Book Review: The Brightness of Stars, Stories from Care Experienced Adults to Inspire Change
Written by Glenys Bristow
Care Home Flickering’s
For unconditional love,
Away from horrors
Of night time wanderings;
Boys and girls looking
for comfort in
all the wrong places.
Fighting a slow death,
One mosaic piece at a
Time, wide eyed wondering
If someone would pick
Them to return home.
A pointless game, the
Years formed walls
Cemented by the carelessness
Throw away remarks.
You turned out alright considering . . .
– Chrissy Kelly – as cited in Cherry 2022
Poem reproduced with kind permission from Chrissy Kelly www.fabulousthinking.com
About the Author
Lisa Cherry is an author and a leading international trainer and consultant, specialising in assisting those in Education, Social Care and Adoption and Fostering to understand trauma, recovery and resilience for vulnerable children, young people and their families. Lisa has nearly 30 years of experience in this field and combines academic knowledge and research with professional skills and personal experience.
About the Book
This new edition of the ‘The Brightness of Stars’ powerfully captures the lives of adults who have experienced out-of-home care. In providing this third edition of The Brightness of Stars Lisa Cherry gives another opportunity for ten adults (herself included) to reflect on how their lives, before, during and after being ‘in care’ have shaped who they are now.
“There is much to learn in these stories about how care casts a long shadow on their adult lives, as well as the development of resilience in adulthood through love, education, human agency, support and self fulfillment.” (Stein as cited in Cherry 2022)
As I read each page, I was stunned and excited by having repeated ‘Aha!’ moments realising that whilst the stories from care-experienced adults identified all the pain and the lack of understanding they experienced, they also focussed on the importance of needing nurturing, trusting relationships, love and safety in a caring community which clearly articulates and frames the reasons, we do what we do at Centre of Excellence in Therapeutic Care.
Some of the reading is painful, and the stories are heartrending. Yet, despite what happened to them, we see how they have become whole and successful adults and get a real flavour of their strength and resilience in the face of destructive and abusive obstacles. As she says:
“… you may feel different strengths and emotions as you read their stories; but please understand the words that came to the fore for me are words of recovery and strength, not of pain and weakness” (Cherry 2022 p. 80.)
Lisa stresses that this book is about hope, and I agree however, I constantly found myself reflecting on my 40 years of working with young people in out-of-home care, wondering if I had done enough. Could I have worked differently? Did I respond to each young person as an individual? Did I take the time to value each of the gifts of fabulous relationships that young people gave me? Did I make them feel special? Did I always try to understand what had happened to them – not what they had done?
This incredibly informative book begins with a snapshot of the contributors, which sets the stage for stories of hope and achievement right from the beginning.
This book is the third edition of The Brightness of Stars by Lisa Cherry and has three significant parts: attachment, adversity, and trauma.
Part one is broken into three timeframes explaining Lisa’s journey in blocks of time from 1970 to 2021. It is then sectioned into three parts: remembered moments and thought-provoking reflection with discussion points. These are fantastic guides for self-reflection, training or supervision within care practice and thoughts.
In Part two, Lisa includes stories from previous editions plus their reflections on where they are now, with each person’s story reflecting many of the essential elements of care, education, recovery, identity, connection, strength, integrity, and visibility. As mentioned, these amazing stories and reflections are followed by valid discussion points.
Part three introduces five new reflection journeys of care experience and growth which Lisa has matched under the headings of: Literature, Love, Care, Activism, Growth and Relationships. Once again each of these is followed by really useful and relevant discussion points.
Whilst each story in the book is unique, shared themes reveal the truth of the out-of-home care system. As Lisa says:
“This book is a call to action and an opportunity to look around and decide what kind of service we want to provide, what kind of community we want to live in and what sort of legacy we want to leave. At this time of ever present social and political change this book will stimulate conversations on current practice and professional development for the future and is a must read for everyone working with children and young people”. (Cherry 2021)
We hear much discussed about hearing the voice of the child in care but as Lisa points out:
“In my own silence about my own story, I failed to understand that this too was a shared response to spending time in care. I found that I was often the first person to whom the enclosed stories had been told in their entirety… This is much the same way I have told my own story over the years; a manageable collection of painless short stories rather than a gripping torturous novel.”
Lisa states she embarked on the journey of writing this book, “to provide and share the voices of those with lost and unheard stories to provide thought-provoking information for everyone who shares the lives of children and young people in care” (Cherry 2021, p. 197). Lisa has more than achieved this aim.
This is a beautiful book of hope. It should be mandatory reading for all those who work with children and young people and those who make laws and policies about these children’s lives to enable us to understand better the experiences and pain of being in out-of-home care from childhood to adulthood. I feel privileged to be able to review this book.