I read What Else But Home after seeing author Michael Rosen speak at Wordstock. His story of the way his family came together captured my heart and imagination, and I couldn't wait to read the memoir. It didn't disappoint.
Rosen's 7-year-old son wanted to play baseball with the group of pre-teen boys at the park between their penthouse condo and the Projects. After the game, he invited ten of the guys home to play video games. One thing led to another, and before too long the boys had, in varying ways, become part of the Rosen family.
This is not a fairy tale; nothing is sugar coated. Every single "character," including the author, is flawed. The world they live in is even more flawed.
Yes, the boys are successful in graduating from high school and escaping the dead-end life that many of their friends and neighbors have resigned themselves to (we see this in the prologue so I don't consider it a spoiler). But in order to reach their goals, they have to struggle against a horrific school environment, a blatantly racist social system, and their own inertia. The Rosen's attempts to motivate them and expand their horizons seem to flop more often than they succeed. And yet, the end result is a family--a real, imperfect family--not to replace the families the boys were born into, but to enrich the lives of Michael's original family of four as well as each of the boys.