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Book review: What makes a family? Caring

By Deal Safrit
For the Salisbury Post
Every once in a blue moon I come across a book which has a far greater intrinsic value than just a good story, memoir or tale.
Such is the case of “What Else but Home” by Michael Rosen. In Rosen’s account of how he and his wife become, in effect, surrogate parents to a group of black and Hispanic boys from the projects across the park that divides their penthouse world from that of the boys, we all can learn a lesson in how each of us, in our own large or small way, can make people’s lives, and our world, a better place.
Rosen already had a family: wife Leslie and two young sons, Ripton and Morgan, both adopted. The Rosen family lived quite comfortably in their penthouse apartment on one side of Tompkins Park in New York City. But, one day in 1998, 8-year-old Ripton became involved in a baseball game in the park with a group of boys from the housing projects on the other side. At the end of the game, Ripton invited a number of the boys home. And this began an incredible story.
Let us say the doorman, perhaps the neighbors, were somewhat taken aback when the white Rosen family streamed into their building with a rather large and vocal group of black and Hispanic boys. But, let us also say that, as the years rolled by, Rosen and his family saw to the needs, and sometimes the wants, of this group of boys in the fields of education, sports, mentoring, the value of work, and the importance and esteem of the group and the individual.
Let us also say that, almost 11 years after that day in 1998, despite a life that began in projects haunted by gangs, drugs, prostitution and crime, each of the boys the Rosen family took in became survivors; more than that, they became their own success stories. Though none of the five will probably ever become president, neither will any of them sink to the level of their peers in the projects. And, in the world of youth and the projects today, that is meaningful not only to each of the boys but to all of New York City and our world.
“What Else but Home” is an incredible account of the past 11 years in the Rosen household, a household that expanded to nine people who all had to learn from each other to make a go of life. It all started with a baseball game, and it hasn’t ended yet. The five boys brought into the Rosen household have moved into their own lives, to college, to sports, to work or the service. The key concept here is that they have moved on … they are not stagnating in the ghetto.
Rosen has a story to tell us, and he will appear at Literary Bookpost on Friday, Aug. 28, 5:30-7:30 p.m. for a reception and book signing. Rosen will be coming to North Carolina to bring his oldest son, Ripton, to Elon College, where he will begin his freshman year. Ripton plans to play baseball.
Deal Safrit owns Literary Bookpost in downtown Salisbury.

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