Title: “Homeless Lives Matter: Homeless My Story”
Author: Leo Gnawa
Place of Publication: N/A
Publisher: Cabri Mort Media
Date of Publication: February 5, 2016
Number of Pages: 138
What Can a Homeless Man Teach You?
Over Thanksgiving Break 2017, my significant other, Brendan, and I took a day trip to Washington D.C. from Virginia Beach, Virginia. After a long car ride and hours of visiting the city’s major monuments in four-inch heels, I was tired, hangry, and dreaming about a glass of red wine (since a foot massage in public is socially frowned upon). On our way to dinner at Old Ebbitt Grill, we came across a homeless man sitting outside of the restaurant selling books. I’ll admit, being city-savvy, I wasn’t inclined to stop and talk to the man (while on a study abroad in Paris, we were taught that doing so was a personal safety concern, and being a petite woman I tend to take those concerns seriously), but Brendan was intrigued. We ended up purchasing his book, to which I originally thought, “great, another book to throw on the shelf and never read.” To my great surprise, I was hooked after reading the first chapter and couldn’t put it down.
The homeless man we met that night was Leo Gnawa. In an attempt to help generate income and relieve his state of homelessness, he wrote the book “Homeless Lives Matter: Homeless My Story.” The first of, I hope, many books to come, his book is just as the title describes: his experiences with being chronically homeless and living on the streets of Washington D.C. Throughout the book, he answers some of the questions he is most frequently asked such as, “Why are you homeless?”, “Why don’t you go to a shelter?”, and “Why don’t you get a job?” in addition to addressing the day-to-day struggles and injustices of being homeless. Contrary to what you might think, Gnawa doesn’t incessantly play victim in his situation. He tells of his journeys of generating enough income to survive (and how he raised and made enough money to purchase his laptop and publish his book), and delineates the resources he seeks out to survive such as meals provided by religious groups and daily showers provided by social betterment centers. But most of all, Gnawa gives thanks to those who have shown him compassion and charity.
Gnawa’s writing reminded me of Maya Angelou books I have read in the past. Although there were instances of grammar infractions, he has a strong written voice with a knack for weaving elegance into simplicity. As you read, you can hear his voice and see the scenes he presents. Most interestingly, he makes references to the Bible, but not as you might expect. Rather, he cites passages as if it were an academic report. And like an academic report, he doesn’t make unfounded claims: he has either personal experience references or support from published reports on the subject to which he’s arguing. He successfully uses his book as a platform to call to the attention the problems with society as they relate to homelessness, as well as suggestions for solving these problems and a call to action for his readers. Most importantly, Gnawa asks his readers to be kind to the homeless. Something that seems to be common sense, but is often unpracticed in our actual lives.
Most of us can agree that we have witnessed homeless persons, but Gnawa paints a more intimate picture. He is the kind of person you might imagine who would invite you into his home for a cup of coffee and thought-provoking, riveting conversation. Since he can’t do this in his current state, he does so through his book, inviting you to the streets of Washington D.C. from the comfort of your own home. Leo, if you’re reading this, you’re more than welcome to share a cup of coffee with me in my home if you ever find yourself in Milwaukee (or wherever I end up after college). To say I enjoyed your book is an understatement. It was an incredible read, full of knowledge for which I am indebted to you for. I hope to share your story tirelessly so as to give its gifts to others. I will also be asking the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to provide this book as the annual read they give to incoming students during their first year on campus to fulfill, at least in part, your call to action on the issues of homelessness. For the rest of my readers, “Homeless Lives Matter: Homeless My Story” is available for purchase on Amazon , and is a book I highly recommend.