Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos
After penning a number of novels for preteens, including the Joey Pigza books and the Jack series, Gantos makes a smooth transition as he addresses an older audience. He uses the same bold honesty found in his fiction to offer a riveting autobiographical account of his teen years—and the events may well penetrate the comfort zone of even the most complacent young adults. The memoir begins with the dramatic image of the author as a young convict ("When I look at my face in the photo I see nothing but the pocked mask I was hiding behind"). The book then goes on to provide an in-depth examination of the sensitive and intelligent boy residing behind a tough facade. Inspired by the words and lives of some of his favorite American authors, Gantos sought adventure after leaving high school. He eagerly agreed to help smuggle a shipment of hashish from Florida to New York without giving thought of the possible consequences. Knowing that the narrator is destined to land in jail keeps suspense at a high pitch, but this book's remarkable achievement is the multiple points of view that emerge, as experiences force a fledgling writer to continually revise his perspective of himself and the world around him. The book requires a commitment, as it rambles a bit at times, but it provides much food for thought and fuel for debate. It will leave readers emotionally exhausted and a little wiser. Ages 12-up. (Apr.) --Staff (Reviewed February 25, 2002) (Publishers Weekly, vol 249, issue 8, p68)
When I knew I needed to read a biography (not my normal choice for reading) book for my class, I turned to a friend/librarian for some suggestions. She had but one: Hole in My Life IS the book you WILL read for this. I did what anyone who knows Geri would have done, I shut up and checked out the book!
At first I wondered why she wanted me to read this odd yellow covered book written way back in 2002 about a man I have never heard of. Now I know. Hole in My life is compelling and interesting. I felt as though I was with Newberry Award Winner Jack Gantos on his search for self. I crewed the ship from Florida to NY with him, and ran from the law. I felt the emotions: happiness, pain, sorrow, fear and so many more as he felt them.
This boy who always wanted to be a writer but felt as though he had nothing to write about, this smart kid with no self-esteem, this boy seeking to be a man but not understanding how; all of these things, these feelings, I understood. Here was a kid trying to find his place in the world. He didn’t know what to do with the jumble of feelings, so he sought respite in drugs and alcohol. I found myself screaming at the book “don’t you SEE what you are doing to yourself???”
I found the description of his time in prison (15 months in the federal pen for smuggling hash) fascinating. So many things conspired to keep him safe and out of relative harm during his stay. His sentence could have gone so much worse.
I have visited Jack Gantos’ website (http://www.jackgantos.com/) and read numerous articles about him. He speaks with amazing candor about his youth and the problems he created/encountered. One of my favorite things I read was an interview with him on NPR. I have included the link below because I think it gives a sense of Jack Gantos’ personality and humor.