*Finding Fish by Antwone Fisher (2001)

One of my students read this memoir for her research project on foster care, and it really is a remarkable story of survival in a horrifying foster home.  Fisher tells his story through memory and excerpts from his case file over the 18 years that he was a ward of the state.  He spent most of those years in the home of the Pickett family where he was physically, emotionally, and sexually abused.  Yet he stayed with the family because the foster mother was able to convince the social workers that she was doing her job–taking him in and providing for him.  By the time his 13th social worker had suspiscions that all was not well in the Pickett home, he essentially had nowhere else to go.  So we learn about the system: too many unwanted kids, too few social workers, a revolving door of caseworkers who quit due to high stress and low pay, too many foster families that take in kids for the money and not because they care about kids, too few caring families available to accomodate all the kids who need a home, and too many teenagers having babies they cannot raise which results in too many wards of the state.  Fisher’s  story is horrifying, yet somehow he survives in this environment and goes on to write about it.  In the end, it’s the discipline of the Navy that sets his path for him–and he ends up educated and employed.  Through his job as a security guard in a Hollywood studio, his story is discovered, and ultimately he is paid to write the screenplay for the movie and the text for the memoir.  So Antwone Fisher’s story becomes a Denzel Washington film, but let us not forget how many other kids in the foster care system end up sick, corrupt, or dead.  This is a depressing book, but Fisher’s voice,  sense of humor, and positive attitude make it a story of strength and redemption.  (memoir)

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