Jesse-Ray Lewis wrote verse reflecting trauma and violence, shame and love and despair. Author Andrea Brunais saw more in him than just a street-smart boy with a flair for poetic expression. She saw a soul who could be saved from a downward spiral. But would he accept the help of strangers in a small Appalachian town?
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Jesse-Ray Lewis grew up in Southwest Virginia in a home where his mother was absent and his father was, at one point, rejected for custody in favor of the foster-care system. All around the boy were violence, drug dealing and addiction and a school system that failed to properly educate him. He entered foster care at age 12 and aged out of the system in 2016 at age 18. He recently ended a period of homelessness and started writing a book of poetry about his experiences.
Andrea Brunais spent 30 years as an award-winning journalist with Media General, Creative Loafing and Knight Ridder newspapers. She works in higher-education communications and is a freelance writer and author of both fiction and nonfiction including the novel Mercedes Wore Black. Her awards include Silver medalist in the Florida Authors and Publishers Association, first place in Commentary from the Florida Press Club and a Robert Kennedy Journalism Award.
Don't miss the chapbook of powerful, raw poetry by Jesse-Ray Lewis. Then go behind the scenes with Andrea Brunais for the second book in the series, chronicling Jesse-Ray's impact on two adults in Bluefield, West Virginia, and the community's effort to help him.
Above: Jesse-Ray Lewis sits in the open-air window of the abandoned house where he briefly lived. Photo by Hal Gibson.