Title: No and Me
Author: Delphine de Vigan
Concepts: homelessness, scarcity
Review: As an intellectually gifted and socially withdrawn teenager, Lou Bertignac filled her time by making observations about other people, conducting experiments, and keeping her mind occupied with problems. These traits worked together in a serendipitous way when she decided to focus on homelessness for a class presentation and interview a homeless girl she had observed at the train station.
Nolwenn, No for short, did not say much at first, but over the course of numerous meetings at the station and in cafés she disclosed that she was always on the move and slept in assorted locations, including a friend's place, shelters, a tent, and random homes of people she met. No smoked and drank too much, did not trust anyone, and slept lightly in fear of having her belongings stolen. She was malnourished, dirty, cold, bruised, and disheveled.
No taught Lou that homeless women were not crazy, not tramps; they had lost their jobs, run away, and had been abused and thrown out. Lou took these lessons to heart, wondering how society could send rockets into space but let people suffer on the streets. Lou would not give up on No, so she asked her parents if No could live with them in hopes that this simple act of kindness could overcome the power of the streets.
This compelling novel, translated from French, provides an eye-opening description of the causes and pervasiveness of homelessness as well as the effectiveness of the steps that cities such as Paris have taken to address the problem. Thoroughly entwined is a beautifully written story that shines an entirely different light on the bonds of family and friendship.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children