By David Ambrose
2022, Legacy Lit, an imprint of Hachette Books, New York
There aren't many books that have fiercely kidnapped my attention so soundly that I have had to negotiate with myself to put it down. But this was one of them. This book will open your eyes to what life without a home really feels like, hour by hour, day in and day out, for a little boy who has never known anything else.
Jeanette Walls, New York Times bestselling author of The Glass Castle, writes “A Place Called Home will take your breath away.”
Author David Ambrose tells the moving story of his life as a homeless child under the erratic care of his mentally ill mother who is unable to keep her family in any kind of safe shelter for more than a few weeks, or months at most, before they’re kicked out and on the streets again. The youngest of two siblings, David nevertheless assumes the role of care taker for his mother and his older brother and sister, as they trudge along in survival mode. He and his siblings have already learned before Kindergarten that the goal in life is to negotiate the infinite complexities of the social welfare system, endure the pernicious stares of those who “have,” and to constantly search for someplace warm, someplace safe, and something to eat.
School is a luxury, to be especially valued as a place to stay warm from the cold, and also as an place to learn about "friends.” School comes his way like a gift at Christmas, stuffed with surprises and excitement, but then quickly fades and disappears into distant memories when his Mother goes off the deep end again and their little family is back to trudging the streets, searching for food, a warm place, and someplace to sleep.
Many of us have an idea of what homelessness is. We’ve read the headlines and noted the homeless camps along the less desirable streets of our city. But David Ambrose has a way of inviting the reader into the only world he has known as a child and adolescent to put real faces and flesh on the statistics. We learn that the depth of the issue is much more complex than “lazy people looking for handouts from the government.” If only it really was that simple.
Yet, In spite of a story riddled with heartbreaks, abuse, bullying, mental illness and poverty, Ambrose is one of the fortunate ones who is blessed with an unbreakable resilience that forges a determination deep inside him that gives him he strength to endure his lot in life while plotting his way up and out of the foster care system and high school, and into college and graduate school.
David Ambrose is an unlikely rock star who has, himself, risen into positions of power to now advocate and help shape the policies of governmental social services as well as the culture of Corporate America. His humility and genuine care for people shine through each page of his memoir, undergirded by a sharp intelligence and fortitude made of granite.
From the inside back cover: David Ambrose is a national poverty and child welfare expert and advocate. He was recognized by President Obama as an American Champion of Change. He currently serves as head of community engagement (West) for Amazon. Previously he led corporate social responsibility for Walt Disney Television, and served as president of the Los Angeles City Planning Commission and as a member of the California Child Welfare Council. He is a foster dad and lives in Los Angeles, California.
--Review written by Steve Gartland, May 9, 2023