Would a good mother sleep with her children in a car parked on a city street in the dead of winter? Would a good mother send her child to school in shoes two sizes too big because that's all she could find? Would a good mother tell her child to shut up and behave or the whole family will be out on the street again? Does the woman with no money, no home, and no help have any chance at all of being a good mother, according to the model our society sets up? This is the woman whose voice, so rarely heard and so often ignored, resonates through this book, which follows the lives of mothers on the margins and asks where they fit in our increasingly black-and-white picture of the world.
At once an anthropologist in the field and a social worker on the job, Deborah R. Connolly is ideally placed to draw out these women's life stories, the stories that our culture tells about them, and the revealing contradictions between the two. In their own words, by turns awkward and eloquent, poignant and harsh, these homeless mothers map the perilous territory between the promise of childhood and the hard reality of motherhood on the street, between "We're never gonna get married, we're never gonna have kids" and "God, how did we end up like this?"
What emerges from these stories is a glimpse of the cultural imagination of class and gender as it revolves around the lives of mostly white homeless mothers. Attending to both everyday lives and cultural norms, while exploring and interpreting their interdependencies and tensions, Connolly makes these mothers and their plight as real for us as the headlines and stereotypes and the cultural paranoia that so often displace them and consign them to silence.