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Posts Tagged ‘Alton Carter

The Boy Who Carried Bricks is a sad and inspirational true story by Alton Carter about his years as a foster child. It’s sad because of the horror Carter experienced during his formative years, but equally inspirational because of how Carter stayed true to himself even while the rest of his family fell apart. The Boy Who Carried Bricks will enlighten you about the realities of the foster care system, as well as pull on your heartstrings.

Anyone who reads The Boy Who Carried Bricks will not fail to question how terrible our society sometimes treats children. In a straightforward and honest narrative, Carter describes how he grew up with a life full of fear, hunger, and loneliness. When his mom finally married, after dating and bearing children to five different men, the guy turned out to be violent. More than once, the step-dad physically abused the family. Life should have better after the step-dad left, but the mom didn’t seem to know how to care for anyone. She spent more hours drowning her sorrows and partying than acting like a mom. As a result, the five boys often had nothing but moldy food to eat and at times showed at school with roaches in their ears. Even when the grandparents step into help, life doesn’t really improve, and Carter often felt that he had no one to turn to for comfort or protection. As you can see, the novel makes for a tough read, and even worse happens in the first few foster homes that Carter lands. The matter-of-fact tone, however, kept me from putting the book aside for lighter fare. I had to know what would happen to this young person who seemed determined to succeed, against all odds.

Anyone who reads The Boy Who Carried Bricks should also not fail to feel inspired by the hope that Carter carried within him. Even in the unhealthiest situations, Carter held onto the belief that normalcy could be his. When living with his grandparents, he also often encountered his uncles. One of them in particular turned sadistic when drunk. Yet he could also treat the five boys to an evening of stories and trademark greasy fries, an event which Carter viewed as a happy time. Fortunately, along the way, he also met kind and caring individuals who were to have a long-lasting impact on him. One of them was an elderly lady for whom he mowed her lawn and performed other summer chores. She believed that Carter should improve his reading and so provided him daily with a newspaper article. At the end of the summer, she gave him a novel to read too. Her pride in him helped him believe more in himself. Eventually, Carter encountered enough positive influences that Carter decided to take charge of his own life by contacting the Department of Human Services himself. His tributes to others allowed me as a reader to keep faith in a book that often felt full of dark times.

My final commendation of The Boy Who Carried Bricks involves the subtle lessons that Carter imparts. One that stands out is an incident with a teacher whom Carter accused of picking on him due to his color. In reality, she simply wanted him to do his best, but he kept rebuffing her because of how alone he felt in his troubles. Through her continual affirmation of his abilities, he came to realize that he needed to take responsibility for his own actions. If he pursued a life of crime, this was his own choice and had nothing to do with his being a foster child, poor, or black. And if he wanted to experience love and all the good things in life, he needed to work for them.

According to Carter’s introduction in The Boy Who Carried Bricks, there are over 400,000 children in the United States living without permanent families. In writing his story, Carter hoped to make a difference in the life of readers. He wanted adults to be the best they could and to know they have the opportunity to give young people a chance to believe in themselves. He also wanted young people to know that they can become whatever they dare to dream. The Boy Who Carried Bricks should motivate anyone who reads it.

My rating? Bag it: Carry it with you. Make it a top priority to read.

How would you rate this book?

Abandoned by his father, neglected by his mother, shuttled between foster homes and a boys’ ranch for most of his formative years, a young man refuses to succumb to the fate that the world says should be his.

The above description comes from the inside flap of The Boy Who Carried Bricks, an autobiography from Alton Carter. Writer Space quotes Carter as saying that the title is both literal and figurative. One of the punishments Carter faced at a ranch for boys where he lived for a while as a teen was to pick up, carry, and stack bricks over and over again. The boys sometimes did it for seven hours straight. At the same time, Carter also carried the weight of many issues, all of which caused him self-esteem and relationship problems.

AUTHOR

AltonCarterAlton Carter grew up in Oklahoma, where he still makes his home with his wife and two sons. At age eight, he entered the foster care program, where he was placed into multiple homes throughout the state. About many of these homes, Carter says, a lot of his foster parents shouldn’t have been foster parents. They just didn’t take care of the children entrusted to them.

Against all odds, Carter was the first person in his family to graduate from high school and college. Previously, no one in his family had even passed grade nine. He graduated from Cushing High School with no intentions of attending college, but a former Oklahoma State University staff member kindly enrolled him without his permission, and he used the opportunity to receive his bachelor’s degree in sociology.

Now the director of youth ministries for the First United Methodist Church of Stillwater, Oklahoma, Carter has dedicated his life to working with young people. In 2015, Carter founded the Alton Carter Inspire Foundation with the goal of assisting young people who have lived in foster care, group homes, or DHS juvenile facilities in securing a college degree.

Carter waited to write The Boy Who Carried Bricks until his mom passed away. He tells OColley.com that his autobiography isn’t meant to gain pity or compare it to the trials others have faced, but instead to give inspiration to youth who may be in a similar situation. “There are kids still hungry, still abused with so many problems and we just need people to help,” Carter said. “This book is aimed at bringing light on the idea that there are still kids out there like me.”

CULTURAL SETTING

There are over 400,000 children in foster care. Young people end up in foster care, through no fault of their own, but are removed from their families due to abusive or neglectful situations. In the case of Carter, his mom had five children through five different men, and rarely stayed at home with them. His memoir is just one example of how a child might end up in foster care.

  • 70% of children in foster care never graduate high school
  • 74% of children in foster care end up incarcerated
  • 50% of children in foster care will be unemployed at the age of 24
  • 1 in 5 children in foster care will become homeless by age 18

Repeatedly in his autobiography, Carter refers to his other siblings and the sad outcomes of their lives. One of them died young, while the others turned to a life of crime. Although he typically didn’t stay in touch with others he met in foster care, he does tell of one boy who ran away rather than face time in jail. His memoir puts a face to the heart-breaking online statistics about today’s youth in foster care.

Tomorrow I’ll review The Boy Who Carried Bricks. Save the date: April 21!


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