Heartland CASA Library

1. Another Place at the Table: A Story of Shattered Childhoods Redeemed by Love- By Kathy Harrison
  • For more than a decade, Kathy Harrison has sheltered a shifting cast of troubled youngsters- the offspring of prostitutes and addicts; the sons and daughters of abusers; and teenage parents who aren't equipped for parenthood. All this, in addition to raising her three biological sons and two adopted daughters. What would motivate someone to give herself over to constant, largely uncompensated chaos? For Harrison, the answer is easy. 
2.  Blackbird: A Child Lost and Found- By Jennifer Lauc
  • In this memoir, Lauck conveys the perceptions, thoughts, and emotions of a frightened child in her account of the six years during which both of her parents died. Lauck's story is universal, a happy childhood torn apart by a series of strange circumstances beyond her control. When her mom dies of yearlong ailments, her father gets remarried to a member of a religious cult; and after his mysterious death, Lauck becomes embroiled in a slave-like existence that has dire consequences for her and her brother. Blackbird takes a look at the extraordinary life with a simple voice in which Lauck's pain comes through chillingly. 
3. The Boarder- By Jane E. Ryan
  • Annika Williams left teaching to help raise her teenagers, Jarren and Lexi, and she hasn't regretted it. Along with her loving, sensitive husband, Annika and her family are living the good life in Lincoln, Nebraska Suburb. But life has more in store Annika when her husband, the Reverend Zebediah Williams, introduces her to Carl, a homeless eleven-year-old boy with a sketchy past. Moved by his love of children and a desire to save the boy from the streets Pastor Williams convinces a reluctant Annika to adopt Carl. 
4. The Boy Who was Raised as a Dog- By Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D. and Maria Szalavitz
  • What happens when a young child is traumatized? How does terror affect a child's mind- and how can that mind recover? Child psychiatrist Bruce Perry has treated children faced with unimaginable horror: genocide survivors, witnesses to their own parents' murders, children raised in closets and cages, the Branch Davidian children, and victims of family violence. In The Boy Who was Raised as a Dog, he tells their stories of trauma and transformation. Dr. Perry clearly explains what happens to the brain when children are exposed to extreme stress. He reveals his innovative methods for helping to ease their pain, allowing them to become healthy adults. This deeply informed and moving book dramatically demonstrates that only when we understand the science of the mind can we hope to heal the spirit of even the most wounded children. 

5. Breaking the Cycle- Edited by Zane
  • A collection of stories dealing with the dangerous realities of domestic abuse, while pointing towards the steps needed to break the cycle and understand how such patterns are possible. A powerful collection that will open the eyes to people dealing with domestic abuse and/or those watching it take place.
6. A Bright Red Scream: Self-Mutilation and the Language of Pain- By Marilee Strong
  • Why do some people inflict pain on themselves? At least two million Americans, and millions more worldwide, are cutters-notably, the late Princess Diana. Yet, the reasons behind the need to self-mutilate are profoundly complex and largely misunderstood. Marilee Strong shatters the stereotypes and dispels the myths surrounding the phenomenon of self-mutilation and gets to the heart of the matter by way of her subjects. The voices of cutters themselves, combined with Strong's own astute observations, make for an unparalleled exploration of the disorder that has been called the "addiction of the nineties."

7. A Brother's Journey- By Richard Pelzer
  • After years of witnessing and even participating in the abuse of his older brother, Richard finds himself on the receiving end of physical, mental, and emotional abuse from his alcoholic mother when his eldest brother was removed from the home. Richard describes his role as his mother's informant during the abuse suffered by his brother, his dealings with guilt and confusion, self-preservation and fear. Richard gives his audience a very real description of the abuse many children are forced to suffer, society's role in witnessing the abuse and his own journey through the pain and humiliation of abuse. By looking back at- and then releasing- the image of the skinny, red-haired boy who wanted nothing more than his mother's love, Richard discovers his true spirit, which he shares courageously and selflessly here in the hope of healing himself, as well as raising awareness of and preventing child abuse. 
8. Coming Clean: Diary of a Painkiller Addict- By Cathryn Kemp
  • What if the drugs that were meant to cure you slowly started to kill you? After falling dangerously ill with acute-on-chronic pancreatitis, Cathryn Kemp left hospital with a repeat prescription for fentanyl, a painkiller 100 times stronger than heroin. Within two years, she was taking almost ten times the NHS maximum daily dose - all on prescription - and her life began to spiral out of control. Cathryn discovered she had just three months to live, unless she gave up the drug she clung to so desperately. After selling everything she owned and checking into rehab, Cathryn was told by doctors that recovery was highly unlikely. Yet to everyone's amazement, she proved them wrong. Coming Clean is a poignant, vivid and honest memoir of a woman's struggle with, and subsequent victory over, her demons. It is a love story, a horror story, a survival story and one that shows the very real dangers of the over-prescription of painkillers.  
9. Ellen Foster- By Kaye Gibbons
  • "When I was little I would think of ways to kill my daddy." With that opening sentence we enter into the childhood would of one of the most appealing young heroines in contemporary fiction,. her courage, her humor, and her wisdom are unforgettable as she tells her one story with stunning honesty and insight. An Oprah's Book Club selection, this powerful novel, first published twenty-five years ago, has become an American Classic. 
10. Etched in Sand: A True Story of Five Sibling Who Survived an Unspeakable Childhood on Long Island- By Regina Calcaterra
  • Regina Calcaterra's emotionally powerful memoir reveals how she endured a series of foster homes and intermittent homelessness in the shadow of the Hamptons, and how she rose above her past while fighting to keep her brother and three sister together. Beautifully written and heartbreakingly honest, Etched in Sand is an unforgettable reminder that regardless of social status, the American dream is still within reach for those who have the desire and the determination to succeed. 
11. Evicted - By Mathhew Desmond
  • In Evicted, Princeton sociologist and MacArthur "Genius" Matthew Desmond follows eight families in Milwaukee as the each struggle to keep a roof over their heads. Hailed as "wrenching and revelatory", "vivid and unsettling". Evicted transforms our understanding of poverty and economic exploitation while providing fresh ideas for solving one of twenty-first-century America's most devastating problems. Its unforgettable scenes of hope and loss remind us of the centrality of home, without which nothing else is possible. 

12. The Glass Castle- By Jeannette Walls
  • The Glass Castle is a remarkable memoir of resilience and redemption, and a regulatory look into a family at once deeply dysfunctional and uniquely vibrant. When sober, Jeannette's brilliant and charismatic father captured his children's imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and how to embrace life fearlessly. But when he drank, he was dishonest and destructive. Her mother was a free spirit who abhorred the idea of domesticity and didn't want the responsibility of raising a family. The Walls children learned to take case of themselves. They fed, clothed, and protected one another, and eventually found their way to New York. Their parents followed them, choosing to be homeless even as their children prospered. The Glass Castle is truly astonishing-a memoir  permeated by the intense love of a peculiar buy loyal family. 
13. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis- by J.D. Vance
  • Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis-that of poor, white Americans. The disintegration of this group, a process that has been slowly occurring now for over forty years, has been reported with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. In Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it handing around your neck. 
14. Hope's Boy- By Andrew Bridge 
  • Trapped in desperate poverty and confronted with unthinkable tragedies, all Andrew ever wanted was to be with his mom. But as her mental health steadily declined, and with no one else left to care for him, authorities arrived and tore Andrew from his screaming mother's arms. In that moment, the life he knew came crashing down around him. He was only seven years old. Hope was institutionalized, and Andrew was placed in what would be his devastating reality for the next eleven years- foster care. After surviving on of the our country's most notorious children's facilities, Andrew was thrust into a savagely loveless foster family that refused to accept him as one of their own. Deprived of the nurturing he needed, Andrew clung to academics and the kindness of teachers. All the while, he refused to surrender the love he held for his mother in his heart. Ultimately, Andrew earned a scholarship to Wesleyan, went on to Harvard Law School, and became a Fullbright Scholar. Andrew has dedicated his life's work to helping children living in poverty and in the foster care system. He defied the staggering odds set against him, and here in this heart-wrenching, brutally honest, and inspirational memoir, he reveals who Hope's boy really is. 
15. I Love You from the Edges: Lessons from Raising Grandchildren- By Karen Best Wright
  • I Love You from the Edges is Karen's love story of raising her young granddaughters for several years, letting them capture her heart, her life, and her soul, and then having to give them back-resulting in a painful, yet spiritual journey of love, healing and reunion. Along with her story, she includes suggestions on the "how's, what's and why's" one should consider when beginning the journey of raising someone else's child. Included is the health and wellness assessment program Karen designed specifically for grandparents and relatives raising children. Using her holistic approach, this assessment focuses on six aspects of wellness: physical, emotional, social, spiritual, mental/intellectual , and environmental. Whether you are a grandparent, great-something, aunt, uncle, or any relative raising someone else's child, this book is for you.  
16. In the Country we Love: My Family Divided- By Diane Guerrero with Michelle Burford
  • Diane Guerrero, the television actress from the megahits Orange is the New Black and Jane the Virigin, was just fourteen years old on the day her parents were detained and deported while she was at school. Born in the United States, Guerro was able to remain in the country and continue her education, depending on the kindness of family friends who took her in and helped her build a life and a successful acting career for herself, with out the support system of her family. In the Country we Love is a moving, heartbreaking story of one woman's extraordinary resilience in the face of the nightmarish struggles of undocumented residents in this country. There are over eleven million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, many of whom have citizen children, whose lives here are precarious and whose stories haven't been told. Written with bestselling author Michelle Burford, this memoir is a tale of personal triumph that also casts a much-needed light on the fears that haunt the daily existence of families like the author's and on a system that fails them over and over. 
17.  I Beat the Odds- By Michael Oher
  • Though the odds were heavily stacked against him, Michael Oher, the young man at the center of the true story depicted in  The Blind Side movie (and book), had a burning desire deep within his soul to break out of the Memphis inner-city ghetto and into a world of opportunity. He shares his account of his story in his own words, revealing his thoughts and feelings with details that only he knows, and offering his point of view on how anyone can achieve a better life. He recounts poignant stories growing up in the projects and running from child services and foster care over and over again in search of some familiarity. He grasps onto football as his ticket to his dreams. With his adoptive family, the Touhys, and other influential people in mind, he describes the absolute necessity of seeking out positive role models and good friends who share the same values to achieve one's dreams. 
 18.  The Language of Flowers- By Vanessa Diffenbaugh
  • A mesmerizing, moving, and elegantly written debut novel,  The Language of Flowers beautifully weaves past and present, creating a vivid portrait of an unforgettable woman whose gift for flowers helps her change the lives of others even as she struggles to overcome her own troubled past. The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, asters for patience, and red roses for love. But from Victoria Jones, it's been more useful in communicating grief, mistrust, and solitude. After childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings. Now eighteen and emancipated from the system, Victoria has nowhere to go and sleeps in a public park, where she plants a small garden of her own. Soon a local florist discovers her talents, and Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But a mysterious vendor at the flower market has her questioning what's been missing in her life, and when she's forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it's worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness. 

19. The Middle of Everywhere- By Mary Pipher
  • The Middle of Everywhere moves beyond the headlines into the homes of refugees from around the world. In cities all over the country, refugees arrive daily. Lost Boys from Sudan, survivors from Kosovo, families fleeing Afghanistan and Vietnam: they come with nothing but the desire to experience the American dream. Their endurance in the face of tragedy and their ability to hold on to the virtues of family, love, and joy are a lesson for Americans. Their stories will make you laugh and weep- and give you a deeper understanding of the wider world in which we live. Here, she tenders suggestions on how to survive in the US and also includes anecdotal material giving a taste of what it's like to be a refugee. As well as offering stories of refugee experiences, Pipher details attributes that will give refugees a leg up (attentiveness, flexibility, character, resilience) and includes a long list of things Americans can teach them. 
20. A Mother's Touch: Surviving Mother-Daughter Sexual Abuse- By Julie A. Brand, M.S.
  • In the United States we are slow to acknowledge that females ever molest children. Mother-daughter sexual abuse is under-recognized, under-researched and under-reported. Drawing on her own childhood experiences, the author describes the dynamics of maternal incest- the sneaky crossing of boundaries, the secrets, the threats, the overwhelming shame. Here is hope for the children who are being abused at home today and for the adult victims who have never told.  
21. Mummy Told me Not to Tell: The True Story of a Troubled Boy with a Dark Secret- By Cathy Glass
  • Seven year old Reece is the last of six siblings to be fostered. He is so violent that he has been excluded from school and four carers have been unable to control him. But Cathy can see what others can't: that Reece is capable of being a sweet and kind little boy. If she can only persuade him to tell her why he flies into rages. 
22. Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder- By Kent Nerburn
  • Against an unflinching backdrop of contemporary reservation life and the majestic spaces of the western Dakotas, Neither Wolf nor Dog tells the story of two men, one white and one Indian, locked in their own understanding yet struggling to find a common voice. In this winner of the 1996 Minnesota Book Award, acclaimed author Ken Nerburn draws up deep into the world of a Native American elder named Dan, who leads Kent through Indian towns and down forgotten roas that swirl with the memories of the Ghost Dance and Sitting Bull. Along the way we meet a vivid cast of characters- ranging from Jumbo, a 400-pond mechanic, to Annie, an eighty-year-old Lakota woman living in a log cabin with no running water. An unlikely cross between On the Road and Black Elk Speaks, Neither Wolf nor Dog takes us past the myths and stereotypes of the Native American experience, revealing an America few ever see. 
23. Nobody's Girl: A Memoir of Lost Innocence, Modern Day Slavery and Transformation By Barbara Amaya
  • Sexual Abuse, human trafficking, drug addiction, rape, prison, and domestic violence-Barbara Amaya experienced it all on the streets of New York, most of it before her sixteenth birthday. In Nobody's Girl she shares her journey from trafficking victim to human rights advocate, weaving together a story of loss, pain, courage, and transformation. 
24. Not Exactly Love- By Betty Hafner
  • He was the perfect man...until he wasn't. It was 9169, and all the rules were changing, when Betty thought she'd met the man of her dreams...but then they married. Flavored with the sights and sounds of the '70's, Not Exactly Love is a riveting story of one woman's struggle to build the strength within to break free from an abusive relationship. 
25. On the Rez- By Ian Frazier
  • On the Rez is about modern-day American Indians, especially the storied Oglala Sioux, who live now on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in the plains and badlands of the American West. With his longtime friend Le War Lance and other Oglala companions, Frazier drives around the "rez" as they visit friends and relatives, go to powwows and rodeos and package stores, and tinker with various falling-apart cars. He portrays the survival, through toughness and humor, of a great people whose culture has shaped American identity.  
26. Orphan Train- By Christina Baker Kline
  • Between 1854 and 1929, so-called orphan trains ran regularly from the cities of the East Coast to the farmlands of the Midwest, carrying thousands of abandoned children whose fates would be determined by pure luck. Would they be adopted by a kind and loving family, or would they face a childhood and adolescence of hard labor and servitude? Moving between contemporary Maine and Depression-era Minnesota, Orphan Train is a powerful tale of upheaval and resilience, second chances, and unexpected friendship. 
27. Orphans of the Living: Stories of America's Children in Foster Care- By Jennifer Toth
  • "Orphans of the Living" is what Mike Alston calls the half-million children swelling this country's foster care system. In this deftly rendered tale of five children caught in a system of crisis, Toth chronicles the complexities of a culture that both liberates and hobbles its dependents. Cutting through the voracious maze of foster care in America, Toth has gone directly to the kids in orphanages and group homes, on the streets, and in foster care homes, capturing their voices and lives with striking clarity and poignancy. 
28. Out of the Darkness- By Shelman Lazoritz
  • In New York City back in April of 1874, a most unusual event took place. A severely abused nine-year-old girl named Mary Ellen Wilson became the first child in America to be rescued from an abusive home. She had been beaten, burned, slashed with scissors, locked in a closet, and had never been outside of her tenement home in over seven years. Thanks to the concern and dedication of a missionary named Etta Wheeler, the child was finally saved from her cruel captors. Henry Bergh's ASPCA -- yes, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals -- was instrumental in securing her rescue. When no other agencies would become involved, the ASPCA used its power and influence to not only save Mary Ellen, but to charter the first organization of its kind to prevent cruelty to children, the NYSPCC -- the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. This book remains the ONLY book that tells the dramatic story of Mary Ellen's life and rescue. 
29. The Quiet Room: A Journey out of the Torment of Madness- By Lori Schiller & Amanda Bennett
  • At seventeen Lori Schiller was the perfect child- the only daughter of an affluent, close-knit family. Six years later she made her first suicide attempt, then wandered the streets of New York City dressed in ragged clothes, tormenting voices crying out in her mind. Lori Schiller had entered the horrifying would of full-blown schizophrenia. She began an ordeal of hospitalizations, halfway houses, more suicide attempts, and constant, withering despair. But against all odds, she survived. In this personal account, she tells how she did it, taking us not only into her own shattered world, but drawing on the words of the doctors who treated her and family members who suffered with her. And now, in a new Afterword, Lori recounts the dramatic years following the original publication of her book- a period involving addiction, relapse, and ultimately love and recovery. Moving, harrowing, and uplifting, The Quiet Room is a riveting testimony to the ravages of mental illness and the power of perseverance and courage. 
30. The Red Umbrella- By Christina Diaz Gonzalez
  • In 1961, two years after the communist revolution, fourteen-year old Lucia still leads a carefree life in Cuba, thinking mostly of parties and boys. But this all changes on the day the soldiers arrive in her small town and she is forced to face certain truths about her family, friends, and country. As the revolution's impact becomes more oppressive, and more dangerous, Lucia's parents make the heart-wrenching decision to send her and her little brother to the United States-alone. 
31. Room- By Emma Donoghue
  • Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it's not enough... not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son's bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work. Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, Room is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another. 
32. Sickened- By Julie Gregory
  • From early childhood, Julie Gregory was continually X-rayed, medicated, and operated on- in the vain pursuit of an illness that was created in her mother's mind. Munchausen by proxy (MBP) is the world's most hidden and dangerous form of child abuse, in which the caretaker- almost always the mother- invents or induces symptoms in her child because she craves the attention of medical professionals. Many MBP children die, but Julie Gregory not only survived, she escaped the powerful orbit of her mother's madness and rebuilt her identity as a vibrant, healthy young woman. Punctuated with Julie's actual medical records, it re-creates the bizarre cocoon of her family's isolated double-wide trailer, their wild shopping sprees and gun-waving confrontations, the astonishing naivete of medical professionals and social workers. The realization that the sickness lay in her mother, not herself, would not come to Julie until adulthood. But when it did, it would strike like lightning. Through her painful metamorphosis, she discovered the courage to save her own life- and, ultimately, the life of the girl her mother had found to replace her. 
33. Still Waters- By Jennifer Lauck
  • As the sequel to Blackbird, Jenny separated from her brother and passed from caretaker to caretaker, Jenny discovers- as she rebels her way through high school and into adulthood- that the past can never be truly locked away forever. She survived the stunning traumas of a lost childhood, but survival may not be a way of life. Now the secrets, lies, and loneliness that once imprisoned her are brought into sharp focus, where an adult Jenny can make her peace at last. But one more mystery demands her attention: the quiet troubled soul of Bryan, her brother, who, lacking the inner strength of the survivor, chooses a sad and sorrowful destiny. And Jenny must dig deep to find the one bond that held them through the years, and the one reason any of us have for enduring: love. Lauck finds happiness in a second marriage and a child and eventually, she sets out to learn why her brother killed himself, and her journey ends with a spiritual awakening. Lauck's voice successfully blends the tragic-turned-triumphant heroine with the every woman. 
33. The Sun Does Shine - by Anthony Ray Hinton
  • In 1985, Anthony Ray Hinton was arrested and charged with two counts of capital murder in Alabama. Stunned, confused, and only twenty-nine years old, Hinton knew that it was a case of mistaken identity and believed that the truth would prove his innocence and ultimately set him free. But with no money and a different system of justice for a poor black man in the South, Hinton was sentenced to death by electrocution. He spent his first three years on death row at Holman State Prison in agonizing silence, full of despair and anger toward all those who had sent an innocent man to his death. But as Hinton realized and accepted his fate, he resolved not only to survive, but to find a way to live on death row. For the next twenty-seven years he was a beacon, transforming his own spirit and those of his fellow inmates, fifty-four of whom were executed mere feet from his cell. He founded a prison book group, which helped its members to talk about their own lives, regrets, and ideas. with the help of Bryan Stevenson, civil rights attorney and bestselling author of Just Mercy, Hinton won his release in 2015. 

34. Three Little Words- By Ashley Rhodes-Courter
  • Ashley Rhodes-Courter spent nine years of her life in fourteen different foster homes. As her mother spirals out of control, Ashley is left clinging to an unpredictable, dissolving relationship, all the while getting pulled deeper and deeper into the foster care system. Painful memories of being taken away from her home quickly become consumed by real-life horrors, where Ashley is juggled between caseworkers, shuffled from school to school, and forced to endure manipulative, humiliating treatment from a very abusive foster family. In this inspiring, unforgettable memoir, Ashley finds the courage to succeed- and in doing so, discovers the power of her own voice. Ashley Rhodes-Courter who sued her most abusive foster parents, works tirelessly to help children in the foster system. She has spoken to the Senate, and many other groups, about the need for foster care reform. 
35. Tweak: Growing up on Methamphetamines- By Nic Sheff
  • Nic Sheff was drunk for the for the first time at age eleven. In the years that followed, he would smoke pot regularly, do cocaine and Ecstasy, and develop addictions to crystal meth and heroin. Even so, he had always felt like he could quit and put his life together whenever he needed to. It took a violent relapse one summer to convince him otherwise. In a voice that is raw and honest, Nic spares no detail in telling the compelling, heartbreaking, and true story of his relapse and his journey toward recovery.