Lisa "Tiny" Grey-Garcia graced our bookstore in Philadelphia with her presence and incredible thoughts. She came off as incredibly intelligent, very creative, and a very likable person. She is the founder of POOR magazine, dedicated to the poor when all the other magazines seem dedicated to people who don't need anymore dedication (rockstars, politicians, actors, etc.). When at the Shoe, she talked about strength through organization and treating people in that organization like family, even when you want to butt heads with them. She talked about strength through art and how even in a life of constant struggle, you never give up, especially when the entire culture is set against you (peppering her speech with phrases like DWP, or "driving while poor", underlining her crystal clear thoughts on our society). She had a beautiful picture of her mother, Mama Dee, who she was close was with her entire life.
I had to read her book after listening to her speak. In Criminal of Poverty: Growing Up Homeless in America, Garcia lays out her origins through telling the story of her grandmother who immigrated from Ireland and had to make hard choices, her mother Dee, her wealthy father who left them to fend for themselves, and finally herself. Her mother could not work a job because of disability, so the
two eked a living on their own wits. The story traces Tiny and Mama Dee growing as legends in Venice Beach, California, telling their stories and making it by through art and selling t-shirts, and eventually taking their "po' art" up to San Francisco. It's a story of constantly being evicted, messed with by police, driving from one place to the next trying to find a place to stay, and of all else, never leaving each other behind no matter what. The "art of homelessness" is the only way they can truly get by in an insane world where everything that can go wrong, does.
Garcia helps found POOR magazine, and through the grit of her teeth and really amazing talent, she is able to get POOR magazine afloat. It becomes a project that empowers people to be great organizers and activists in fights for survival, housing, jobs, expression, and dignity. Her mother and many others are at her side the entire time, and it really attests to what one can do when your back is up against the wall. It illustrates plainly how if you are poor in America, you basically have no rights in practice and how you are treated like an animal by society. Tiny doesn't seek to "rise above this," she seeks to rise everyone up and fight for real tangible gains for real people who need them. That's what's really great about this book. You can really tell that the author and people in POOR magazine have ability above nothing else to fight and fight well for what's right.
I probably didn't mention that Tiny is a really gifted writer, too. You can tell by her writing that she's been doing art for a long time. She chooses her words really well and the book reads like stuff that happened decades ago happened minutes before. You really won't be disappointed if you pick this one up. Just awesome.