Posted in Book Reviews, Queer Reads

Book Review: No House To Call My Home (Love, Family, and Other Transgressions) by Ryan Berg

Underemployed and directionless, Ryan Berg took a job in a group home for disowned and homeless LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning) teenagers. His job was to help these teens discover their self worth, get them back on their feet, earn high school degrees, and find jobs. But he had no idea how difficult it would be, and the complexities that were involved with coaxing them away from dangerous sex work and cycles of drug and alcohol abuse, and helping them heal from years of abandonment and abuse.

In No House to Call My Home, Ryan Berg tells profoundly moving, intimate, and raw stories from the frontlines of LGBTQ homelessness and foster care.  No House to Call My Home will provoke readers into thinking in new ways about how we define privilege, identity, love and family. Because beyond the tears and abuse, the bluster and bravado, what emerges here is a love song to that irrepressible life force of youth: hope.

How I Found This Book

I first heard about it on Twitter, but found it in Powell’s Books when I was visiting a friend (did you know they have an entire LGBTQ+ section?!). I ended up reading this is almost one sitting while on my flight from Portland.

Overall Feeling

All the tears ever for this book. Go into this ready for overwhelming sadness to fill your entire body. But it is super important and necessary to read this book. Berg really captures the youth here in a way that reminds us how truly vulnerable homeless LGBTQ+ youth can be. The stories may have you feeling low but the book ultimately leaves you feeling ready to fight for a better foster care system for our youth. I couldn’t put this book down once I started it. But do not go into expecting a “everything ends perfectly” type of story. These are real stories, and some provide more questions than answers.

Cons

The biggest con for me is a very personal one: telling other people’s stories. I always feel a little weird about someone writing stories about someone else, especially in the social work field. Don’t get me wrong, they’re extremely important stories to share, but I’m always get a strange feeling about it. I end up wondering did they know their story would be shared, did they agree, do they get profits? I’m curious about that with this book as well, but I haven’t heard much about that piece.

Pros

The stories are powerful and raw, as they should be. Berg doesn’t sugarcoat anything, allowing the stories to show you the trauma experienced by the youth. Berg’s writing tells the stories of these youth in a way that makes you feel as if you’re working right beside him. You can feel not only their struggles, but also the challenges Berg faces as a social work in a flawed system. Berg also offers real solutions to fix the flawed system that is inherently disadvantageous to youth of color or LGBTQ+ status.

Diversity? (Possible Spoilers)

Features LGBTQ+ youth, primarily of color.

Trigger Warnings (Possible Spoilers)

Sexual violence/abuse, domestic violence, prostitution/sex work, drug use/abuse, homelessness.

Quotes

This may be all good and true, but gay rights advocates’ interest in blending in with the broader society and their narrow focus on marriage equality have resulted in the neglect of other pressing issues.

Yes, LGBTQ folks are less stigmatized, and more visible, but only when safely celibate, coupled off, and mirroring heteronormative values-standards that present heterosexuality as the preferred, or “normal,” identity.

Audre Lorde taught us, “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”

The system would need to look through a different lens, and acknowledge the interconnectedness of systemic racism, homophobia, transphobia, and poverty.

There are more than 2 million LGBTQ adults in the United States willing to foster or adopt, yet 60 percent of foster care agencies report never having placed a youth with LGBTQ couples, and 40 percent of agencies said they would not even accept applications from LGBTQ individuals or couples.

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Author:

Robin spends most of his time running a certified rape crisis center. In his off hours he uses reading as a way to recharge and re-energize.

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