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Grand Central Winter


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About the Author

LEE STRINGER's journey from childhood homelessness in the '60s, to adult homelessness in the '80s, to his present career as a writer and lecturer, as told in Sleepaway School and Grand Central Winter, is one of the great odysseys of contemporary American life and letters. Stringer is the only board member of Project Renewal who is also a former patient of the facility. He is the two-time recipient of the Washington Irving Award and, in 2005, a Lannan Foundation Residency. He is a former editor of and columnist for Street News. His essays and articles have appeared in a variety of other publications, including the Nation, the New York Times, and Newsday. He lives in Mamaroneck, New York, where he also serves on the board of the Mamaroneck Public Libraries.

From the Hardcover edition.


"In New York City," writes the author, "there are three centers for people living on the street: Central Park, Grand Central Terminal, and Central Booking." And in this candid, sad, yet upbeat memoir we visit them all. Stringer once co-owned a graphic-design company, but with the death of his partner and his substance abuse found himself evicted from his apartment and camping in Grand Central Terminal. We see what life is like on the street and how the homeless search for shoes in a bureaucratic city agency. In one shelter we see hams, turkeys and other roasts going into the kitchen, but only fried salami is served. We witness homeless being rousted by cops for criminal trespass for sleeping in Grand Central, then learn that often the police do this only at the end of their shifts in order to collect overtime. The author relates the embarrassment of meeting an old business colleague while collecting cans for their five-cent redemption fee; how he rescued a coked-up businessman from muggers; and how the authorities ruthlessly cracked down on the homeless to move them out of Grand Central. Street News, the newspaper of the homeless, helps get him back on his feet, first by selling it, then by editing and writing for it. From stories about flim-flamming clerics prying on the homeless, to the streetwise Romeo who wants to make the prostitute mother of his child an "honest woman" ("I can't believe it, [she] even charged me to go to bed with her on our honeymoon night"), to the manipulations of being on the Geraldo show, Stringer possesses a sharp eye for the street and the rich, sagacious talent of a storyteller. (July)

This autobiographical account of homelessness and crack addiction rambles engagingly among the key locations of New York City's Grand Central Station, Central Park, and Central Booking. Written by a former editor and columnist for Street News, a newspaper produced by New York City's homeless, the book gives full humanity to its troubled characters and homes in on the motivations, strategies, and relationships of people surviving on the streets. The power of each discrete narrative compensates for a disjointed overall structure. The biggest gap is a lack of attention to the dynamics of Stringer's transition to sobriety. In pivoting the center of morality away from the world of "working stiffs," Stringer challenges the taken-for-granted perspective on the problems of urban poverty. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries.‘Paula Dempsey, DePaul Univ. Lib., Chicago

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