This is All I Got by Lauren Sandler – BOOK REVIEW

Posted February 3, 2021 by Jess C. in book reviews / 0 Comments

This is All I Got by Lauren Sandler – BOOK REVIEWThis Is All I Got by Lauren Sandler
Published by Random House Publishing Group on April 28, 2020
ISBN: 9780399589966
Genres: Social Science, Poverty & Homelessness, Political Science, Public Policy, Social Services & Welfare, Sociology, Urban
Pages: 368
Source: Goodreads

A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK • From an award-winning journalist, a poignant and gripping immersion in the life of a young, homeless single mother amid her quest to find stability and shelter in the richest city in AmericaLONGLISTED FOR THE PEN/JEAN STEIN BOOK AWARD • “A lesson for us all, and a testament to the bigness of the small story, to the power of intimate narratives to speak to something much larger.”—The New York Times
Camila is twenty-two years old and a new mother. She has no family to rely on, no partner, and no home. Despite her intelligence and determination, the odds are firmly stacked against her. In this extraordinary work of literary reportage, Lauren Sandler chronicles a year in Camila’s life—from the birth of her son to his first birthday—as she navigates the labyrinth of poverty and homelessness in New York City. In her attempts to secure a safe place to raise her son and find a measure of freedom in her life, Camila copes with dashed dreams, failed relationships, the desolation of abandonment, and miles of red tape with grit, humor, and uncanny resilience.
Every day, more than forty-five million Americans attempt to survive below the poverty line. Every night, nearly sixty thousand people sleep in New York City-run shelters, 40 percent of them children. In This Is All I Got, Sandler brings this deeply personal issue to life, vividly depicting one woman's hope and despair and her steadfast determination to change her life despite the myriad setbacks she encounters. 
This Is All I Got is a rare feat of reporting and a dramatic story of survival. Sandler’s candid and revealing account also exposes the murky boundaries between a journalist and her subject when it becomes impossible to remain a dispassionate observer. She has written a powerful and unforgettable indictment of a system that is often indifferent to the needs of those it serves, and that sometimes seems designed to fail.
Praise for This Is All I Got
“A rich, sociologically valuable work that’s more gripping, and more devastating, than fiction.”Booklist
“Vivid, heartbreaking. . . . Readers will be moved by this harrowing and impassioned call for change.”Publishers Weekly
“A closely observed chronicle . . . Sandler displays her journalistic talent by unerringly presenting this dire situation. . . . An impressive blend of dispassionate reporting, pungent condemnation of public welfare, and gritty humanity.”Kirkus Reviews

As I wrote in my last post, I’m going back through my lost reviews and pulling from my Goodreads and limited remaining posts that are currently somewhere floating around on the internet and stuck in some weird in-between on my WordPress. This week, I’m trying to post reviews from the four books I won from Goodreads giveaways in 2020: More than Words by Jill Santopolo; This is All I Got by Lauren Sandler; Josephus by B. Michael Antler; and the AMAZING Sherlock retelling – Angel of the Crows by Katherine Addison.

My confusing review of This is All I Got pulled from my Goodreads:

Okay, I’ve got no idea how I truly feel about this book. I won it a while ago in a GR Giveaway and finally got the chance to read it. I found it entertaining. I enjoy Sandler’s writing. But upon finishing it, I felt a bit icky. I was a single mother, barely getting by, at the age of 19. I received public assistance to cover daycare costs while I worked and attended school. I even found myself in the situation of making “too much” and losing childcare assistance, which meant I literally couldn’t afford to work. So I saw a lot of my past self in these pages. I identified with Camilla and it’s part of what pulled me into her story.

What felt wrong to me though, is that there is no story without Camila, but Camilla gained nothing by letting her story be told. It just feels like she was used and my heart hurts for her.

So yeah, just not sure about this one.

What about you? Have you read This is All I Got?

Have any thoughts about how and should a subject be compensated in a situation like this?

Let’s talk. Leave a comment below!


About Jess C.

Jess Combs was born and raised in Charleston, WV. She loves to travel and has been almost all over the US - her favorite trip being Route 66 with her eldest daughter. In her spare time, Jess is a ravenous reader, expert knitter, occasional runner, and hand quilter. She lives in West Virginia with her husband, six kids, and two dogs. She enjoys the outdoors and dreams of raising sheep to supply her with a neverending yarn stash.

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