I had to laugh at that. She looked different, too. I couldn't believe that the woman I'd thought of for years as a relentless "bounty hunter," always chasing down my brothers and me and trying to take us away from our mother, was really just a tiny, pretty woman with a nice smile and a gentle voice.
We sat down at a table as we went over the rules of our meeting. Any kid who has been in the custody of the state has a right to their information once they become an adult. However, when there are siblings involved, it makes things a little more complicated because the law only allows me to get information about my own life and not about anyone else's. She explained that rules like that have to be there to protect people's privacy, so there might be some questions I would ask that she wouldn't be able to answer. I understood. I was just happy to have a chance to finally start to put together the pieces of all of the memories I hadn't let myself think about for so many years. Sean Tuohy said one time that one of my strongest gifts was my ability to forget. He was right. I had needed to forget a lot of stuff in order to not get swallowed up by the hurt and sadness. But I had finally decided that the time was right for me to start remembering.
I didn't write this book just to revisit Michael Lewis's The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game, and it is not meant to be a repeat of Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy's book In a Heartbeat: Sharing the Power of Cheerful Giving (which was released while I was working on this one). Lewis's book was originally aimed at football fans who were interested in some game strategy and a personal story about it; the Tuohys' book was designed to help carry on a discussion with people who had seen the movie about our lives and were inspired to find their own way to give.
My book is as different from the other two as they are different from each other, and I have a couple of goals that I'd like to accomplish with it. The first is that I want to help separate fact from fiction. After the movie came out, there were a lot of people asking me if my life was exactly how it was shown on screen. Obviously, the moviemakers have to make artistic choices to tell the story in the best way, but some of the details, like me having to learn the game of football as a teenager or me walking to the gym in November wearing cut-off shorts, just aren't true. Since so many people seem interested in these details, I hope that I can help to make a little more sense out of it all for them.
My second goal with this book, and the much more important one, is that I want to talk about—and to—the nearly 500,000 children in America whose lives have been so rough that the state has determined they're better off being cared for by someone other than their parents. The odds are stacked against those children. Less than half will ever graduate from high school. Of the ones who drop out, almost half of the boys will be imprisoned for violent crimes. Girls in foster care are six times more likely to have children before the age of twenty-one than are girls in stable families. And of those kids, more than half will end up in foster care themselves. The outlook is pretty bleak for kids like me.
I beat the odds.