Some of the best memoirs come from rich venture capitalists who grew up on a country road amongst homely people with missing teeth. The hero of the story will one day pull himself up by his bootstraps, graduate from an ivy league school and one day become a Senator who "understands what it's like" for people who struggle and have to attend a regular state college.
This story is not like that. I don't even own a pair of bootstraps (Chelsea boots don't usually have the kind of straps one typically uses to pull themselves out of poverty). Besides, I'm more likely to wear oxfords or a pair of slim-profile sneakers with slim-fitting selvage jeans – neither of which are known to help one transition social class.
I guess I would also add this point. People don't pull themselves out of poverty. They get lucky, and they use that luck. But many simply don't know how to use their luck, so their opportunities remain invisible to them. Some never get the luck, to begin with.
So what does that mean for the rest of us? That's what we'll explore in Made From Leftovers.
There were many times when someone suggested I write a book. In fact, I the number of times it was suggested was probably only outnumbered by the number of times people asked if I played basketball (I didn't) and the number of times people said that it must have been really fun growing up in a big family (it could have been if we were at least playing basketball). It was a suggestion I simply shrugged off.
One day at a fundraiser for a non-profit whose board I served on, I struck up a conversation with a fellow board member. Someone I'd known for a while but hadn't gotten many opportunities to have a longer conversation with. We asked each other questions about our backgrounds and how we became involved in the organization that served the poor in the inner city neighborhood I grew up in. My friend and his wife, who joined our conversation, stood across from me with their jaws down as I explained my background, each question coming with an answer that needed an explanation.
"Where did you go to school?"
"I was home-schooled," followed by, "Well, I never finished high school," and "No, I didn't go to college." I'd answer, not immediately getting into the details about my parents shrugging off public schools or leaving us to read old encyclopedias because they couldn't afford a curriculum and didn't have the energy to teach 12 children all in different grades. The conversation eventually transitioned to talking about watching sibling births in our inner city home, delivered by my dad, who was not exactly a delivery nurse but more of a delivery truck driver.
When people ask you where you grew up, they are usually just making conversation or looking for ways to relate. Sometimes it's a way of identifying one's social class. When they can't, it changes the course of the conversation.
"You should write a book" was the common statement I'd hear from people. I took it as a polite exchange. This time my friends insisted, "No, really. I'd read it." they both insisted, "you really should."
At that moment, I took their suggestion seriously and decided to go for it.
I started writing my personal memoir a few years ago, going through phases of pause, sometimes it was a lack of interest, other times to cope with the realization that I was abused, traumatized by poverty, and hurt by my parents, who I'm still sure only did what they believe was their best.
Growing up in an extremely poor family with 12 children, I lived on a steady diet of sarcasm and meals consisting largely of leftovers. Lucky breaks and a sense of humor helped me to overcome my lack of basic education and become a successful businessperson. My memoir is a better lesson or a filter than it is a story. In this book, I examine poverty through the lens of my experience, and I've since studied the topic extensively.
Through the 80s and 90s, I was taken away by child protective services, faced starvation, exorcised a demon-possessed man, had to wear an eye patch (possibly for no good reason), and watched a home birth nearly end in death. I also stole lots of raisins.
In Made From Leftovers, I'll tell you why I never finished high school, what it's like to carry a plastic sheet filled with blood out to a dumpster, and how disappointing it is to eat two wedges of raw cabbage for lunch on a field trip as a teenager.
Made From Leftovers is the story of the kid in “that weird family” who people are nice to out of pity but talk about behind their backs. My escape from poverty and abuse leads me through pain, hard knocks lessons, ironic life choices, and 10 cringe-worthy at-home births.
Through this memoir, I examine my life as the second oldest of twelve kids in a poor religious family that didn’t fit in society. I explore the causes of poverty and what it means for the rest of us.
I'll add depth by helping you understand the impact of poverty on the poor and on the world around them. I'll offer a thought-provoking dialogue on why the poor often remain poor and why it may not be something to ignore.
The title of this book alludes to my diet consisting mostly of leftovers, a choice that came from scarcity, but it also refers to the many ways the abjectly poor are the leftovers of society. “The Leftovers” squandered what little opportunity they had, shamed those who were of means, and embraced their pride and their religion above responsibility.
Of course, being malnourished can have an impact on one’s health, but the foundation of the impoverished lifestyle is even more oppressive. As a sheltered kid who didn’t celebrate Christmas, I didn’t know my lack of education or nutrition was abuse, nor did I consider my oppressive religion anything but the way things ought to be. 30 years later, as a high school dropout running a marketing agency, I began to realize what I had come out of.
About This Book
I've released this on my website in single chapters. Over the course of time, I will release the whole book. Whether I will publish in the traditional way remains to be seen. It takes a lot of money, paper, and time to do so, and that is why I've decided to start here exclusively until a publishing agreement seems appropriate.
To read, you'll need to be logged in. You can do that here by entering your email to receive a link. The first chapter is available to free members. Future chapters are for paying subscribers only.