Biography & Autobiography
2003 Michael L Printz Honor Book
Becoming a writer the hard way
In the summer of 1971, Jack Gantos was an aspiring writer looking for adventure, cash for college tuition, and a way out of a dead-end job. For ten thousand dollars, he recklessly agreed to help sail a sixty-foot yacht loaded with a ton of hashish from the Virgin Islands to New York City, where he and his partners sold the drug until federal agents caught up with them. For his part in the conspiracy, Gantos was sentenced to serve up to six years in prison.
In Hole in My Life, this prizewinning author of over thirty books for young people confronts the period of struggle and confinement that marked the end of his own youth. On the surface, the narrative tumbles from one crazed moment to the next as Gantos pieces together the story of his restless final year of high school, his short-lived career as a criminal, and his time in prison. But running just beneath the action is the story of how Gantos – once he was locked up in a small, yellow-walled cell – moved from wanting to be a writer to writing, and how dedicating himself more fully to the thing he most wanted to do helped him endure and ultimately overcome the worst experience of his life.
Hole in My Life is a 2003 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.
I was aware of Jack Gantos from having looked at reading Newbery winners (Dead End in Norvelt), but I haven’t actually read anything by Gantos before. He was brought up recently when Drew Daywalt, author of The Day the Crayons Quit visited our school: Daywalt studied at Emerson College, Gantos was one of his professors.
I was pleased to see this come up on the list, but had no idea what I was getting in to — and it turned out to be a really fascinating ride! By turns funny, horrifying, touching, and inspiring, this is probably not a book for younger teens, but it was definitely worth the read (um, listen….I found an audio version, narrated by Gantos himself).
There are lessons to be learned, but this was not a preachy book, by any means. Gantos was matter of fact about the mistakes he made, that lead to his year long incarceration for drug smuggling. This is the kind of thing that maybe some parents would prefer their kids NOT know about the authors of the books said kids are reading: but I think it’s great that this is out in the world. He could have made so many other choices, but he figured things out and turned his life around.
Definitely a thumbs up on this one, must add his other books to my reading list…..