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Mswas’ CBR-III Review #26 – I Beat the Odds: From Homelessness, to The Blind Side, and Beyond by Michael Oher

08/21/2011

My brother and his wife are huge Ravens fans, and I think one of them had forwarded me something about Michael Oher early on in the making of The Blind Side. That’s one of those movies that we constantly have  on in our house, so I was really excited to find I Beat the Odds: From Homelessness, to The Blind Side, and Beyond by Michael Oher on the shelf at the library.

Of course I knew that there would be discrepancies between the movie and Oher’s life, but hearing the story of his life in his own voice, I was really surprised about what was left out of the movie: how close Oher’s family was, how driven Oher was as a kid, and more.

But Oher is kind and straightforward about it. He states his goals right up front: this book will  “make sense out of it all” – his life, truth versus fiction. But it’s Oher’s second goal, to reach out to children who are in the custody of the state like he was and explain exactly what happened to him, what he thought was happening at the time and how he got through it, but also what the state was really trying to do for him and his family.

There was one woman who we were especially afraid of: Bobbie Spivey. She was a no-nonsense social worker in Memphis who always seemed to be snooping around, talking to neighbors, asking questions about our family and living situation, and trying to figure out what was going on…Of course now when I look back on it, I realize that she genuinely cared about our well-being and safety. She didn’t want us having to live in terrible conditions or missing out on an education. She had our best interests at hear and was fighting to give us a chance. But as kids, all we could see her as was the lady who was going to take us away from one another. So in our minds, she was just someone mean who didn’t want our family to live together.

Oher sprinkles advice and lessons throughout the book, but the twenty pages or so – the last chapter, he really just sits down and lays it all out for kids who might not have someone to give them fatherly advice: if you want to be a writer, read a lot; seek positive influences; learn how to manage your money; and more. With the success of The Blind Side, I hope there are a lot of kids who are interested in learning more about Oher and pick up this book, and so does Oher.

While I may quibble with how I was depicted in the movie, I am truly grateful that my story has been such an inspiration. I hope it continues to inspire people to step up to help–to tutor, to coach, to become a foster parent. And I hope struggling kids are inspired to make choices that will empower them in life. My story is their story. Let’s beat the odds together.

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