Book review: Shattered Lives – Children who live with courage and dignity

Shattered Lives: Children who live with courage and dignity

Camila Batmanghelidjh
Published by Jessica Kingsley
£13.99; ISBN: 1843104342


The jacket of this book declares it to be “a clarion call for change”. I’m sure that everyone who reads this book will want to add their voices to that call – a call to re-evaluate the value placed on bureaucracy over the welfare of individual children, to look beneath and understand problem behaviour and to act to change the environment in which abuse can flourish.
The power of this moving book lies in the way that the author has laid bare the truth of how children and young people experience sexual abuse, neglect, parental substance misuse and loss and rejection and how problem behaviour is often a direct consequence of these experiences.
Each chapter of the book takes the form of a personal letter from Camila Batmanghelidjh to a young person she has worked closely with. In the letters she bears witness to their painful stories, shares her understanding of how those experiences manifested themselves in their behaviour, reminds them of their courage and unique talents and, perhaps most importantly, she apologises on behalf of every adult who has failed them.
At the end of each letter Batmanghelidjh tells the reader about how the young person reacted when she read them their letter and tells us why they have chosen to have their letter included in the book.
Along the way there are, what she has called, “pleas for wisdom”. In these passages she implores fellow professionals to learn from her experiences of working with children, reiterates the way children experience abuse and explores ways of responding to those children.
This book is a must for everyone working with children and young people.
Deeply moving in everyway, this book demands more than our tears.

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