Nov 24, 2008

Learning Joy from Dogs without Collars

by Lauralee Summer

This is the memoir of a college student with an uncommon background. Summer spent most of her childhood homeless. Her father was absent, her mother usually jobless. They rarely had money for food or clothes, much less to rent an apartment or own a car. They moved frequently, and spent time in homeless shelters and welfare offices. Summer's mother taught her to read and write and fed her hunger for knowledge. In Learning Joy from Dogs Without Collars, Summer talks about how much she loved her mother while at the same time often feeling ashamed of her circumstances. She found mentors in high school who encouraged her to strive for a higher education, and ended up getting accepted to Harvard- via the unexpected route of a wrestling scholarship. She became the only woman on the Harvard wrestling team. It was very interesting to read about her joining the wrestling team, and how classroom lectures about sociology- in particular discussing welfare and single mothers- contrasted with Summer's own experiences. This is an inspiring and thoughtful book. I did keep expecting to find a dog in it somewhere, because of the title. It comes from a line in a poem written by a homeless youth, quoted on the frontispiece.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 351 pages, 2003

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Jessica said...

I loved this book!

dawn said...

I'll have to remember to look for this book (OK, I'll add it to my wish list, then I don't have to remember!).

I do the same thing as you ... try to find where the title comes from (if it's not obvious).

Debra Durham said...

What a fascinating concept for a book. Personal narrative can be so touching. (I'd love to see the full poem if you can share?)

I was just reading this morning about a different woman who spent many years homeless in her youth. She went on to study anthropology and psychology in the hopes of better understanding the needs of the homeless and the aspects of homeless cultures that can make returning to dominant cultures especially challenging.

What courageous and inspiring women!

Thanks for shairng.

Joanne said...

This sounds like a wonderful memoir, I had heard the phrase 'dogs without collars' as being a reference to homeless kids before but I did not realize it came from a poem.

Jeane said...

Debra- I don't know if copyright law permits me to quote the entire poem here. I've seen others quote only a few lines and not entire poems because of this, so I'll check and find out.