Criminal of Poverty
Criminal of Poverty
Growing Up Homeless in America

Press Reviews

Huffington Post

"Gray-Garcia tells her multi-generational story of poverty in unpolished prose, but it all rings even truer for that . . . Contrary to some enduring American mythologies, Gray-Garcia shows that it is possible to be smart, work hard, avoid the perils of addiction, violence, HIV and so many other afflictions that beset the poor, and still get stuck in a lifetime of poverty."

—Steve Heilig

The Portland Alliance

"Criminal of Poverty provides . . . an up-close, in-depth view of poverty's effect on two women, Tiny and her mother Dee. The reader gets to share in their shame as the police supervise evictions and the landlord shouts about "white trash" and their small victories as they are accepted in the Berkeley art world.  More important, Criminal encapsulates Tiny's deep anger at a system that accepts homelessness, yet resents the homeless; at 'a system that values independence and separation over interdependence, community, support and caregiving . . .'"

—Judy Ferro

The Avenue Magazine

" This memoir openly details how the lives of Tiny and her mother sank into chronic homelessness after her father abandoned them. Using her struggles as a middle school dropout forced to find jobs and family housing, Gray-Garcia exposes the systematic poverty that many people of color in the United States face today."

Bitch Magazine
“This beautifully told tale of a homeless mother and daughter who eventually find rooms of their own captures the shame homeless individuals face as they encounter the problems inherent in the search for shelter, sustenance, and safety. …The book’s take on how disenfranchised people are criminalized for their lack is just one refreshing aspect of the book…Criminal of Poverty is a valuable memoir, and certainly a much-needed antidote to more salacious…attempts to capture the reality of living on the margins.  It is revolutionary that women like Dee and Tiny make it at all, and that alone makes the book worth reading, studying, and sharing.”
—Joshunda Sanders


"Something inside all of us will awaken when we read this book and bear witness to the excruciating plight of our generation's poor. With unflinching courage Lisa Gray-Garcia brings the raw events of her childhood to the page. She de-centers us with her searing images of destitution and blows us away with her resolve to beat it. We are not the same after reading this hellish tale of a young girl's struggle to survive." -Yannick Murphy, author of Here They Come Dec 31, 2006

"Criminal of Poverty lays bare the devastating effects of inheriting a life of poverty, as well the real redemption and power in finding your voice." -Michelle Tea, author of Rose of No Man's Land and Valencia

"Tiny’s indomitable spirit comes to life in her amazing story of poverty and homelessness, reaching into and teaching our hearts and minds. With her flawless descriptions of the pain of living in the margins of the richest country in the world, she opens up an important window onto a reality looked upon by many but truly seen by few, augmenting our capacity for empathy and action in an area so in need of social change. Bravo Tiny, for your gift to us all! Punto!!!" -Piri Thomas, author of Down These Mean Streets

"Most books on poverty or the poor are written by people who have never been really poor, or are individualistic tales of a bootstrap pull that separates the (once) poor person from society as a whole. Tiny, a.k.a Lisa Gray-Garcia, has written an eloquent, graceful and refreshingly humor-filled book that tells a story which places poverty in a larger social, spiritual and political context. It challenges the reader to let go of clichés and catch phrases about the poor and homeless and see a population of struggling, hard working survivors who can work miracles when given proper support. It also is a compelling love story of a mother and daughter who surmount hurdles and climb out of pits that would defeat many, while building ladders and twining rope so that others can join them in their ongoing efforts to bring more and more people out of the quagmire of relentless poverty, hunger and hopelessness." -devorah major, author of where river meets ocean and Brown Glass Windows

"In America we prefer not to see our poor. Only if we turn determinedly away can we maintain the illusion that we are not all responsible, not all culpable. Lisa Gray-Garcia won't let us avert our eyes. With style and verve she hauls our unwilling attention to what matters. If your heart is unmoved when you finish this memoir, then it's made of stone." -Ayelet Waldman author of Love and Other Impossible Pursuits