This story about 17-year-old Jewels Odom and 13 other ex-teen prostitutes gives Jewels and her 13 "sisters" a pulpit to speak to other lost girls looking for an escape from what they call the “streets of hell.” What separates Jewels from her “street sisters” is her ability to survive and succeed -- actually going to college to return as a teacher at juvie. This story ends with a mixture of successes and failures, but as always, Jewels is the one who has the final say when she tries to connect with Maya Angelou, the famous poet, to be the graduation speaker.
David P. Sortino, PhD, has over 40 years of experience as a teacher, administrator, educational consultant and neuroscientist with at-risk youth. He is the former school principal with the Just Community Emancipation Program for ex-juvenile offenders at the Clark Academy. He obtained a PhD in clinical psychology and then worked at a north bay juvenile hall for four years as a moral development consultant, running groups and retraining staff about recent developmental theories, etc. He also taught several university courses in moral development and the life cycles.
Chapter One: The Worse Part of the Game
Chapter Two: Three Months Later
Chapter Three: A New Teacher Principal Man
Chapter Four: Used Desks
Chapter Five: Maya Angelou To the Rescue
Chapter Six: Constitution Convention
Chapter Seven: Go Easy on Dj?
Chapter Eight: Man, On the Floor
Chapter Nine: She Forgot Her Pot?
Chapter Ten: She Took-Off the Band-Aides
Chapter Eleven: When Art Therapy Becomes Talk Therapy
Chapter Twelve: Mr. Buddha Man on the Floor?
Chapter Thirteen: Playin’ the Dozins
Chapter Fourteen: This Couch Really Sucks
Chapter Fifteen: More Prunes
Chapter Sixteen: Little Brothers We Wish We Had
Chapter Seventeen: When You Don’t Have A Future?
Chapter Eighteen: Never A Time for Coke
Chapter Nineteen: Colonel Sanders and Road Warrior
Chapter Twenty: It Never Leaves You
Chapter Twenty- One: Sister of The Streets
Chapter Twenty-Two: His Sacred Cow
Chapter Twenty-Three: No Pussy Votes
Chapter Twenty- Four: Man, on the Sidewalk
Chapter Twenty- Five: Andrea
Chapter Twenty- Six: To Be A Snitch or Not To Be A Snitch
Chapter Twenty- Seven: Track Meet
Chapter Twenty- Eight: Top Dog or Shop Bully
Chapter Twenty- Nine: Can’t Always Run from Failure
Chapter Thirty: Go Easy on Dj Tests
Chapter Thirty- One I Know She Has Gone to Heaven
Chapter Thirty-Two: Pullin for Us to Succeed
Chapter Thirty-Three: Two Inches from The Gutter
Chapter Thirty- Four: The Real Game of Life Begins
Epilogue: The Circle of Life
This excellent story about 14 ex-teenage prostitutes, drug dealers, and gang bangers provides a poignant description of how Sortino transformed the behaviors of at-risk teen girls while serving as the teacher and principal of a Northern California "just community" residential facility. The main character Jewels Odom offers an eyewitness account of her journey from her street smart to school smart experience with her 13 Clark Academy sisters. Moreover, this book addresses not only the journey of at-risk teen girls from juvenile hall to the Clark Academy; it also provides a voice for the 900,000 (USA) girls, ages ten and older, and 20 million worldwide who are forced into prostitution and sex trafficking. Finally, there have been many books written about at risk youth, but few have been able to truly capture the day-to-day trials and tribulations of at-risk teen girls who, regardless of all their personal challenges, pass the GED test and are able to move on from a life on the streets to becoming productive citizens. This is their story.
Harvard Ed. Magazine, 7/21: Author David Sortino was interviewed about the book.