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September 22 , 2009

It Took a Village


By: Alma Buenvista
Oakland Public School Teacher
With so much to say about Rubin Scott's book, It Takes a Village, if I had to choose one word to encapsulate the essence I would say: inspiring. Rubin Scott unpacks the harsh realities of growing up in an impoverished community and presents it to you in in all its entirety of beauty and strife.He takes you on an emotional and visceral journey with his autobiography.
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Captivating your attention from the first line, "I must admit that I'm truly unsure exactly when the first internal notion of death I had was", It Takes a Village, is a quick read.To say "quick-read" does not, by any means indicate superficial – like the author, the book has great depth and insight.

I first met Rubin Scott in the mid to late 80's as a middle-school boy.Just as he portrays himself in the book, I remember him as kind, vibrant, loyal, shy yet personable in the same moment, and most of all strong.I emphasize strong because at that time, I wasn't aware of the hardships he was experiencing; he never let it show.It wasn't until decades later, as an adult, that he shared with me the adversities of his childhood and adulthood, still conducting himself with great integrity and strength.

As a public school teacher in Oakland, California, I have shared excerpts of the manuscript with my students.I have watched young boys, many who dislike and struggle with reading and writing, come to life as they relate to the stories.They are encouraged that someone from their own community wrote this book and motivated to advance their reading in order to be able to read the book in its entirety.Like seeds of courage blossoming, they ask about the process of publishing your own book. After listening to or reading parts like "Girls Rule" they laugh and agree; digesting passages from "Valedictorian" they are still and pensive, only to be rekindled with warm emotions as the book talks about the strength of a mother's love.

My students are not the only ones touched by this book.Scott beautifully renders the world of the impoverished communities he grew up in, with a raw honesty that illustrates tragedy, beauty, hope and strength.He illuminates how his community was portrayed from an outsider's point of view versus how it was truly like on the inside.

Beginning with the voice of a young child that grows into a strong, soul-searching man, he lays out his life for you in complete vulnerability and raw honesty, without telling you what to think or how to feel.The story is provocative and poignant.Like a friend sitting down with you on the porch to share his life story, Scott opens up his world and allows you to journey with him.

It is a book that you will find yourself re-reading and discovering new questions within yourself.Although Scott's target audience are young men in impoverished communities, as a mother and an educator I found myself connecting to and learning from the stories on multiple levels.Throughout the book, I cried, laughed and was angered by the stories yet in the end I was struck with a profound sense of inspiration. Rubin Scott truly sheds light on the meaning behind the phrase "It takes a village".
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