Tessa: Twice a week I work downtown in an area known as the Downtown Eastside, one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Canada. When I used to live in East Vancouver I would often walk to work which took me through the heart of this district. Sometimes in the early morning I would walk past alley ways where I would see men, women and children disappear, turning corners, hovering, standing, sometimes sleeping. Often I would see someone, a child, and I would avoid eye contact because it was uncomfortable. That’s because they weren’t just any kids. They were street kids. Or Skids.
Cathleen With’s debut collection of stories Skids is based on her own experience as a troubled young adult when she spent time in rehabilitation centres downtown and became friends with many of these kids. What Cathleen With has accomplished with this elegiac collection is to provide a glimpse of understanding for all of us who simply don’t know or understand.
Having said that there is nothing in this book that is easy to read. To say that Cathleen With is a beautiful writer would be misleading bu what she does most effectively is to capture the raw voice of hard experience of society’s most vulnerable members; its young. These are portraits of kids who’s lives haven’t been easy and for whom there is no easy escape to another life. That she doesn’t provide easy answers in these twelve remarkable tales is, of course, the point. There is no happy ending in these tales that are an almost cinematic rendering of lives most of us can’t even imagine. And yet somehow she offers us insight into how love and redemption work in an unimaginable life. I think she’s a remarkable writer for this reason alone.
You can visit Cathleen at: http://cathleenwith.blogspot.com.
A portion of the proceeds of this book will be donated to Covenant House.