Friday, January 9, 2009

Have You Found Her or His Panic

Have You Found Her: A Memoir

Author: Janice Erlbaum

And every week, there was the unspoken question, the one I didn’t know enough to ask myself : Have you found her yet? The one who reminds you of you?

Twenty years after she lived at a homeless shelter for teens, Janice Erlbaum went back to volunteer. Now thirty-four years old and a successful writer, she’d changed her life for the better; now she wanted to help someone else–someone like the girl she’d once been.

Then she met Sam. A brilliant nineteen-year-old junkie savant, the product of a horrifically abusive home, Sam had been surviving alone on the streets since she was twelve and was now struggling for sobriety against the adverse health effects of long-term drug abuse.

Soon Janice found herself caring deeply for Sam, following her through detoxes and psych wards, halfway houses and hospitals, becoming ever more manically driven to save her from the sickness and sadness leftover from Sam’s terrible past. But just as Janice was on the verge of becoming the girl’s legal guardian, she made a shocking discovery: Sam was sicker than anyone knew, in ways nobody could have imagined.

Written with startling candor and immediacy, Have You Found Her is the story of one woman’s quest to save a girl’s life–and the hard truths she learns about herself along the way.

“A rich and compelling account . . . Ultimately this is a book about the narrator’s journey and the dangers that attend the urge within us all to believe we can save another soul. A terrific read.”
–Cammie McGovern, author of Eye Contact

Publishers Weekly

In winter 2004, 34-year-old Erlbaum (Girlbomb) volunteered at the shelter where she herself had lived as a teenager. Dubbed "The Bead Lady" by the residents, she hefted a large, rattling bag of beadworking supplies to the cafeteria once a week, hoping to reach out to a younger version of herself over jewelry-making sessions-to "believe in them and listen to them," as her volunteer-orientation videotape had instructed. When she met Samantha, a charismatic 19-year-old addict with an unyielding resilience in spite of a horrific childhood, Erlbaum knew she'd found a favorite. Though Sam had been on the streets since age 12, she was well read and quite gifted as a writer-a prodigy, it seemed. The two quickly developed a friendship, which deepened over the next several months as Erlbaum comforted Sam through health problems, abuse flashbacks and rehab, promising her a trip to Disney World if she stayed sober. Erlbaum was determined to save Sam and even offered to become her legal guardian. Erlbaum realized that, at times, details in Sam's backstory didn't add up (she was a skilled classical pianist), but these incongruities raised only the occasional, short-lived suspicion. Finally, Erlbaum realized Sam had been lying to her all along (she actually came from a sold middle-class suburb and hadn't had the childhood she described), snookering her out of her time, attention and affection for a year. Erlbaum's narrative begins promisingly, her savior fantasies and insecurities rendered with honesty and self-effacing good humor. However, her conclusions fall flat, missing opportunities to ponder larger issues at work in the story and opting instead for a mere cautionary tale.(Mar.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information

Alison M. Lewis - Library Journal

In her highly acclaimed Girlbomb: A Halfway Homeless Memoir, Erlbaum detailed her experiences as a troubled adolescent who had spent more than a year in New York City's shelter system in the 1980s. In this follow-up memoir, she is now a confident and successful 34-year-old writer who's gotten her act together, complete with a committed romantic relationship. Wanting to give something back, she decides to volunteer at the same homeless shelter at which she herself had stayed 20 years earlier. There, she meets "Sam," a brilliant but troubled 19-year-old who reminds her of her earlier self. Despite admonitions from the professionals running the shelter, Erlbaum becomes more and more deeply involved in Sam's life. Just as she is about to become Sam's legal guardian, the story takes a sharp turn for the worse, revealing new and deeper problems of which no one had been aware. This compelling and fast-paced memoir reads like a novel while providing an inside look at American social problems. Recommended for public libraries and a possible purchase for academic libraries. [Visit the author online at]

School Library Journal

Adult/High School -Twenty years after spending time in a New York City shelter, Erlbaum returned as a volunteer, bearing beads for crafts therapy and a desire to make a difference. Breaking the rule against playing favorites among residents, she found a kindred spirit in tragic, brilliant Sam. Erlbaum giddily forged a connection with the teen, discussing books and philosophy; feeling outrage at her tales of parental abuse, drugs, and life on the streets; and acting as an advocate to get Sam the help she needed. During Sam's multiple stays in the hospital for increasingly serious infections, Erlbaum encouraged her to focus on getting well and into rehab, spending hours next to hospital beds and on the phone, taking time away from work and her partner. An AIDS diagnosis intensified the strong feelings Erlbaum was developing for Sam and set the ball of discovery rolling as she realized that the girl, who had almost become an adopted daughter, was not what she seemed. Throughout, Erlbaum is honest about her own motives; she mocks her own selfish drive to be important. The chatty narrative, heartrending and funny, is full of dialogue reconstructed from journals; the writing is unobtrusively good and compulsively readable. Teens who enjoy gritty reality like James Frey's A Million Little Pieces (Doubleday, 2003) or the twisted humor of Augusten Burroughs's Running with Scissors (St. Martins, 2002) will race through this one and come back for Erlbaum's chronicle of her own unstable past, Girlbomb: A Halfway Homeless Memoir (Villard, 2006).-Jenny Gasset, Orange County Public Library, CA

Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews

Riveting true story of a runaway and the devastating lies she tells. In her mid-30s, Erlbaum (Girlbomb: A Halfway Homeless Memoir, 2006) was on the brink of happiness. Her boyfriend had just moved in, and her career as a writer was burgeoning. But she had never entirely dealt with the trauma of her past. To properly exorcise her childhood demons, she started volunteering at the New York City shelter that helped save her life when she was a teenage runaway. There she met 19-year-old Samantha Dunleavy, "a tall, rangy white girl with a shaggy mop of brown hair" who told stories about traveling the country with her meth-cooking father and junkie mother, who forced her daughter to hustle when money was tight. Sam had amazing talents: She wrote metered poetry, made casual references to astrophysics and could hold intelligent conversations about books and philosophers. Erlbaum fell in love with this "junkie savant." Despite all the rules-"No favorites. And no buying them stuff," the counselors warned-she served as Sam's coolheaded mentor, steady through desperate phone calls and late-night pleas. Erlbaum was there by Sam's side when the accident-prone girl wound up in the hospital: a broken wrist, then sepsis, then the psych ward, rehab, pneumonia, meningitis and a slew of subsequent medical problems. Soon, the force of Sam's neediness began to overwhelm Erlbaum's life; even her wedding plans were shadowed by the specter of her young friend's life-threatening ailments. Desperate to find Sam appropriate medical help, the author uncovered a jaw-dropping secret that turned everything preceding its discovery into one giant question mark. What started out as a memoir becomes a disturbing, fascinatingdetective story. Erlbaum treats her troubled subject with humanity, sensitivity and care, making this an intensely rich reading experience. Agent: Alice Martell/Martell Agency

Interesting book: Reflexology or Therapeutic Touch

His Panic: Why Americans Fear Hispanics in the U.S.

Author: Geraldo Rivera

A rare, unflinching look at one of today's most important issues--from one of today's most well-known journalists.

In this insightful, well-researched book, Peabody and Emmy® Award-winning journalist Geraldo Rivera examines the growth of the Hispanic population in the U.S., fueled partly by what may be the single most divisive issue in America today: illegal immigration. With objective clarity and personal conviction, Rivera sheds light on an issue that is muddled with confusion and prejudice--and too often blamed for everything from terrorism to welfare.

Examining the past--his own parents' struggle to be "real" Americans, as well as the plight of other ethnic groups in their quest for that dream--Rivera places the issue of illegal immigration in a historic context, dispelling the myth that we are facing an unprecedented crisis.

A vital contribution to the ongoing debate about immigration, His Panic is destined to reshape the way Americans view the future of our country.

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