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"Throwaway Youth" Tells Stories of Homeless Teens in Springfield

Moon City Press

A new book shares the stories about the struggles and triumphs of Springfield’s homeless youth.  KSMU’s Michele Skalicky talked with the author to learn more.

Nancy Fairbank, a student at the University of Texas at Dallas, started recording stories of Springfield’s homeless teens when she was a junior at Central High School.  She and a media partner were putting together a documentary on the Rare Breed Youth Services, a program of The Kitchen, Inc.

Their stories were so compelling, she said, she decided to continue recording them.

"The stories that I heard were so incredible and showed such perseverance and strength from the youth that I wanted to share them with the community," she said.

She sat down with eight homeless youth and recorded their conversations.  Those stories have been compiled into the book, "Throwaway Youth:  Stories of Springfield’s Homeless Teens,” published by Moon City Press.

Two stories impacted her the most.

"A young girl who was pregnant while she was homeless.  That was incredibly difficult for me to imagine--someone going through that set of circumstances.  She faced really severe abuse," Fairbank said.

According to Fairbank, that girl is a fantastic mother now.

"It was really, really heartwarming that she vowed to be everything to that child that her parents were not to her," she said.

Another youth told her about how, as a young boy, he was locked in his room for about two years by "extreme fundamentalist religious parents."

She’s inspired by the teens whose stories she gathered because, despite what they’ve been through, they had a desire to go out and make a difference in the world and to love and trust people.

Dr. James Baumlin, Missouri State University English professor and Moon City Press editor, heard about Fairbank’s work through a colleague who had heard her speak.  He contacted her, and they decided to compile the stories she had collected into a book.  He views "Throwaway Youth" as a celebration of the artistry of life.

"I mean, that's beyond the writing of it.  We can change names, of course.  We can shape these stories in such a way that they express an art in themselves, but the individuals here who are represented have achieved real triumphs in the world, and they've triumphed because, though they were given very little, they managed to create something precious, which was a life worth living," he said.

Fairbank hopes people who read the book will not just focus on the tragic events that happened to the young people but will really examine the youth’s strength throughout their experiences.  Most, she says, want to be productive citizens and to make a difference.

"These youth are still so resilient and so strong, if we give them any sort of help, if we just help them get back on their feet, they're more than willing to take it from there.  And they want to go and live in society and to work and to contribute," she said.

Proceeds from "Throwaway Youth:  Stories of Springfield’s Homeless Teens," will benefit The Kitchen, Inc.

Two events next week will celebrate the publishing of the book:  “Got Jazz?” Tuesday night (3/15) at 7 in the Plaster Student Union Theatre will feature MSU’s jazz ensemble and the student poetry collective, Untamed Tongues, and the MSU Theatre Group, Giving Voice, reading from "Throwaway Youth."

And a book-signing party and reception will be held Wednesday (3/16) from 4:15 to 5:30 in the PSU Ballroom West.

Listen to the entire interview here: 

Interview with Nancy Fairbank and Dr. James Baumlin about the book, "Throwaway Youth."

Michele Skalicky has worked at KSMU since the station occupied the old white house at National and Grand. She enjoys working on both the announcing side and in news and has been the recipient of statewide and national awards for news reporting. She likes to tell stories that make a difference. Michele enjoys outdoor activities, including hiking, camping and leisurely kayaking.