Lit in the Time of War: Walls

Hello! I hope you are all staying healthy and cool. Today is my birthday, and I am celebrating by reviewing one book and providing a list of organizations you could donate to in order to help Ukrainians in need. If you would like to celebrate along with me and are able to donate, please do so.

The Glass Castle: A Memoir, by Jeannette Walls

“One day I was walking down Broadway with another student named Carol when I gave some change to a young homeless guy. ‘You shouldn’t do that,’ Carol said. ‘Why?’ ‘It only encourages them. They’re all scam artists.’ What do you know? I wanted to ask. I felt like telling Carol that my parents were out there, too, that she had no idea what it was like to be down on your luck, with nowhere to go and nothing to eat. But that would have meant explaining who I really was, and I wasn’t about to do that. So at the next street corner, I went my way without saying a thing.”

Jeannette Walls’s memoir is about her time as a young girl roving around the country with her Picasso-loving mother and her gold-seeking father, in pursuit of dreams that will never come true. Her family was very poor, very proud, and apparently in denial about their situation. When they fled from tax collectors, Walls’s mother claimed that they were on an adventure, while her father claimed that they were fleeing from a criminal ring. When they weren’t fleeing this criminal ring, Wall’s mother tried to ditch her teaching job to paint pictures, and her father worked on plans for a solar-powered glass castle that they would eventually live in, while investigating the criminal ring by going to bars and drinking. In other words, this is a memoir about a dysfunctional family.

What really stood out in this book was Walls’s empathy. She could have easily turned this memoir into a story of “I didn’t realize how messed up my parents were until I got older and then I left them forever because they’re completely horrible people.” However, this approach would have likely been less convincing (and less powerful) than also including the dysfunctional family’s moments of humanity.

 Fortunately for readers, Walls used the more powerful approach. She described her family’s dysfunction (like when they tried sabotaging her attempts to move out), and she also described their moments of love (like when they cheated at gambling and won enough money to fund her last year at Barnard). In this way, I got to see both the good and the bad sides of her family, and was able to come up with my own conclusions about them.

So if you’re interested in reading a memoir about a girl’s coming-of-age in the midst of dysfunction, I would definitely recommend this book.

As promised, here’s a list of organizations you could donate to in order to help Ukrainians in need:

United Help Ukraine—Provides medical supplies to soldiers, and ships goods to Ukrainian refugees.
Donate here:

World Vision Ukraine—Provides psychological support, food, and shelter to Ukrainian refugees.
Donate here:

Action Against Hunger—Provides nutritious food, cash, hygiene kits, and mental health support to Ukrainian refugees.
Donate here:

Voices of Children—Provides psychological support and evacuation assistance to Ukrainian children and their families.
Donate here: