|Posted by Michele Zurlo on June 30, 2012 at 8:40 AM|
Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos isn't a life story as much as it is the recounting of the most significant event in his life--going to prison. He talks about his life leading up to the pivotal event and what he learned from doing time in a Federal prison.
I first came across Jack Gantos while I was getting my Master's in Literacy. Joey Pigza swallowed a key, and just like that, ADD kids suddenly had a voice. He changed a lot of people's attitudes toward kids who struggle to pay attention and he created a character in which upper elementary boys could really see themselves--and see that they were worth something despite the way people treat them. (Let's not pretend that people are always patient with those kids.)
In reading Hole in My Life, I see a lot of Joey Pigza. Gantos definitely has issues with paying attention. I can't imagine what headaches he causes his editors with the way he jumps from topic to topic. It's become part of the charm of his storytelling. The man is definitely gifted with words.
Gantos was a clueless, and surprisingly well-read, teen. He didn't know who he was or who he wanted to be. He had ambition, but no plan. Like so many young people I meet, including myself at one point, he needed guidance and wasn't given it. Gantos badly needed a role model and a swift kick in the pants. He had the misfortune to have to do his growing up in prison. At least he caught some lucky breaks and made something of his life.
p. 5: Even now, when walking some of Boston's meaner streets, I find myself moving like a knife, carving my way around people, cutting myself out of their picture and leaving nothing of myself behind but a hole. [LOVE the imagery.]
p. 52: I still didn't have anything significant to write about so I just smoked another joint and recorded observations and reflections.
p. 174: Every day in prison was scarier than any Halloween, so there was no reason to do anything special on October 31st.
p. 186: And as I sat in my yellow cell with my journal on my lap, I understood I had come all the way to prison to realize that what I had in my past was so much richer than what was before me.
The entire page where I found that last quote embodies the 'So What' of Gantos's memoir. He had to lose everything to appreciate what he had. I think this memoir is important reading for many teens and tweens, especially those who have no clue what they want to do with their lives or who feel like they can't be successful in school. Gantos wasn't a bad kid. He didn't set out to do anything wrong or hurt anybody. Yet he did. The choices we make can have serious consequences. I applaud Gantos for sharing his cautionary story with us.