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Tens of thousands of homeless people walk the streets, forgotten, yet each with their own story to tell. Marie James, a 69-year-old bag lady, and a frequent guest at an inner-city mission in Chicago, sat with Jane Hertenstein through the summer of 1995 and recorded this shocking and moving story of life filled with sorrow, loss, mental instability, and hope. Her memoir will break one's heart, yet encourage and inspire. -- "Harrowing inside view of homelessness", -- Publishers Weekly, August 11, 1997

I know as sure as I’m sitting on this chair that God had His hand on me before I was even born. There were eleven children in our family. I was my mother’s ninth child. One day my mother woke up, she smelled the coffee boiling and got sick to her stomach. She ran out onto the back porch and vomited green.
This is how my sister Faith told me the story. My father was gone, but that was nothing; he was gone most of the time. My oldest sister, Chloe, who was about ¬nineteen then, was making cornmeal mush in a big pan, stirring it with a wooden spoon. Mother said, “Chloe, I’m pregnant. I’m not going to have this baby. You know what I’m going to do? The woman down the road had a miscarriage; she fell down. I’m going to go upstairs and jump out of the window.” My sister dropped the spoon into the pan, “Mother, you’re going to kill yourself.”
“Well, so be it.”
She went upstairs, sat on the windowsill, and let herself fall to the ground. She got the wind knocked out of her. She came in the house laughing, “I guess when I’m pregnant I’m pregnant clear up to my neck. I’m as pregnant now as when I jumped out the window. I don’t know how we’re going to feed this baby, but we’re going to have to find a way.”
I was born on a Saturday, May 6, 1926. It was misting outside. All my life I’ve been shedding tears.

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Orphan Girl: The Memoir of a Chicago Bag Lady
Average rating
4.3 / 5
Orphan girl
August 7th, 2015
I am so happy that the author saw the potential in Marie , the main character in this memoir. It is a poignant reminder to all of us that each of us has a story. The homeless people who dwell on the fringes of society are too often ignored and avoided.
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1 review
Orphan Girl
July 20th, 2013
What a great read and great story - hard to believe what one person can endure!
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