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Living at the Edge of the World: How I Survived in the Tunnels of Grand Central Station

In the version of this book that I read, the cover said “by Tina S. with Jamie Pastor Bolnick” I notice that the paperback copy has Bolnick’s name in much larger type and a larger picture of Tina S. not looking her best. Tina was a street kid living mostly in Grand Central Station. She got her life together, more or less and co-wrote this book describing her experiences. Like a lot of books written by people on the fringes of society, this book does a lot of explaining away past behaviors as well as telling the author’s side of what is a complicated story involving a ot of bad behavior. Tina is an engaging narrator mainly because she doesn’t try to portay herself as in control, or as someone who just got a bad deal out of life. Her stories often describe her as complicit in her own downfall, or backsliding and don’t pull punches when discussing some of the seamier sides of her life in the tunnels.

This book is also good at exploring the question “how do those kids get homeless?” With Tina it was a combination of Mom’s new jerky boyfriend, lack of a familial and social safety net, a crush on a street kid [who later dies a really untidy death] and a lack of better options. To a poor inner city kid, the social networks of the tunnels give them a place to really attain stature and make friendships with people who, while they may be nutty addicts, don’t cop attitudes or wrinkle their noses. Tina’s description of her life, both in and out of the tunnels and general homelessness are a rich exploration of not just the gritty reality of poverty, but the implications and long-term effects of a society with a lack of better options for people like Tina.