Ryan Berg’s nonfiction work No House to Call My Home: Love, Family, and Other Transgressions is a breakthrough, a fierce, heartrending, and lyrical take on a wholly unreported topic. The preface jars and then situates the reader in the story with these statistics: 40 percent of homeless youth in New York City identify as LGBTQ, 70 percent of LGBTQ youth in group homes reported violence based on LGBTQ status, 78 percent were removed or ran away from placement because of hostility to their LGBTQ status. There is a massive and systemic failure at work here, a failure to catch or support adolescents who come, often, from unspeakable trauma. Writes Berg, “The challenges I witnessed these youth confront would send most adults into a mental collapse.”
Informing No House to Call My Home is Berg’s work, first as a Residential Counselor, then a caseworker, at two New York group homes for LGBTQ youth. The stories here are multiple, and Berg’s own comes second, always, to those youth who he’s working to support. As Berg says, “this isn’t the story of a white man attempting to ‘save’ or speak for young queer people of color.” Instead, we have Bella, Benny, Montana, Rodrigo, Alexander, Barbara, Christina, Raheem, and Maite, whose tangles and traumas and hopes find voice on the page. And often, we get their stories nearly verbatim, even the most painful ones shining bright and unmistakable.
Threading through No House to Call My Home is the spirit of one of Berg’s epigraphs, a quote from Toni Morrison: “Home is an idea rather than a place. It’s where you feel safe. Where you’re among people who are kind to you and if you’re in trouble they’ll help you. It’s community.”
Ryan Berg is a Lambda Literary Foundation Emerging Writers Fellow. His work has appeared in Ploughshares, Local Knowledge and The Sun, and he has been awarded residencies from the MacDowell Colony and Yaddo. He now lives and works in Minneapolis.