Born into abject poverty in Haiti, Jim St. Germain moved as a young boy to Brooklyn’s Crown Heights with his alcoholic father. He quickly adapted to street life and began stealing, joining gangs, dealing drugs, and growing increasingly indifferent to the despair and violence that would eventually claim the lives of sixteen of his friends. By the time he was arrested for dealing crack cocaine, he had been handcuffed more than a dozen times.
A convicted felon at age fifteen, the walls of the system closed around him. But instead of prison, St. Germain, was placed in “Boys Town,” a non-secure detention facility designed for rehabilitation. Surrounded by mentors and positive male authority who enforced a system based on structure and privileges, rather than intimidation and punishment, St. Germain slowly found his way. It proved a tortured path, but he got his GED and graduated from college. Then he made the bravest decision of his life: to live, as an adult, in the projects in Crown Heights where he had lost himself, and to work from within to reform the way the criminal justice system treats “at-risk” youth.
A Stone of Hope is more than an incredible coming of age story, told with a degree of candor that requires the deepest courage, it is also a rallying cry. No one is who they are going to be—or capable of being—at sixteen. St. Germain is living proof of this. He contends that we must not just imagine, but work to build, a world in which we do not simply give up on a whole swath of the next generation. Passionate, eloquent, and timely, A Stone of Hope is an inspiring challenge for every American, and is certain to spark debate nationwide.
Freshman Common Read: Florida International University, Bakersfield College