However, this the story of just one homeless single mother in New York City. I think it would have worked better if like Evicted it followed more stories than just one. You get to know Camila too well, losing sympathy for her along the way. It's hard to read just the constant struggle of one person without getting dragged down, * I received a free copy in a Goodreads giveaway. Like Evicted, it's an investigative journalist telling the personal story instead of numbers, statistics and legalities. However, this the story of just one homeless single mother in New York City. I think it would have worked better if like Evicted it followed more stories than just one. You get to know Camila too well, losing sympathy for her along the way. It's hard to read just the constant struggle of one person without getting dragged down, so it takes a long time to get through.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Laura Moran

    This book brings to life all of the many challenges individuals, in this case a young mother, have in working their way out of poverty. It is unfortunately a discouraging and frustrating story, but a real one and an important one for all of us to hear. With so many insurmountable obstacles within the social services system, it is no wonder that so few people in situations similar to Camila's can achieve more stability in their lives. Add a baby to an already difficult situation and it just gets This book brings to life all of the many challenges individuals, in this case a young mother, have in working their way out of poverty. It is unfortunately a discouraging and frustrating story, but a real one and an important one for all of us to hear. With so many insurmountable obstacles within the social services system, it is no wonder that so few people in situations similar to Camila's can achieve more stability in their lives. Add a baby to an already difficult situation and it just gets harder. It's truly a national crisis that deserves more focused attention. Admittedly, I had to check myself a few times b/c I found myself projecting on her what I thought she should do (e.g., Why would she spend what little money she had going to the DR? Why is she choosing such horrible men?) and had to remind myself that I don't stand in her shoes. I appreciated that the author recognized that as an expected reaction and called it out in the epilogue as a caution to the reader.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Donna Rigg

    Two thumbs down for me. The writing was mediocre, and I was never drawn in. It should’ve been an imitate portrayal where we felt for Camilla but I was just annoyed by everybody and everything. A few of my complaints: 1. The author would throw out supposed “facts” about homelessness, but a lot of her generalizations were false. Examples: most ppl in poverty are WOC: false! In the US most poor ppl are White. Single mothers make up the vast majority of homeless ppl: false!! The vast majority of home Two thumbs down for me. The writing was mediocre, and I was never drawn in. It should’ve been an imitate portrayal where we felt for Camilla but I was just annoyed by everybody and everything. A few of my complaints: 1. The author would throw out supposed “facts” about homelessness, but a lot of her generalizations were false. Examples: most ppl in poverty are WOC: false! In the US most poor ppl are White. Single mothers make up the vast majority of homeless ppl: false!! The vast majority of homeless ppl in the US are men! Men experience homelessness at twice the rate of women in the US. 2. There was a bit of blame the victim here. I felt that choosing Camilla and showing her poor choices as to birth control, boyfriends, alcohol at the shelter, paying for manicures and the DR trip made it seem as if poverty was more a matter of choice versus circumstances. 3. To what degree was Camilla’s experiences typical or unique? We never understood. 4. It was so boring; I felt like I was reading the same thing over and over again: time in shelter is expiring; needs to find new place; benefits are taken away; has to fill out forms; waits in lines; travels far on the subway; son is cranky; repeat. 5. Felt a bit uncomfortable about the author profiting off of her.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Angie DePompeis

    Though very well-written, this was a difficult read. I felt invested in Camila’s story/ life. I felt like I could not stop reading. At the same time, I felt like I could not keep reading, that I needed a break from all the sadness and setbacks in Camila’s life. I could easily sympathize with Camila. Even though I tried hard not to, I could also criticize some of her judgments and choices. However, I recognize that I have no right to judge Camila or the decisions she made. Part of the reason why Though very well-written, this was a difficult read. I felt invested in Camila’s story/ life. I felt like I could not stop reading. At the same time, I felt like I could not keep reading, that I needed a break from all the sadness and setbacks in Camila’s life. I could easily sympathize with Camila. Even though I tried hard not to, I could also criticize some of her judgments and choices. However, I recognize that I have no right to judge Camila or the decisions she made. Part of the reason why this is such a tough read is because, throughout the book, I had feelings and opinions that contradicted one another. Although I actively tried not to judge Camila, I had no qualms about judging the author and her actions. I understood the author’s need to create a distance between herself and Camila. I comprehended the fact that she was trying to be as objective as possible. She wanted to be able to document what Camila’s first year of motherhood was like without the author’s influence changing anything. Yet, the author did influence Camila’s first year of motherhood despite the fact that the author did not offer Camila any lodging or financial aid. I would like to think that the author would have offered lodging or financial aid if it really came down to it but I’m not so sure. In the end, the author’s presence did influence Camila’s first year of motherhood. The author did not provide shelter or funds, but perhaps the author provided other forms of support like psychological. If the author was not involved in Camila’s first year of motherhood, then I am certain that the first year of motherhood would have played out very differently for Camila. I hope that Camila, the subject of this narrative, gained financially from the publication of this book. I might have missed that part of the book. If not, my already negative feelings about the author would be justified. I believe that this book discusses a very serious and important issue. It clearly depicts the flaws in various systems that are still in use today. These systems failed Camila and many others multiple times. However, I hope that the author did not fail or (worse) exploit Camila.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    A single mother's search for a home in NYC as witnessed by an investigative journalist. Mind boggling, frustrating, eye-opening, etc. Our country's welfare/housing/childcare/child support systems are totally out of whack. The ones who suffer most are the children. Once again, lack of stability most often comes down to homelessness. Generations of those living in poverty are passing down horrible trends in parenting and making the same bad choices. We have to stop this cycle. A single mother's search for a home in NYC as witnessed by an investigative journalist. Mind boggling, frustrating, eye-opening, etc. Our country's welfare/housing/childcare/child support systems are totally out of whack. The ones who suffer most are the children. Once again, lack of stability most often comes down to homelessness. Generations of those living in poverty are passing down horrible trends in parenting and making the same bad choices. We have to stop this cycle.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    This was excellent and heartbreaking. I felt on edge/uncomfortable with the reality of my privileged to her lack of privilege. But these are what makes books so good-to see someone's story. To live it even from a very far distant place. Her constant struggle with the welfare system and feeling like she could never get above water was just exhausting to listen to. I don't know how she did this as a single mother. And an aspect that I didn't think about was the author's complex relationship with C This was excellent and heartbreaking. I felt on edge/uncomfortable with the reality of my privileged to her lack of privilege. But these are what makes books so good-to see someone's story. To live it even from a very far distant place. Her constant struggle with the welfare system and feeling like she could never get above water was just exhausting to listen to. I don't know how she did this as a single mother. And an aspect that I didn't think about was the author's complex relationship with Camila-being a friend while also profiting off her poverty. Lots to think about. Highly recommend.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    Journalist follows homeless young woman during her first year of motherhood in New York. Government red tape and conflicting rules elimate any safety net despite her ambition and determination to better her life. Frustrating and heartbreaking.

  26. 4 out of 5

    C

    Eyeopening to the situation of homeless young single mothers. Navigating the bureaucracy of public assistance in NY seems devastatingly frustrating and difficult. Being smart and ambitious helps, but not as much as you'd think. Eyeopening to the situation of homeless young single mothers. Navigating the bureaucracy of public assistance in NY seems devastatingly frustrating and difficult. Being smart and ambitious helps, but not as much as you'd think.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Erin Isgett

    4.5 stars. An honest and difficult look at the reality of homelessness in America, through the story of one determined young woman.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    If you think getting a government handout is easy, this book will be eye-opening.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jaclin McGuire

    Fabulous read. The homeless, single mother she follows for a year has more determination than anyone I know. What an amazing story.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Annika

    So good

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