The inspirational book “The Power of Being Seen,” begins with a dedication to all adults and marginalized children. It urges adults to “never pass up the opportunity to see a marginalized child and encourage them.” The message to children is, “do your best to be open to the wisdom and guidance offered by adults who see you, and you sense are trying to help you.”
The chapters which follow continue to encapsulate these messages as author Roger Saillant writes a poignant story of how a child moved from home to home while in foster care and eventually found support from several people, mostly outside the homes, and sometimes within the four walls. He overcomes a number of challenges and traumas thanks to the positive values instilled in him by caring adults in his life. “The Power of Being Seen“ is a book of hope, resilience and the power to overcome all odds.
Talking about the book Saillant says, “My book is written as honestly as possible. Although it covers my childhood in care and at a time over 50 years ago, I believe the clarity of the psychological descriptions such as abandonment, anger, depression and the quest to be like others applies to most marginalized children growing up today.”
Written in the first-person narrative, the book is a memoir based on facts. From the very first chapter, the reader is drawn into the world of a small child — eponymously named Roger — living on a farm with foster parents. The impact of the rural location, the people around him and various situations that play out in his young life are recounted with poignancy.
As a reader, one cannot help but feel his sadness, uncertainty and momentary happiness. Life on the farm with his foster parents for many years comprised periods of manual labor, particular difficulties with his foster father and even encounters with his biological family — including his birth mother.
He speaks about an “emotional aridness” during periods of great despair, of a “tangled and confusing time” as he attended high school. He writes, “I was living in two worlds, the world of work and the world of school. I told no one at school what was happening at home because I’d learned that no one really cared nor could understand that world.”
Battling suicidal attempts and feelings of sheer helplessness, he candidly admits the reason he didn’t pull the trigger was a curiosity for life, about “what I might eventually miss.” He writes, “My life would just end without my experiencing the possibility of really good things happening to me.”
In high school, he finds a number of people who champion his cause in ways that have an everlasting impact on his later life. Highlighting the role of sports, academic success and therapy in paving the way for a better life, Saillant also details the role of the Aid Society and the various caseworkers who came into his life at various ages.
As the book progresses, Saillant’s life goes through many ups and downs but he finds comfort in the kindness of people who help him in unexpected ways. In the postscript Saillant writes, “I attribute my successes to the ability to collaborate with others and being able to adapt to people needing to be seen in various settings throughout the world.”
“The Power of Being Seen“ is a book worth reading for the sheer poignancy of a tale well told, of a successful life carved from blocks of childhood experiences that may have deterred a less determined person. Saillant is a powerful storyteller and “The Power of Being Seen” is a rich tapestry of foster care experiences you will enjoy reading. •
The Power of Being Seen; ISBN: 978-1955568104; www.amazon.com, $8.99 (Kindle); $16.99 (softcover); $24.99 (hardcover)
— Reviewed by Sriya Chattopadhyay