Though my own voice on social media is rather small it has proven to be a place where I can occasionally have my attention firmly focused by hearing someone else’s electronic voice as it speaks out on something I might otherwise have missed out on. Case in point would be Gotta Find A Home by Dennis Cardiff, a book I recently finished reading. Through the vagaries of whim and circumstance I ended up following people on twitter who eventually led me to following Dennis himself, which is how I ended up responding to one of his tweets.
“Review either of my books” he wrote and he’d review one of yours. Not having any books of my own to review the openness of the post led me to randomly reply to him and offer to simply read and review his books without anything in return. Fully expecting my words to fall into the ocean of words that make up twitter and float by unnoticed, Cardiff replied and ended up sending me a copies of his books.
From the moment I opened the box and looked at the covers – both built off of a drawing by Cardiff himself – it hit me that I’d probably never would have picked up either of these two books on my own at a bookstore. Both books, according to the back cover, were basically remembered conversations that he’d written down in a style somewhat akin to a diary of time spent and friendships earned with street people in Ottawa, Canada, beginning sometime around 2010. Knowing myself and my own preferences in reading material I’m positive I’d have allowed my own thoughts and prejudices concerning homelessness, so much so that I’d have passed up these books and found refuge in the more comfortable stories and conversations to be found in fantasy and fiction.
That would have been unfortunate.
Much like the people chronicled in Cardiff’s words and stories this book is richer and full of a vibrancy than the monochromatic cover could ever hope to convey on its own. You may think you can tell a lot about a book by how it looks – much the same way that I’m sorry to say that I’ve previously judged people on the street who might look a little rougher around the edges – but you cannot.
From simply stopping to say hello to a woman he names Joy, Cardiff’s book begins a conversation with an ever-changing and evolving cast of people that share the same worries and anxieties as those of us considerably more fortunate than they are. Gradually, over the course of a few hundred pages and years of slowly earning their friendship and trust Cardiff peels back the calloused exterior and exposes that they also share the same joys and small moments of genuine happiness as anyone else you might find.
Through nothing more than simply taking the time to care and talk to them and maybe sharing an occasional gift card for a breakfast sandwich or bus fare, Cardiff manages to put not just a face to homelessness in Canada but gives a voice – a ragged and yet important voice – to homeless people everywhere. Whether they are on the street due to circumstances out of their control or through bad choices fueled by addictions and inner demons of doubt and self-loathing, they are still human and still part of the larger story of life.
Through the pages of Gotta Find A Home Dennis Cardiff gives, at least vicariously, the homeless of Ottawa a ‘home’ in the words of a damn fine writer and, by all accounts, even finer human being.
If you are in the mood to read some excellent writing and discover some excellent people in less than excellent circumstances, please consider adding this book to your life and bookshelf. There are 3 more editions planned in the “Gotta Find A Home” series, with volumes one and two currently published. More information about Dennis Cardiff can be found here at his web site and his blogging (which fuels his books) and his poetry can be found here at Gotta Find A Home