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Non-fiction Young adult

TITLE: Sisters of the Streets
AUTHOR: Dr. David P. Sortino
LOGLINE: Seventeen year old black “hooker,” Jewels Odom is sent to a residential emancipation program for at-risk teens and forms a “secret pack” with an inexperienced Harvard black male teacher, Maurice “Oreo” Jones, and uses Jewels “Street” connections to help 13 black teenage “sisters of the streets’ pass the GED and become emancipated from the California Youth Authority.
Jewels connections helps build the girls’ classroom, donate used desks and books to start their new school in an old mansion in upscale Oakland Hills. Maurice’s teaching inexperience is challenged so she offers to help him and the girls pass the GED test.” However, when Jewels suggests that he hire “street wise” black Wanda Driggs and math professor Brother Chi to teach math. Executive Director Dr. Chester Barkley refuses to hire anymore teachers. Psychologist Dr. Barkley's wife, Toni speaks on the girl’s behalf and convinces him they could all end up back on the streets or CYA, “ a nice name for prison!” Wanda helps bring the girls together and repeats, “if one fails we all fail . . . this is our last chance to succeed! This innovative Harvard Program called “The Just Community” helps the girls deal with their law breaking pasts by allowing the girls to make the rules and consequences for their program.
To change the girls’ “hooker look and attitudes” Jewels explains to Maurice that we need to bring the community to the girls. Jewels suggests they attend UC Berkeley pottery classes with multicultural dressed males and females UC students. Also, Jewels convinces Maurice to start a track team and uses her connection with a local sports store manager to donate track shoes, pants and tops which continues to change the girl’s “hooker” mentality and street costumes. Swim lessons at a local YMCA and new Speedo bathing suits further normalizes their life while a black 75 year old neighbor and retired teacher named Mrs. Jackson provides living black history stories for Jewels and the girls further distancing them from the Oakland streets.
Jewels numerous street connections continue to socialize the girls with more field trips into the community such as petting zoos, whale watching, the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, local TV stations, science excursions on S.F. Bay etc. With running shoes and outfits stenciled with local eatery “Clint’s Barbecue” the girls train for a city wide track championship. Ex-drug runner Jewels captains the 4 x 100 track event only to have Jewels unintentionally trip and blames herself for their team failing to win gold. She runs away to Mrs. Jackson who convinces Jewels that she is the girls’ leader and must take the GED test with the girls. Jewels and three girls pass but eight of the girls fail then retake the test and pass. Maurice takes the girls to a swanky restaurant in Sausalito for graduation dinner and allows them to change his dress from “Oreo”(black on the outside and white inside) to pimp. Graduation is held at the Oakland Rose Garden attended by numerous street people but key note speaker Maya Angelou cannot attend. Instead Jewels becomes the key note speaker and reads Maya Angelou’s famous poem “I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings.” Maurice leaves the Clark Academy but three years later he sees Jewels running in a college track meet. They celebrate the connection with Jewels explaining tearfully that Mrs. Jackson past away and left her house to Jewels who enrolled in college to become a juvenile hall teacher.
**Harvard Magazine Book Reviews - July 2021

1. All of these experiences became the basis for Dr. Sortino’s new book From Street Smart to School Smart, which tells his story as the teacher but mostly focuses on the girls living at the school, “the Street Sisters,“ as they called themselves, especially 17-year -old Jewels Odom, who by the of the book accounts becomes the school leader

**Harvard magazine Book Review – July 14, 2021

2. There’ another important factor: the intensity of the experience. Yes working long hours alongside the girls have become so encoded in his memory because they were so emotional. The dialogue and the emotions were so intense, he says, “if you into a situation like this, you remember things.

**Rowman and Littlefield Review – July 14, 2021

In my opinion, there have been many books written about at risk youth, but few have been able to truly capture the day-to-day trials and tribulations of at-risk teen girls who, regardless of all their personal challenges, pass the GED ( Graduate Education Development) test and are able to move on from a life on the streets to becoming productive citizens. This is their story.

**Santa Rosa Press Democrat Book review – 08/12/21

Moreover, this book addresses not only the journey of at-risk teen girls from juvenile hall to the Clark Acad