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From Darkness to Light:Teens Write About How They Triumphed Over Trouble

An inspiring book packed with powerful tales written by teens who have triumphed over adversity.

We are bombarded with staggering statistics about teen violence and pregnancy, teen drug abuse and suicide. We hear the stats on the TV news and we see them in the newspaper. The news can be so discouraging.

Book Cover

But what we don't hear or read about are the kids who've "been there, done that" and dealt with those problems -- no, triumphed over them!
Those kids are the subject -- and the authors -- of From Darkness to Light: Teens Write About How They Triumphed Over Trouble, a thought-provoking book from Fairview Press.


From Darkness to Light is a book that every teen, every teacher, and every parent (and every uncle, friend, and neighbor) of teens should be required to read. The heartening stories in the book are told in the words of kids who've dealt with obstacles -- bumps, potholes, and cliffs! -- in the road of life.

The essays are neatly divided by themes, though none of the stories is that neatly categorized. Stories cover a wide range of experiences -- from the universal to the unusual. Essays focus on problems as common as peer pressure or moving to a new school to problems as uncommon as the worries of a normal-sized boy born to dwarf parents.

Stories of kids dealing with death, racism, alcohol and drug abuse. Stories of self-esteem issues related to body image and learning disabilities. Teen pregnancy. Depression. All the hot-button issues are covered.

Some kids get help. Others help themselves.

Each story, heartbreaking or hopeful, is inspiring. And each story proves the resiliency and the courage that kids are able to summon when faced with obstacles.

And now their published stories can serve as a guide (and the storytellers can serve as role models) to others who are struggling with similar problems. It is, after all, possible to overcome the worst that life can deal.


Life had taken a hard turn for Sara.

"...Just before school let out, me and my dad started fist fighting. I got arrested a lot last year. Stealing, lying and deceiving all catch up with you harder than you handed them out. That's what I learned. From jail, they always sent me to St. Joe's. I always ran away. I was getting good at running away..."

What followed for Sara was a life on the streets. There, Sara says:

"I saw guys shoot at one another for $5. I saw worse. On the streets, shooting somebody for $5 is funny. Even I laughed at the time. Out of pain."

Sara was thirteen.

Then one night

"I thought...'what are you doing here? Sara, go home.' Then I thought, 'I don't have a home.' That hurt worst."

Sara's story, like most of the others in From Darkness to Light, takes a turn:

"I decided to change my own way. The street ain't gonna show you nothing but negativity. You don't realize it til you're out there though. I know I'm something. I know I was nothing on the street...."

Not all the stories have happy endings. But most of them end with optimism about the future. Optimism earned by hard work and heavy thinking. In Sara's words:

"I said something to myself at the beginning of this year [that] if I can raise my grades, not be suspended, not get in any fights, concentrate on my school work, and be proud, anybody can do anything.
"I also realized that many people feel that I'm worthless and helpless. But I can also have more than them one day and they know it. So they try to knock me down so I can stay under them. I figured it out. You always got to try to be smarter than the one trying to knock you down.
"I'm back in school. I have only missed one excused day. I got all As and Bs. I'm on the honor roll...."


From Darkness to Light is the perfect addition to the middle and high school curriculum. Its stories fit neatly into many programs and classes -- from psychology, current events, sociology, or civics classes to religion, English, writing, drama, and speech.

Teachers might select essays to meet a specific need or they might assign different essays to separate groups of students for discussion. Then students can share with their peers the stories and lessons they learned from the individual essays.

Or the stories might open up debate on an issue of wide concern. Or, after reading a series of the essays, the teacher might pose a question for debate, such as: What do you think affects an individual more -- genetics, family, or other influences?

From Darkness to Light was originally published with a "Leader's Guide," which included lessons to accompany 13 of the 60 essays in the book. The guide, however, is now out of print. But you can see two sample essays from the book -- along with the Leader's Guide lessons that accompanied them -- this week on Education World's LESSON PLANNING page.



For a copy of From Darkness to Light, ask your local bookseller to order one for you. Refer to From Darkness to Light: Teens Write About How They Triumphed Over Trouble
Edited by Julie Landsman
Published by Fairview Press (formerly Deaconess Press), 1994
Published price: $8.95. 230 pages

Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World® Editor-in-Chief
Copyright © 1997 Education World