Friday, February 19, 2021

Lowborn by Kerry Hudson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"I was a private investigator, digging my way through my own deeply buried secrets, both desperate for answers and fighting to keep them hidden."

Growing up in poverty can leave lingering effects for the rest of your life. Author Kerry Hudson writes about surviving her impoverished childhood spent in public housing throughout a series of downtrodden towns in Great Britain in her insightful book, Lowborn: Growing Up, Getting Away and Returning to Britain's Poorest Towns.

She couldn't remember a lot about her young childhood, and had long-since broken contact with her mother. The erratic lifestyle and desperate poverty of Hudson's existence with her single mom left scars that lingered as Hudson, in her late 30s, decided to finally investigate her own past and put it down on paper. 

As a child she had scarce security or stability, dragged from one impoverished town to another, leaving everything behind to start over in bare, dismal housing provided for the poor by the local town governments (known as council flats or estates in the UK).

Hudson introduced readers to her current much-improved life as a happily married author with modest but adequate means, while also making forays into her difficult past before swooping back to the present again as she returned for the first time to many towns she'd lived in as a child.

She examines her own life through the lens of what it still means to be poor in Britain and how the system and society often lets down those on the fringes. "What I experienced, even before the age of four, are the symptoms of a society that is structurally and systematically designed to further marginalize those who are struggling and those who are poor," she writes. 

Hudson proceeded to tentatively research her past, both wanting to know more and afraid of what she'd find. She turned up a few surprises along the way, realizing something that resonated with me as well: “Here I was chasing my past, trying to piece things together but perhaps the real courage was in simply accepting the things that happen and learning to live with them.” 

Lowborn is a great book, and as someone who also grew up poor, I related to the lingering trauma and aftershocks that causes. This book can be found on Amazon US, but unfortunately not in the Kindle format (on Amazon UK you can grab it in all formats and at a lower cost than on the US site). Because I much prefer ebooks for highlighting and taking notes, and because I never know if the text size in printed books will be too small for me, I waited about a year hoping this would become available on Kindle in the US before giving up and ordering a print copy. Fortunately the text was big enough to read comfortably, even for my aging eyes!

I doubt many libraries in the US will carry this book without a little prompting, as its tale of poverty is very focused on the system in Great Britain, but the experiences and effect of growing up poor are universal. It's definitely worth buying or asking your local library to add it to their catalog! Most libraries have forms you can fill out online to request book acquisitions (do a search for "suggest a purchase" along with your library system's name and you should find a quick, easy form to make your request). 

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