Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Jeannette Walls, author of Glass Castle

Jeannette Walls, author of the memoir Glass Castle, is just as amazing in person as she is on the page. I met her this weekend, during a special presentation that she made to social workers, foster parents and foster children in Dayton, Ohio.

Jeannette did not grow up in foster care; she lived in a home that some have described as abusive or neglectful. Jeanette does not consider her parents to be abusive. Daredevils, yes. Quirky, eccentric and elective, yes to that also.

But to accusations that her parents might have been abusive, Jeannette says, “No.” She grew up always assured of the knowledge that her parents loved her.

For me, the most powerful scene of the book came at the beginning. Three-year-old Jeannette is roasting her own hotdogs, with her parents’ knowledge and approval. She catches on fire, and ends up being hospitalized with skin grafts.

As I read the book, I wondered how Jeannette’s scars, both physical and emotional might affect her today. During her presentation, my questions were answered.

Here are some quotes from Jeannette Walls’ presentation:
- “Don’t ever apologize for your scars. They are a sign that you had survived.”

- “Growing up means facing down your demons.”

- “There comes a point in your life when it’s okay to stop fighting. You had to fight to survive, but now you need to be prepared for the love and kindness that people are ready to give. The world becomes transformed from a place of potential enemies to a place of potential friends.”

- “If someone tells you that you’re not a good kid, it’s not a reflection of you. It’s a reflection of them.”

Sometimes when you read a book and then meet the author in person, they fall short of your expectations – but Jeannette Walls exceeded mine. Her insights were savvy and on-target, and I plan to share them at a workshop that I am leading this summer about foster care alumni and post-traumatic stress disorder.

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