The work I chose to write about was particularly impactful on me as a youth; not only because it was one of the first books I have a cognitive memory of reading but more importantly because of the parallels I drew from it with regards to my own life and personal experiences. The title "They Cage the Animals At Night" was a bit misleading when I have been initially recommended to read. However, after reading and moreover going through similar experiences first hand, I found it to be an unfortunately accurate and insightful book title.
The autobiographical story revolves around the trials and tribulations of a young boy, Jennings Michael Burch, who underwent an extremely painful childhood. For instance, this is a true story of child’s suffering, but more importantly it is a story of survival and triumph. Like it is written on the cover, it is truly a heart wrenching story. Thus, the book seems to be exceptionally powerful and it stays with the readers after they finish.
The story begins with the unexpected reality that the boy’s mother has become too weak physically, mentally and financially to care for him. He is initially put in the custody of a child care home that houses both orphans and potential foster care children. The undesirable position of being pushed into a random living arrangement while having to leave behind everything was sadly, neither a temporary nor a one-time situation. He manages to show an amazing amount of resiliency and an uncanny ability to adapt to his new surroundings only to be removed and relocated over and once again growing comfortable, however odd it may seem, to his new routine.
There are necessary positive influences sprinkled throughout the book, he receives advice and guidance along the way, often from people you would least expect. How he manages to shift through the negativity and persevere when many would find it much easier to give in or give up is a testament to his character. The story has no traditional, happy resolution; only that these seemingly emotionally crippling series of events didn’t stifle the author’s courage and ability to tell his story.
One important theme in the novel is simply to keep our heads up high no matter what happens. Through all difficult times, Jennings was very strong and managed to push forward. Later, Jennings proved his strength through adopting a child, marrying and living a good life. There is also a theme of survival whereby Jennings was able to withstand in very harsh moments. He was able to go through these moments without shelter, hospitality, love and family. Sadness is also brought out in the novel. Reading about the shocking stories was quite upsetting. These stories show how terrible Jennings’ childhood was. They make me feel sorry for him.
I personally wasn’t an overwhelmingly enthusiastic reader when I was growing up; I did however share a similar upbringing. I also came from a single parent home and was turned over to foster families and adoption homes at a young age. Similarly to the author I was constantly adjusting to the ever changing rules of my new surroundings, quickly and out of necessity. I remember the home where I was staying when introduced to the novel. We had a mandatory amount time each day, which I desperately tried to avoid, allotted for studies. It was then that a peer-mentor had suggested I look at this book to appease our guardians. I was obviously immediately drawn into the book seeing as how I was going through and facing many of the same obstacles.
Needless to say that I have been opened to suggestions with regards to “good reads” ever since. The novel opened my eyes in more than one way, not only to the idea of enjoying and gaining from reading but more importantly at the time was the knowledge that I was not alone in my struggles. I have since been drawn to nonfictional books, especially those who write of personal experiences. I most commonly indulge in shorter editorials or passages from readers digest and similar printings, however still always being most intrigued by those written based off of actual events. The book stood out to me as an excellent topic after considering the assignment and in hindsight I am able to appreciate the many layers it helped to forge during my childhood.
This book should be recommended for all people who are working in the foster care system, especially the house-parents. In addition, I tend to think that it is a very good book to read in order to get various perspectives of children that have been in the system.
Although dated, I strongly believe that a greater percentage of children in care nowadays experience same fears and feelings that Jennings did over many years ago. For instance, the feelings of sorrow, fear, loneliness, abandonment, depression and shame are as painful as they were in the past. While reading this book, I noticed that people who had a positive influence on the life of Jennings were not able to see and experience the outcomes of their influence. This is not different from what happens today. When people are working with children who are disadvantaged as well as caring for other people’s kids, they may fail to see and experience the results of their hard work. When people are able to see it has worked for other should help them to keep doing it anyway.