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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You can't judge a book by it's cover......., 27 Sept. 2013
I had a particular interest in this book as I've known Lisa for quite a few years. I too went to that 'Northamptonshire School' although my circumstances were a lot different to Lisa's .... I came from a 'stable' family life, 2.4 kids, family dog ... and we even had a VOLVO! This book highlights to me that you never know what's going on behind closed doors, behind the scenes. Lisa obviously came from a hard and unstable upbringing, I came from the 'model family' yet it was me that ended up in prison, Lisa ended up with a university degree and many more accolades too boot! I'm proud to know her, impressed by her success in life and wish her all the best for her future. Although some of the tales in her book are truly heartbreaking, what I took most from the book was the optimism that whatever your upbringing, life is out there to be grabbed hold of. Your past should not dictate your future, just as your future is not mapped out by your past.
p.s. congratulations on the wedding Lisa.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you read one book about the care system and social services read this one, 14 Aug. 2013
By 
Lark (North Coast of Ireland) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Brightness of Stars: Stories of Adults Who Came Through the British Care System (Paperback)
This is an excellent book which sits, to my mind, somewhere between a personal biography and a brief recent history of the development of the childrens social services looked after child system from the perspective of a child looked after by it.

I had listened to the author speak about this book on the radio and was very interested in reading it as I have first hand experience of working in both two seperate homelessness projects and presently work as a residential social worker, I have to say it really does not disappoint. There are a lot of practices which I believe anyone would hope are a thing of the past discussed or described in the book, which is, for the most part discussing the nineteen eighties but which are at least still potentialities or possibilities today.

The book is divided into two parts, the first, and longest, being the authors own experiences, interspaced with lists of music, news, TV, details about relevent childrens legislation and description of context, set piece reminiscence or reflections (such as discussion of being at a meeting as a professional which formerly the author had experienced as a child herself) and charts an unhappy home life, leading to contact with social services, foster placements (and their breakdown), a number of moves, including accomodation in a residential setting she describes as "highly volatile", a further residential placement and finally a period of time spent homeless before contact with AA and recovery. The second part of the book are edited pieces from others, each of which are themed, so focusing upon education, identity etc.

I absolutely loved this book as I found it both very, very readable and also very, very relateable, the author's perspective is one I would share myself, although we have very different experience and life histories. A great deal of time and effort has been invested with training social workers and social care workers to attempt to get them to become more empathetic about the roles they perform, with really mixed results, but I would hope that it would result in greater understanding of some of the more basic things mentioned in this book, such as memories associated with food or the hierarchies among unsupervised groups of young people. The unintended consequences or learning which a growing child or adolescent can draw from frequent moves of school or residence I felt was interesting and insightful, it is something I have seen myself, that no real difficult "working through" or "dealing" is necessary when it has proven possible to make moves instead.

I also absolutely loved the short and simple, briefly stated, insight about staff within the residential context that "they are in care too, they just dont know it", as it is something I have thought about at length but hear too often, unless in jest, or occasionally, with a great deal more ideological sophistication, from conservative politicians who consider it all as so much "picking and unpicking of rope" like in the "poor houses" of old but at an increased tax expense to the financial interests who form their constituency.

As I have stated this is a very readable book, I would recommend it to social workers and social care workers of course but I would also recommend it to the general reader, books of this kind should be read more often and form more opinions than they do presently because I think they could perhaps influence thinking about services, their adequacy to their tasks and what they exist to as a response to in the first place. The author at the commencement of the book is very much at pains to make clear that this book has grown out of her own experiences sharing her story through a variety of forums, including blogging, and it is not doubt not written with the kind of intent I just described. In a sense this is very much true, if you dont care about those questions it will still prove a very engaging read. She mentions George Orwell's book novel about middle class pretensions, Keep The Aspadistra Flying, but I thought this read a little like some of Orwell's other writing, his war diaries, letters or observational journalism or books. The inclusion of the lists of music, news, TV gave a real flavour of the times, causing me to reflect on what precisely I was doing or experiencing at the time that I heard those tunes, knew those events were taking place or saw that on TV too.

There are two "fates" which I truly hope this book does not encounter, one would be classed under that category of "tragic life history", the genre of "tell all" fiction which I've always found a little tabloid, and the other would be to be classified as a "training text" of the sort which professionals begrudging browse or skim over. Instead I hope it reaches as wide a readership as possible and it makes the same positive impression, providing the same food for thought, as it has myself.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Empowering, 5 May 2013
At the moment I can only say that this book is the single most important thing that policy makers, social workers and foster and adoptive families need to read. The stories are told with the right amount of fact and perspective and emotional kudos as to enlighten both professional and survivors of the'care' system in the uk.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Overcoming the care system- A moving account of a child in care, 10 April 2013
By 
J. Benanti - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Brightness of Stars: Stories of Adults Who Came Through the British Care System (Paperback)
This is a first-hand experience of a child in care. There is humour as well as disappointment, anger and sadness- all interwoven into a rich and colourful narrative that will resonate with the childhood experiences of many individuals regardless of whether or not they have been in care. The overarching theme in this book is the resilience of the author as a child and how she overcame both her childhood and teenage adversities which unfortunately, many in her position find it too difficult to overcome. There are also other childhood stories in the second half of the book from people who were once children in care themselves. These range from someone with overwhelming mental health difficulties to an eminent graduate from Cambridge University.

'The Brightness of Stars' makes good reading for those not engaged in professional health and social care but a must for those who are. This is about viewing the vulnerable child and angry teenager at the centre of a very fragmented- and in spite of recent changes- a very uneven system across the whole country.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring tales of a hidden world, 29 Mar. 2013
Before I read this book I knew very title about life in care, other than what I'd picked up through the media. This collection of stories, accompanied by the author's own sad tale of a broken, dysfunctional family, numerous foster homes and eventual homelessness, is not an easy read. As a parent myself i found myself wanting to make a difference, to do something to change the way kids in care are treated because it just seems so damn unfair that children can be given such a bad start to life. I alone am powerless but I hope people in positions of authority read this and see just how much damage can be done by a system where children are numbers and statistics rather than individuals.

Having said all that, it was heartening to read that these people, despite experiencing some very tough situations, have gone on to have worthwhile productive and successful lives. It did make me wonder how many children are not so lucky though ... How many slip through the gaps?

A difficult but inspiring read - well worth buying.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a great insight, 26 Feb. 2014
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As a social work student and adoptive parent of a child who was in care for a short period, this has given me great insight.
The care leavers stories demonstrate how much the era and policies of that era can and do impact on individuals.
I'm pleased to have read it and would definitely recommend.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a must read for anyone involved with children in care, 23 Feb. 2014
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Reading these narratives I would love dearly to think they are not being repeated by children in the care system now - be inspired to be the strongest advocate you can for the children & young people you work with - thank you all for sharing your experiences
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An emotional read, 12 Jan. 2014
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Read this book after finding out about it through #swbookclub on twitter. As a new social work student I was immediately gripped after reading the first chapter for free on the kindle app on my iPad and instantly downloaded the book. Once I started I couldn't put it down. Lisa Cherry writes with wonderful emotion and honesty and I almost felt I was living the ups and many downs of her life story with her (aided I think by the connection of my living in the place where Lisa grew up). The book not only details Lisa's reflections of growing up 'in care' but also tells the stories of other adults who explain to the reader how growing up in the care system felt and affected (and in some cases is still affecting) them for better and worse! The book provides an interesting perspective and I think would appeal to all readers, not solely those interested in social care.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful and inspiring..., 30 Sept. 2013
I can't imagine what it must have been like as a child or any age being pushed from pillar to post and not really having any place or family to call home.

The nearest I got to it was a friend in school who was placed in care - one of twins, her brother was adopted, but she was deemed 'too much of a handful' and stayed in the care system. I never looked at it from the point of view that the adults around her gave up on her, but essentially, that is what they did. We lost touch in school, after she was expelled, but roll forward 25 years, via a Facebook contact I found out she has five children of her own, three of whom are in care due in part to her alcoholism and drug-use and a messy divorce. It sounds like she never got to break the cycle. I've often wondered had she had more help and understanding as a young person, what difference it would have made to her life.

The Brightness of Stars went some way to helping me understand more about what it must have been like for my friend, it seems we are still living with an outdated tick-box system which most young people in care don't fit into.

This book has opened my eyes and inspired me to take positive action to help make a difference to people in care. A great read, a great insight.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book!, 31 Aug. 2013
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As a leaving care social worker this book was very useful,gave a great insight. Was finished in one day on an out of borough visit!
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