The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls is an incredible testimonial about growing up in extreme poverty, resiliency, and making a better future for herself. Jeanette’s fighting spirit and grit kept the wind in her sails as she weathered storm after personal storm. The hardships that the Walls’ children experienced growing up were unbelievable, repulsive and devastating. From scavenging for food, to resorting to eating butter for dinner, to living in a house without water and electricity, and to having to paint their legs with markers in order to cover up the holes in their pants.
During their youth, Jeanette and her siblings faced chronic bouts of food insecurity. While in elementary school, the Walls’ children had no choice but to adopt coping strategies to ensure their survival. Some of these strategies included, sneaking food from the iceberg lettuce farm, stealing food from classmates and from friends’ houses. One of the many incidents that Jeanette recalls is during recess at school when she had to “slip back into the classroom and find something in some other kid’s lunch bag that wouldn’t be missed” (p.73). Her hunger was so severe that she would “barely be able to taste” the food that she rapidly swallowed (p. 73). The language that Walls used describe her malnutrition hints at the trauma, shame, and desperation she experienced due to hunger. Additionally, when she states “we kids usually kept our hunger to ourselves, but we were always thinking of food and how to get our hands on it,” reinforces the psychological effects of hunger that Jeanette and her siblings experienced. It is apparent that the trauma continued to plague Jeanette into adulthood, as she spent years trying to shield her truth from the world.
Moving and inspiring, I could not help but relate The Glass Castle to situations I have encountered during my fieldwork experience within the Santa Ana Unified School District. According to the report “Preparing all students for success in college and career” published by the Santa Ana Unified School District, approximately 91% of the student population is eligible for free and reduced-price meals (sausd.us). While at SAUSD, it was brought to my attention that many students do not have the means to eat nutritious meals at home. For many, the 1,000 – 1,200 calories that they might consume at school for breakfast and lunch is the extent of their daily food consumption. These are the students that occupy our classrooms. Our students might be hungry because the last meal they had was the lunch they had at school the previous day. Despite what might be going on at home, we expect our students to complete homework assignments and participate in class discussions. The reality is that these students are only concerned with when they are going to eat again, not with memorizing the Pythagorean