Using her considerable journalistic skills, Andrea Brunais tells the brutal truth of what it’s like to gamble on the toughest risk in the aged-out world of foster care – males. Honest, humane, frustrating and patient, Andrea and Hal Gibson recount the details of what it is like to begin a pursuit of good intentions with a realistic expectation that it won’t be easy. The first-person realization of the barriers of a stubborn will, learned helplessness, the effects of poverty and ignorance is all soon realized but that’s just the beginning of the story. This is a compelling tale of a messy life and how it intersects with a couple who hope to bring reasoned order. The discovery of talent is a fortunate win but that alone is no promise of success. Not by a long shot. But read it for the beauty of the hope.
~Lisa Brock, author of Goodbye College, Hello Life!
Simply said, I could not stop reading Hillbilly Drug Baby: The Story. I was put through the wringer with its emotional real-life drama of hope and despair, tenderness and violence. The Quixote-like storyline will have any adult holding their breath as they cheer for the young man from Appalachia and for the all-in effort of those trying to save him from his troubling past. I would challenge anyone not to become fiercely involved from page one.
~Mike Houtz, author of Dark Spiral Down
“I come from a cave of broken hearts” is only one line from Hillbilly Drug Baby: The Poems, but it reveals much of what is to be found in this book of poetry. From raw pain to poignant reflection, poet Jesse-Ray Lewis plumbs the depths of despair with his words. Drawing them with a pen dipped in his own life’s blood, he reveals glimmers of light and hope in the darkest of places. Lewis’s journey from drug baby to user, to becoming a dealer, and finally, a seeker, is cast without apology in strong language. Some will find it difficult to read; it is from life. Unafraid, he probes our deepest fears—; What would it be like to live that life? To plumb the depths of hell? To find an earthly savior loving yet stern and one who probes the crusty exterior, digging deep to find the gentle heart which lies beneath?
~Saundra Kelley, author of Southern Appalachian Storytellers: Interviews with Sixteen Keepers of the Oral Tradition and The Day the Mirror Cried, a prizewinning collection of stories and poems.
Andrea Brunais has won prestigious journalism and fiction prizes for a good reason: She represents the cream of the reporting/writing crop. Hillbilly Drug Baby: The Story emphasizes not only her (and her husband’s) humanity, but also her professionalism. Andrea’s prose is clear, crisp, descriptive and often heartbreaking in the tale of a talented kid whose life was littered with broken promises and dreams before they met. A fine and revealing read.
~Dan Smith, author of CLOG! and Virginia Communications Hall of Fame journalist.
Raw and righteous, with indignant courage and an original voice, Jessie-Ray Lewis somehow poeticizes the brutal, all-too relevant struggle of a prodigal son in Appalachia. His work is uniquely framed by the horrifying, inspiring biography of a nobody with plenty to say. Hillbilly Drug Baby: The Poems is a dispatch from darkest America you won't soon forget.
~Ran Henry, author of the definitive biography Spurrier: How the Ball Coach Taught the
South to Play Football
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