cover image A Stone of Hope: A Memoir

A Stone of Hope: A Memoir

Jim St. Germain, with Jon Sternfeld. Harper, $27.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-0624-5879-7

In his first book, St. Germain, cofounder of the nonprofit group Preparing Leaders of Tomorrow, describes growing up in Brooklyn’s violent Crown Heights neighborhood. St. Germain was born in Haiti but moved to the U.S. with his siblings in 2000. Writing with journalist Sternfeld (Crisis Point), he vividly describes the fear and loneliness of life in Brooklyn without his parents, the adjustment to his grandmother’s cramped apartment, and, as he got older, how he negotiated the violent gangster world of the Crips and Bloods. St. Germain longed for a male role model, and concedes that his grandmother, as hard as she tried, couldn’t keep him honest amid the “tight-jeaned girls and hustling corner dudes.” He describes himself as follows: “From a young age, I’d been a social chameleon with a survival mentality.” He began stealing, robbing, dealing drugs, and allowing “the game to suck him in like a vacuum.” At age 15 he was arrested for dealing crack cocaine, but instead of going to prison he was sent to a detention and rehabilitation facility, where he was mentored, educated, and learned to embrace a sense of self-worth. He soon became an advocate for at-risk children. Like Wes Moore’s The Other Wes Moore, St. Germain’s gritty and self-reflective memoir is an excellent and informative cautionary tale. (July)