Saturday, June 26, 2010

In The Company Of Outcasts

Every once in awhile I read a book that touches me in a very deep and profound way. I can finish reading the book and put it down, but yet it never leaves me. Such was the case when I recently read the book "In the Sanctuary of Outcast" by author Neil White.

It is his memoir of a year spent in a minimal security federal prison in Carville, Louisiana. Imagine his surprise, if you will, after arriving there and finding out that it is not only a prison for white collar crime inmates, but it is also a leprosarium for leprosy patients (now preferably called Hansen's Disease).

You see, Carville, has operated as a leprosarium from 1894-1999. It was the only leprosy colony in the continental US. For a brief few years, 1991-1994, it also housed federal inmates as well. Enter Neil White.

White details his eighteen month stay at Carville. He befriends many of the patients there and is moved by their stories. "Finally, in a sanctuary for outcasts, I understood the truth. Surrounded by men and women who could not hide their disfigurement, I could see my own," he writes.


It's a funny thing about myself. I've always been drawn to outcasts. The unwanted, the unloved, flawed, hurting, souls of humanity. I don't mean that to sound lofty or noble, because there have been times when this inclination has brought me some measure of grief or regret, but I shall not digress.

I knew I would have to go. I didn't know when, or how or with who, or really why for that matter, but I knew I would have to make the journey.

A journey to Carville...

"This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles" Psalms 34:6

How about you? Have you read any books lately that you just could not get over?

Of course it should go without saying the Bible is always number one on this list.


forsythia said...

I will never forget THE GLASS CASTLE by Jeanette Walls. She and her siblings had the most down-and-out, self-centered, incompetent parents that you just wanted to shake some sense into. Yet the kids grew up and made better lives for themselves. As adults they tried, without much success, to get their parents to give up their shiftless ways.

ambersun said...

I just read an autobiography by Sarah Shaw, called simply 'Sarah''. It is about overcoming the scars of incest by God and committed Christian counsellors.

I oouldn't put it down.

Buttercup said...

This sounds great. I will put it on my list. One book that keeps coming back to my mind often is "Olive Kitteridge." It's a collection of short stories about a woman's life. Deeply sad, but ultimately redemptive. It's the book I most recommend to people. I've just started reading "The Girls from Ames," a non-fiction book about a group of women's friendship. It looks great.

Shirl said...

Those are the books I long to read...stories that forever impact me or shed some light I've not seen before. Such a book for me was Five People You Meet in Heaven. While it contained a lot of New Age thinking (probably most of it), I still gleaned some things from it. That book and The Shack...again, a controversial book with a lot of things I didn't agree with. Yet there were still things God used to shed light on who He least for me. Your book sounds inspiring.

goodnightgram said...

Thanks for your book suggestion, and for those suggested by folks who commentes. Picking Cotton, by Jennifer Thomsson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton is a book about a rape, a misidentification and subsezuent incarceration of an innocent man . . . and forgiveness. The book is co-authored by the victim and the man she wrongly identified as her rapist. It was COMPELLING!

Sonja said...

I wrote a long winded comment last night and I think cyberspace zapped it. I read a book about this place in Louisiana when I was a teenager, can't remember the title, but it never left my mind. I still think of a leper as a rag covered human being shuffling around in the dark corners, hiding from people, with limbs and parts of limbs wrapped in cloths. I always saw leprosy that way in my mind from the Bible. So when I saw the book about Carville and Hansen's... I was fascintaed. Your book sounds like another really compelling read. And Debra... you DO have that heart for the underdog... I've always seen it in your writing. My husband has that same kind of heart and it's one of the things I love most about him.

I think it would be so scary to actually go there. Please let us know if you decide to go. It's a whole subject that we don't hear much about anymore. It still fascinates me.

Thanks for sharing!

Pat said...

One book that comes to mind was called "Blackbird: A Childhood Lost and Found" by Jennifer Lauck. An unbelievable journey of a child who somehow survived many hardships.
This book you recommend sounds very interesting, and a really good read. I'm going to find it and read it, I'm sure it will be another one that stays in my heart. Thanks for the recommendation.

Grayquill said...

Gee if I had read this post before your last post I would have understood your road trip. :)