Shirl is a single mother who urges her son's baby-sitter to swat him when he misbehaves. Helena went back to work to get off welfare, then quit to be with her small daughter. Kathy was making good money but got into cocaine and had to give up her two-year-old son during her rehabilitation. Pundits, politicians, and social critics have plenty to say about such women and their behavior. But in this book, for the first time, we hear what these women have to say for themselves. An eye-opening--and heart-rending--account from the front lines of poverty, Through My Own Eyes offers a firsthand look at how single mothers with the slimmest of resources manage from day to day. We witness their struggles to balance work and motherhood and watch as they negotiate a bewildering maze of child-care and social agencies.
For three years the authors followed the lives of fourteen women from poor Boston neighborhoods, all of whom had young children and had been receiving welfare intermittently. We learn how these women keep their families on firm footing and try--frequently in vain--to gain ground. We hear how they find child-care and what they expect from it, as well as what the childcare providers have to say about serving low-income families. Holloway and Fuller view these lives in the context of family policy issues touching on the disintegration of inner cities, welfare reform, early childhood and "pro-choice" poverty programs.
Over a three-year period, [the authors] interviewed 14 poor, single-parent women of Anglo, Latina, African American background in the Boston area to learn about their attitudes and beliefs toward parenting, employment, and welfare. This in-depth study reveals similarities and variations in these womens' approaches to (mostly) common goals of attaining self-reliance, education, and respect for themselves and their children. The authors strongly suggest that policymakers, educators, professionals, and community members (to all of whom this book is addressed) understand the underlying ambitions and key influences of these families' differing cultural milieus, resource availability, and attitudes when planning what should be a mix of programs to help them escape the poverty that precludes their independence and hurts our society as a whole. Recommended.
By allowing us to glimpse the strengths, aspirations, and struggles of fourteen single mothers in poverty, the authors force us to confront preconceptions about women in poverty and the needs of their children. To offer assistance in ignorance often erodes the very lives we hope to benefit; the insights in this volume teach essential lessons in program design.
Through My Own Eyes is a thoughtful book that adds to our knowledge about poverty in America. By utilizing women's voices throughout, the volume offers a rich texture of ideas that is both compelling and creative. The book is a useful addition to the field of education, social welfare, and social policy and adds special meaning to one of the most challenging issues of our time.
The authors are particularly adept at confronting the dominant mythologies through which we are urged to view poor mothers, challenging us instead to see these individuals less as irresponsible, misguided, voiceless strangers and more as resilient, resourceful hardworking women, doing the best they can with what they've got--much like the rest of us.
Revealing, penetrating and sobering, Through My Own Eyes paints a poignant portrait of real women's real lives. At one level, this sensitively written book packs lessons about struggle and survival: At another level, it is a profound treatise about culture, class, misdirected practice, and misconstrued policy. All who read it will face themselves and their attitudes about poverty with new understanding. A triumph!
- 256 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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