When author Frances Noble began research on her book Blanket of Stars: Homeless Women in Santa Monica (Angel City Press, June 2010) she found an abundance of academic titles about America’s homeless population but nothing that could help or illuminate the humanity of the women living on the streets in her own neighborhood.
“I didn’t want to do a book about the legal or political aspects of the homeless community because that would have been boring and redundant,” said Noble, an attorney and former writer-in-residence at Yaddo. Instead, she and her son Ian Noble, a fine art and architectural photographer, created Blanket of Stars, which is written in the words of over 50 homeless women that the pair interviewed; the book is illustrated with intimate, natural portraits of each one. Motivated by an awareness that people rarely stop to speak with the homeless, the mother and son team reached out to make contact with them. “The point of the book was to make these women visible. Most of them are mentally ill, but each one has a story and a unique personality,” Noble said. Only one of the women the Nobles approached refused to be interviewed. “They were very candid with us,” Noble said. “What touched me the most was that when I asked them what their name was, which no one ever does, their faces completely changed.”
She and her son started walking the streets of Santa Monica in 2005 to interview the women, and spent two years meeting and photographing them before deciding on what format Blanket of Stars should take. “What started as a case study became something else entirely,” Noble said. Her son’s photos of the women were so striking and empathetic, and the interviews so authentic, that it was decided to produce an art photography book that is also a tool to educate, inform, and spread compassion for an often-neglected group of people suffering from mental illness, poverty, and homelessness. “I couldn’t ignore them any longer,” Noble attests.
Some of the proceeds from Blanket of Stars will go to local organizations that assist homeless women, including the Ocean Park Community Center and its Daybreak Shelter.