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About Brenda Rufener
Brenda Rufener is a technical writer turned novelist. Her debut, Where I Live, has been named by Bustle “one of the most anticipated YA contemporary books hitting shelves in 2018”. Her next YA novel is slated for April 2019. Brenda lives in North Carolina with her family and is an advocate for homeless youth. Author photo by Carolyn Scott Photography.
Growing up, my parents struggled financially. I remember my mother dropping my six-year-old brother and me off at the steps of our rural public library on snowy Saturday mornings. I had no idea my parents couldn’t afford childcare. Had no clue Mom spent her weekends cleaning houses that belonged to doctors and dentists in our tiny town. All I knew was how lucky I was to spend the weekend in a quiet space filled with books.
The librarians never side-eyed the holes in my tennis shoes or my brother’s Kool-Aid stained face. They didn’t bat an eye at a parentless ten-year-old stretched out on a patchwork rug reading to her younger sibling. As long as we respected the rules, we were welcome until closing time. The library became our place of refuge.
Fast-forward four years when my father was laid off and couldn’t find work in Small Town, USA – population 1,200. The magic that weekends at the library brought me had disappeared and I grew more focused on my family’s lack. How my parents couldn’t afford music lessons like my friends took. How my mother would have to sew a dress for the homecoming dance if I really wanted to go. I became keenly aware of my family’s struggles. My parents no longer able to hide their problems from me. And my childhood became a source of shame.
Then things got worse. We lost our house and my family had to shuffle us back and forth between homes and couches belonging to relatives. Our days spent living with family members turned to weeks, and weeks to months. Friends begged to come over and hang out, but “no” rested on the tip of my tongue. “Let’s meet at the library,” I’d say, too embarrassed that my bedroom was a living room shared with six people.
My situation growing up is not as grim as others face. At least we have a roof over our heads, I remember my father telling us after he’d put the car into park and draped a blanket over my brother and me in the backseat.
On a single night in January 2016, 549,928 people experienced homelessness in the United States (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) and over one-fifth were children. This number is impersonal. The data, faceless.
Today, housing insecurity (high housing costs in proportion to income) like my parents experienced, is at an all time high. Large numbers of community college students live in their vehicles because they can’t afford rent. Rental hikes send families to shelters. And an alarming number of LGBTQ+ teens are being forced from their homes after coming out to their parents. To compound problems, many homeless shelters are not equipped for parentless youth. Homeless teens report how they don’t feel safe in shelters that cater to adults.
I don’t pretend to have answers. Some days I wonder if my small act of volunteer work or advocacy helps. But then I see teens rally together to take back what’s been stolen from them and women use their voices in solidarity, and I’m filled with hope.
My novel, Where I Live, is a tribute to youth living homeless or on the brink of homelessness. They are complex and resilient teens that haven’t given up. They have hope. They have courage. And they are much more than their crisis.
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If you or a loved one need help and aren’t sure where to turn, contact Safe Place. And if you would like to join an advocacy team to take action on ending homelessness in your community, please visit the National Alliance To End Homelessness.
Title Where I Live
Author Brenda Rufener
Pages 352 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Publication Date February 27th 2018 by HarperTeen
Find It On Goodreads ● Amazon.com ● Chapters ● The Book Depository
From debut author Brenda Rufener comes a heart-wrenching and evocative story perfect for fans of Thirteen Reasons Why, Girl In Pieces, and All The Bright Places.
Linden Rose has a big secret – she is homeless and living in the halls of her small-town high school. Her position as school blog editor, her best friends, Ham and Seung, and the promise of a future far away are what keep Linden under the radar and moving forward.
But when cool-girl Bea comes to school with a bloody lip, the damage hits too close to home. Linden begins looking at Bea’s life, and soon her investigation prompts people to pay more attention. And attention is the last thing she needs.
Linden knows the only way to put a stop to the violence is to tell Bea’s story and come to terms with her own painful past. Even if that means breaking her rules for survival and jeopardizing the secrets she’s worked so hard to keep.