No House to Call My Home: Love, Family, and Other Transgressions, by Ryan Berg, New York, NY: Nations Books, ISBN: 978-1-56858-509-3, 2016, 294 pages, $25.99 hardback.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) youth face many psychosocial issues in a world that does not always embrace them. It is for many of these reasons that LGBTQ youth end up homeless and on the streets. According to the Williams Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law, nearly half of the homeless youth served in agencies may identify as LGBTQ.
Ryan Berg worked in one of those agencies serving LGBTQ youth in New York City. In his memoir, No House to Call My Home, Berg discusses the joys and challenges of serving LGBTQ youth, highlighting the stories of youth who navigate a world of racism, homophobia, transphobia, and other risk factors. Berg came to the world of LGBTQ youth a bit by chance. Although Berg is LGBTQ-identified himself, he came to the work at the Keap Street group home in Brooklyn at a time in his life when he was feeling aimless and unsure. Through much personal reflection and use of clinical supervision, Berg came to better understand himself and the role that he could serve in the lives of the LGBTQ youth in the group home.
No House to Call My Home illustrates the stories of several youths, combined with Berg’s own reflections about how he managed the day-to-day struggles of helping the youths toward a brighter future. Many youths struggled as they transitioned to adulthood, unable to overcome addiction to drugs, sex work, and other elements of street life. Some youths were successful and went on to college, graduate school, and other endeavors. Through each of his experiences at Keap Street, Berg learned about the importance of telling the stories of these LGBTQ youth and advocating for the foster care system to better serve them.
Students and new social workers will identify with Berg’s uncertainties and challenges in reaching the youth of Keap Street. Students and new social workers are often managing changes in their own lives. Berg’s abilities to self-reflect and to fully engage in supervision can be a model for many of these students and social workers. And while students and new social workers, like Berg, may struggle in working with youth and others because they do not always see the positive results of their work, they will learn through No House to Call My Home the importance of listening to the stories of LGBTQ youth, despite the youth’s readiness for change. In all, students and new social workers will find Berg’s work to help in understanding how we both succeed and fail at meeting the needs of LGBTQ youth.
Reviewed by Trevor G. Gates, Ph.D., LCSW, Assistant Professor, Social Work, Greater Rochester Collaborative MSW Program, College at Brockport, State University of New York.