Sleepaway School: Stories from a Boy's Life / Edition 1

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Like his brother before him, Stringer was surrendered to foster care, shortly after birth, by his unwed and underemployed mother—a common practice for unmarried women in mid-century America. Less common was that she returned six years later to reclaim her children. Rather than leading to a happy ending, though, this is where Stringer's story begins. The clash of being poor and black in an affluent, largely white New York suburb begins to foment pain and rage which erupts, more often than not, when he is at school. One violent episode results in his expulsion from the sixth grade and his subsequent three-year stint at Hawthorne, the "sleepaway school" of the title.

What follows is an intensely personal, American journey: a universal story of childhood where childhood universals are absent. We experience how a child fashions his life out of the materials given to him, however threadbare. This is a "boy-meets-world" story, the chronicle of one child’s struggle simply to be.

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Editorial Reviews

Wil Haygood
… [Stringer's] quiet tale has enough touching moments of little-boy endurance that, when finished, one is simply inclined to say: Well, bless his heart.
The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
In his second memoir, Stringer (Grand Central Winter) retraces a troubled 1960s New York City childhood, one full of hope and promise that deteriorated into years of emotional pain. Born out of wedlock, Stringer and his brother lived with their financially struggling mother until bills overcame her, compelling her to turn them over to foster care. Stringer describes how, as a youngster, he fought other kids, kicked over desks and bad-mouthed instructors, never questioning his school counselors when they said he was full of anger. He questioned the difference between his black world and that of the white, "normal" one, where hate and intolerance seemed usual. Stringer was committed for two years to a school for at-risk children, where his Stringer's reputation for having a wicked temper followed him. Springer's lean prose renders his mother as a resourceful, determined woman who buys her rageful son a punching bag to vent his anger. Only through poetry and art did Springer find outlets for self-expression and a fresh start for the reminder of his youth (until his adult crash with drug addiction). Springer deftly tells a believable, candid and vivid tale of a person scarred by his past. (June 3) Forecast: Springer will tour America by train, making more than 25 stops in cities and towns. Fans of 1998's critically acclaimed Grand Central Winter will want this new book, and the tour could draw in new readers, too. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-In this gritty, wrenching memoir that is all about differences, both seen and unseen, Stringer tells the stories of his childhood in fits and starts. His episodic yet eloquent writing style suits his subject perfectly. Stringer's mother, a single black woman who did her best to raise her offspring on food stamps and illegal day work in a wealthy white town, placed her two young children in foster care. Six years later, she retrieved them. The atmosphere of small-town New York, which the author separates into "chocolate" and "vanilla," is captured in vignettes. Memories-from the first time he lied to his mother to his relationship with God to the time he and his friends found a dead baby in a paper bag-are distilled through the filter of an angry boy. Honest and unashamed, he describes, but never tries to justify, the rage that landed him at Hawthorne Cedar Knolls, a school for kids at risk. Submersion into this nearly all-Jewish community of young men-quite a shock to Catholic Caverly-was only the beginning of his experiences at "sleepaway school." Unfocused and unsure of himself, he gradually began to overcome his frustration and anger. Teens who like realistic reads such as Dave Pelzer's A Child Called "It" (Health Communications, 1995) or Terry Trueman's Stuck in Neutral (HarperCollins, 2000) will want to read this one.-Charli Osborne, Oxford Public Library, MI Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781583224786
  • Publisher: Seven Stories Press
  • Publication date: 1/1/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.73 (w) x 8.53 (h) x 0.86 (d)

Meet the Author

LEE STRINGER's journey from childhood homelessness in the ’60s, to adult homelessness in the ’80s, to his present career as a writer and lecturer, as told in Sleepaway School and Grand Central Winter, is one of the great odysseys of contemporary American life and letters. Stringer, the only board member of Project Renewal who is also a former patient of the facility, has demonstrated that writers are made, not born. He is the two-time recipient of the Washington Irving Award and, in 2005, a Lannan Foundation Residency. He is a former editor and columnist of Street News. His essays and articles have appeared in a variety of other publications, including The NationThe New York Times, and Newsday. He lives in Mamaroneck, New York, where he also serves on the board of the Mamaroneck Public Libraries.
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Table of Contents

Foreword ix
Preface xi
1 Three fatherless sons walking 1
2 The thing is 5
3 At the back of the lot 9
4 My mother has a Victrola 15
5 When the cops get to 21
6 I do just as the cops say 25
7 The next morning 31
8 We're all in the auditorium 35
9 It's a Friday 45
10 First, there is 51
11 For most of its history 57
12 They are short one 63
13 We're in the van 73
14 My mother brings along 81
15 ... Our day 89
16 They took me 95
17 All of us 101
18 Every Tuesday 107
19 This new kid. This Walter 113
20 Red-haired 119
21 Steve has pictures. Sexy pictures 123
22 Curiosity and urgency 127
23 I've begun to halfways suspect 131
24 I think it's stepping back 141
25 If I peer through 149
26 I don't go back 157
27 A week before 163
28 On the inside 171
29 We're down 177
30 The flu 183
31 It's around midnight, and 193
32 A Friday 201
33 Princess 211
34 There's a big 219
About the Author 227
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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2004

    This book is for every mother's son & daughter

    The compassion as well as the honesty with which this incredibly good writer brings, not only to his boyhood self, but to all the 'players' in his life is an inspiration. This book would be great High School required reading along with House of Sand to help us help our children to understand how it feels to live in this culture if you are not white, moneyed and otherwise 'mainstream'.

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