The Cards of Life:
When all Hope is Gone, Trust then Believe
by Dr. Erica Pooler Trafford Publishing

"Stop making excuses! Use your circumstances as a reason to succeed and not an excuse to fail."

Pooler is a black girl from the hood who made it out alive. Her story defies the odds as she plays the deck life has dealt to become a successful professional by age thirty. More than an inspirational account, this book is a much-needed instruction manual on how to leave the hood, backed by supporting statistics and prompts for self-reflection.

The author's creative combination of uplifting memoir and practical workbook makes the book shine. Chapter one opens on a hellish childhood of homelessness and sexual molestation created by Pooler's "ninety-nine pound crack-head momma." Chapter one ends with a solid guide on how to save a child born into this destructive cycle of drugs and abuse.

Each chapter ends with workbook sections that dispense practical advice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, and community leaders on how to approach and process what appears to be a losing situation and do something about it. Some highlights are the importance of character and education as well as how to spot a teen at risk, how to compute a grade point average, and the implications of No Child Left Behind. Each chapter features "Pooler's Points to Ponder," which raise thought-provoking questions about the cultural realities of a being a child caught in the hood and outline specific issues such as how to work through fears, set the right goals, and make good choices.

The message of hope and survival, backed by a faith in God, is so strong and positive that occasional punctuation and grammar errors and a few forced transitions go almost undetected. The cover photo shows an adult Pooler leading two girls down a gravel-bed railroad track and is aptly symbolic for an inspirational and practical book that encourages kids from the hood to succeed and not become another statistic of failure.

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