Book Analysis (A) True Notebooks by Mark Salzman
Part # 1: Questions
1. What did you learn from reading this book?
By reading this book, I learned a lot about teenagers’ critical situations at juvenile hall. This book gave me a greater insight and deeper understanding of what their lives are like and the challenges they face in this place. I also learned that the legal system is not doing a great deal to help these young kids mend their lives. They are not being offered counseling or therapy which could help facilitate a great deal of things for them such as, getting a better orientation of a path for them to follow, dealing with the excessive amount of stress they face in a healthy way and learning tools for becoming effective members of society once they get out of that place. This book gave me a broader view of the factors that could have potentially contributed and played a big role in these teenagers getting engaged with gangs or committing these crimes. Most of these teenagers, to not say all, come from a very dysfunctional family where they were either battered by the father, had no positive role model to follow or no parents at all. Probably most of them joined gangs to feel they belonged to a group or where part of a family. I learned how miserable they feel by being in this place and the feelings they experience such as, loneliness, confusion, depression, no sense of personal worth and extreme stress. Many of them feel like they just want to die. All these feelings are not being managed by therapy or counseling but rather by just having regular nurses give them psych drugs which is very sad. I learned that these young kids are in great need of affection especially from their mothers and how much a compliment means to them. I also learned the importance of being tough as a survival skill in the prison setting. Many of these teenagers feel remorse for what they have done and would like to have a second chance at life and not make the same mistakes, yet they feel confused and think that if they are let “in the outs” they could go back to making the same mistakes all over again. That’s when I think of the importance of offering these young kids therapy and counseling and not just punishment for their crimes. I loved this book because I found it very realistic, entertaining and interactive. I loved that the author presented the actual teenagers’ writings that made it very interesting and touching to me.
1. Why was there so much resistance from the administration to having a writing retreat? There was so much resistance from the administration because girls from a writing class would participate in the writing retreat as well. The authorities saw this as a danger and chaos factor since the boys do not see girls often and are eager to be around them.
2. What was Salzman’s strategy for dealing with the “clowns”? Why, in your opinion, do some of the boys act like clowns? His strategy for dealing with the clowns was that of letting them express themselves, their opinions and feeling openly and not judging them. He would just listen to what they had to say even though he would not necessarily like it or agree with them. Then, he would re-direct them back to writing and gave them topics, that he saw were of interest to them, for them to write about. He also implemented a policy of a warning. If he heard them talking and not writing, they were given a warning the first time; then if he heard them talking again they were out of the class. He did all this so the teenagers, not only the clowns, would feel accepted and feel free to keep expressing their thoughts. He did not want to risk the whole class feeling judged and then not being able to express their inner truth and reality. In my opinion, some of the boys acted like clowns to distract themselves from the harsh reality they are living in that place, as well as to mask their inner...
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