The Struggle to Be Strong: True Stories by Teens about Overcoming Tough Times


Jamel loses his friends to marijuana; Artiqua dates a boy of another race despite her family’s opposition. Youniqiue was abandoned by her mother; Charlene is raising her brothers and sisters because their mother is addicted to drugs; Craig is gay and worried about coming out.

All of these teens have more than their share of troubles. And all have the resiliency needed to face them, live through them, and move forward with courage, confidence, ...

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Jamel loses his friends to marijuana; Artiqua dates a boy of another race despite her family’s opposition. Youniqiue was abandoned by her mother; Charlene is raising her brothers and sisters because their mother is addicted to drugs; Craig is gay and worried about coming out.

All of these teens have more than their share of troubles. And all have the resiliency needed to face them, live through them, and move forward with courage, confidence, and hope.

In 30 first-person accounts, teens tell how they overcame major life obstacles. Many aren’t the everyday problems most kids encounter, which makes their stories especially compelling—and their successes especially inspiring.

As teens read The Struggle to Be Strong, they discover they’re not alone in facing life’s difficulties. They learn about seven resiliencies—insight, independence, relationships, initiative, creativity, humor, and morality—that everyone needs to survive and thrive in even the toughest times. Vivid, articulate, and candid, this book will motivate readers of all ages to build the skills and strengths they need to triumph over adversity.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Engaging, empowering testimony to today’s teens struggling to make something of themselves.” —Voice of Youth Advocates

 “Easy to read and often inspiring.” —School Library Journal

 “An important resource.” —Youthworker

Parent's Guide Award

Parent Council®  Selection

This self-help book for teens is an engaging, empowering testimony to today's teens struggling to make something of themselves. The structure of the book is based on seven resiliencies: insight, independence, relationships, initiative, creativity, humor, and morality. Each chapter defines the resiliency and its importance, adding teen-authored essays to illustrate the topics and to highlight the importance of struggling to stay strong. With the help of guided questions at the end of each essay, readers are encouraged to think about and apply the resiliencies to everyday life. Many of the teen writers are veterans of foster care and dysfunctional home lives. They write about how it feels to be an outsider; the anguish of being rejected by a parent; ways to control anger; helping a seriously ill friend; deciding to come out; and many more issues relevant to teenagers. Short and to the point, the essays are told in a conversational style that will appeal to the audience. Readers who appreciate Janet Bode's books and Gutsy Girls: Young Women Who Dare by Tina Schwager and Michele Schuerger (Free Spirit, 1999/VOYA February 2000) will want to browse this title. Its tone is comforting, encouraging readers to feel that survival is possible and desirable, even under tough conditions. The format is nonthreatening and will appeal to those who might not normally choose to read. As one contributor, Lenny Jones, writes, "Things always get better. Maybe not today, tomorrow, or even the next day, but they will... There's always a way out of 'no way out.' " Glossary. Index. Illus. Further Reading. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YAappeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2000, Free Spirit, 182p, $14.95 Trade pb. Ages 12 to 18. Reviewer: Judy Sasges

SOURCE: VOYA, October 2000 (Vol. 23, No. 4)

Plenty of books try to give teens advice about issues in their life—getting along with parents, staying in school, handling peer pressure and the like—and how to deal with them. However, The Struggle To Be Strong takes a different tack. Al Desetta, an editor of this book, works with Youth Communication, an "organization that teaches writing, journalism and leadership skills to inner city teens." Sybil Wolin, the other editor of this book, is co-director of Project Resilience, "a private initiative that trains professionals to help youth and adults overcome hardship." The editors intersperse the stories in this volume with what they term "The Seven Resiliencies"—insight, independence, relationships, initiative, creativity, humor, and morality. These resiliencies are later further defined in the text and broken down into language that YAs can understand. Teen authors, most of whom were living in or have had experience with foster care, contributed all of the stories in this collection. However, the themes explored in this work are universal. One writer discusses the prejudice she encounters in an interracial relationship. Another talks about lessons learned from coping with a drug-addicted parent. Yet others discuss the effects of peer pressure, popularity, and the pressure to be thin. The stories are short, less than three pages in length, and use the language that teens would use, both elements that would attract teen readers. The editors also include features dear to the hearts of librarians, namely a guide to topics and a glossary of unfamiliar words. For those who are curious, after each story the authors include a brief statement noting the age of the writer when thestory was written, and also any further information about the teen. This title explores a world that is the other side of the Tasteberries and Chicken Soup for the Soul series. A strong purchase for libraries whose collections include "true life" stories aimed at teens. KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2000, Free Spirit, 177p, 23cm, 99-056600, $14.95. Ages 13 to 18. Reviewer: Tricia Finch; Youth Scvs. Mgr., North Port P.L., North Port, FL, July 2000 (Vol. 34 No. 4)
Children's Literature
From the body of work produced during a set of writers' workshops in New York City, editors Desetta and Wolin have pulled together an inspirational collection of essays about the real life experiences of teens growing up. Growing up is not always easy; it means being dependent upon others for food and shelter, craving love and respect, and struggling to know oneself and others honestly. These pieces show what it takes to be resilient, to survive—and to overcome—tough times during youth. The editors have identified groups of essays according to seven characteristics of resilience—insight, independence, relationships, initiative, creativity, humor, and morality. Teen essayists explore a variety of experiences that tested their inner strength, such as problems in relationships with drug-addicted parents, living with other youth in foster care, and having problems in school. Throughout this work, readers are encouraged to reflect upon their own strengths and to develop strategies for overcoming their own tough times. Hopefully, this message will resonate with many youth. 2000, Free Spirit, $14.95. Ages 12 to Adult. Reviewer: Heidi Green
School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up-A self-help book written predominately by African-American, Latino, and Asian teens who have attended writers' workshops sponsored by Youth Communication, a nonprofit organization in New York City. Short entries are grouped together into seven categories that the editors call "resiliencies." Categories are: "Insight," "Independence," "Relationships," "Initiative," "Creativity," "Humor," and "Morality." The young people talk about their experiences with drug-addicted, alcoholic, or abusive parents; friends or parents with AIDS; school problems; homosexuality; and foster care. Throughout the book, teens are encouraged to be a part of the solutions and emerge victorious from hardships in life, rather than remaining victims. Thought-provoking questions end each piece, and a brief note tells a little about its author. The articles were first published in New Youth Connections or Foster Care Youth United. Easy to read and often inspiring, these selections will fill a need for many teens, including reluctant readers.-Kim Harris, Newman Riga Library, Churchville, NY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781575420790
  • Publisher: Free Spirit Publishing, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/15/2000
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 380,784
  • Age range: 13 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: 830L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.05 (w) x 9.05 (h) x 0.36 (d)

Meet the Author

Al Desetta, M.A., is an editor at Youth Communication, a New York-based nonprofit organization that teaches writing, journalism, and leadership skills to inner-city teens.

Sybil Wolin, Ph.D., is a developmental psychologist and co-director of Project Resilience, a private initiative based in Washington, D.C., that trains professionals to help youth and adults overcome hardships.

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2010

    This book will keep you wanting more!

    The struggle to be strong is about all kinds of teens who have had problems in their lives just like a lot of other people. This book shows you and reminds you that if you have problems in your life such as getting abused, ending an important relationship, or just having trouble to find a job that your not alone. These teens share there stories of the struggles thay had to go through growing up and how they stayed strong while going through them. When you read this book you won't want to put it down, you will want to keep reading to see what happens to each person and if they end up being ok. A lot of teens will be able to relate to the kids in these stories. Believe it or not everyone is going through some kind of struggle wether they show it or not. This book is exciting, depressing, and tradgic. It has a hurricane of all kind of different emotions in it. I finished this book in one day. This book has life lessons in it that can be learned. The struggle to be strong will have and affect on you. These teens will inspire you. I got this book to read because I had to for english class, but I am really happy I did because this book reminded me that you should always be kind to people no matter what because you may never know what kind of struggle they are going through in their lives.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2009

    the struggloe to be strong

    othis is a good book i recamend it to every single teenager the is looking foward to knowing about serious issues my favorute story is losing my friends to weed i can realate to this leter/entry and i can realte to this because that is apart of my life if you are a teenager looking for a book about serious issues THIS IS THE BOOK FOR YOU!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2005

    a good learning experience

    ¿The Struggle to be Strong,¿ is a book of short stories written by teens about overcoming tough times. Some of the stories are about independence, relationships, taking initiative, creativity and morality. One of stories is called ¿College Can Be Hell.¿ It¿s about a girl who goes off to college and has to learn to be independent and not to blame others when thing go wrong, but to take responsibility for the things in her life and carry on no matter how hard it may be. Life is going to be hard for everyone at some point but we can¿t just give up and give in. Another story is, about a girl who is black in a relationship with a boy who is Puerto Rican. She has to deal with racial slurs and pressure from other there different racial backgrounds. She has to learn that she can¿t let other people influence the way she feels about her boyfriend. It shows us that the only thing that matter in a relationships is how we feel. A relationship is about connections with other people based on sharing, mutual respect and openness. The editors achieved their goal in helping people to stay strong. It is very helpful to hear others talking about the same struggles that any teen deals with on a daily basis. The authors give readers different ideas on handling hard situations. The book gets readers thinking about their own lives and the way we deal with things. This gets them thinking about the best way to handle hard situations. Even if someone is not struggling

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