Homeless Mothers: Face to Face with Women and Poverty

Homeless Mothers: Face to Face with Women and Poverty

Homeless Mothers: Face to Face with Women and Poverty

Homeless Mothers: Face to Face with Women and Poverty

Synopsis

Would a good mother sleep with her children in a car parked on a city street in the dead of winter? Would a good mother send her child to school in shoes two sizes too big because that's all she could find? Would a good mother tell her child to shut up and behave or the whole family will be out on the street again? Does the woman with no money, no home, and no help have any chance at all of being a good mother, according to the model our society sets up? This is the woman whose voice, so rarely heard and so often ignored, resonates through this book, which follows the lives of mothers on the margins and asks where they fit in our increasingly black-and-white picture of the world.

At once an anthropologist in the field and a social worker on the job, Deborah R. Connolly is ideally placed to draw out these women's life stories, the stories that our culture tells about them, and the revealing contradictions between the two. In their own words, by turns awkward and eloquent, poignant and harsh, these homeless,mothers map the perilous territory between the promise of childhood and the hard reality of motherhood on the street, between "We're never gonna get married, we're never gonna have kids" and "God, how did we end up like this?"

What emerges from these stories is a glimpse of the cultural imagination of class and gender as it revolves around the lives of mostly white homeless mothers. Attending to both everyday lives and cultural norms, while exploring and interpreting their interdependencies and tensions, Connolly makes these mothers and their plight as real for us as the headlines and stereotypes and the cultural paranoia that so often displace them and consign them to silence.

Excerpt

Mom on Trial in Fatal Crash for Not Using Tot's Seat Belt

Lesia Smith Pappas, 33, is accused of vehicular manslaughter in the death of two-year-old Alex Pappas. He died when Pappas lost control of her van while driving the other children to school in June 1995. She faces a possible maximum sentence of six years in prison.

Pappas is on trial, prosecutors say, because none of her children were wearing a seat belt when the van went out of control while going an estimated 65 mph.

“We're saying that she's a bad mother, ” said Deputy District Attorney Robert B. Fultz Jr. “She never cared about her kids enough to strap them in.”

(San Jose Mercury News, July 21,1996)

Officials Face Dilemma of Getting Tough without Hurting Children: Welfare Reform Efforts Trap Kids in the Middle

“The problem we're seeing with kids is not that their mama doesn't have enough money, ” Murray [a fellow at the American . . .

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