Dr. Tanya M. Coakley
Associate Professor of Social Work
The Glass Castle
by Jeannette Walls
I selected this book because of its relevance to social work and similarities to my own childhood. Jeannette Walls' account of her childhood depicts a troubled, but loving family who shares exciting adventures and an undeniable bond. As told through this sometimes humorous narration, she deals with sensitive family issues surrounding child neglect and mental illness, areas with which I am deeply concerned and committed to improving. Like my childhood and the lives of so many children with whom I have worked, there are very serious underlying psychosocial and financial problems that keep this family struggling.
What resonated with me was that the parents were committed to preserving the family unit at all costs. However, as time went on, the insurmountable social problems took their toll on their ability to maintain that unit without outside assistance or support, and ultimately the children were subjected to neglectful and dangerous conditions.
I see this book as a teaching tool for students who are learning about family dynamics, child neglect, mental illness, homelessness, as well as the true nature and spirit of children's resiliency through tremendous adversities.