MAPLEWOOD, NJ -- Local author and Pulitzer Prize winner Tina Kelley, co-author of a book that highlights the issue of homeless youth in America, will read excerpts from the book at two events in Maplewood this month.
“Almost Home,” which tells the story of six homeless teenagers across the United States and Canada, was co-authored by Kevin Ryan. He is the president of Covenant House, a nonprofit organization providing care for homeless and neglected children.
The readings are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 4 at at Words bookstore in Maplewood and 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 17 at the Maplewood Public Library.
In addition to reading from “Almost Home,” Kelley will answer questions about the book and sign copies. She said she hopes to raise awareness about the subject of homeless youth in the area.
“Homeless kids are invisible; they don’t want to be seen as homeless,” Kelley said. “These are kids who are folding clothes at the Gap and serving burgers at fast food restaurants. They don’t look homeless, but they are.”
Kelley, who grew up in New Jersey and has lived in Maplewood for the past 10 years, has volunteered at the Covenant House in New York City after graduating from college. She also has written about the shelter while working for the New York Times.
She met Ryan, the state's former Child Advocate and Commissioner of the Department of Children and Families, while writing about children's issues for The New York Times, but it wasn’t until 2009 that he asked her to co-author a book on the work of the organization, Kelley said.
She said writing a book about underprivileged children was her life’s ambition, even after sharing in a Pulitzer Prize for her work with the New York Times on post-9/11 coverage.
“It was a miraculous job change,” Kelley said. “We would trade chapters back and forth via e-mail, do edits and improve each other’s work over two and a half years.”
The last chapter of the book highlights how anyone can get involved with helping homeless young people and encourages people to volunteer, Kelley said.
“I’m hopeful that it brings a lot of people to awareness of homeless kids,” Kelley said. “There’s a shelter in Newark, only 20 minutes from Maplewood.”
All proceeds from “Almost Home” go to help homeless children at Covenant House, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.
Kelley’s last position at The New York Times was as founding editor of The Local, a hyperlocal journalism website that covered Maplewood, Millburn and South Orange. It has since ceased operating.
“Almost Home,” which held the No. 1 spot on Barnes & Noble’s Top 100 list, is currently at the No. 2 position.
The reporter is participating in a hyperlocal journalism partnership between The Alternative Press and Seton Hall University's Department of Communication & The Arts.