Under the Overpass by Mike Yankosi

Under the Overpass is the story of two college guys who voluntarily decide to live on the streets as homeless men for five months.  They spend between 3-4 weeks each in six different cities so they can experience what it is like to be homeless: Denver, Washington, DC., Portland, San Francisco, Phoenix, and San Diego.  Please note that this review is for the “Updated and Expanded Edition” published in 2010, not the original book published in 2005.

The book itself is an enjoyable read and offers what I can only assume to be an accurate portrayal of life on the streets.  My biggest complaint is that the book was edited to keep out “common street lingo” (as the “Note to the Reader” refers to it).  The authors write, “Vulgarities and crude insults become part of everyday conversation, even between friends.  But out of respect for our readers and the standards of this publisher, this element of street life is not present in the pages you’re about to read.”  My question is, “Why not?”  I’m not suggesting that they litter the book with F-bombs and other inappropriate language, but why shy away from the truth?  There could certainly be ways to use blanks or abbreviations if they wanted to stay away from the actual words.  It’s like trying to act out the story of Jesus but never assigning someone to play Judas.  Sometimes life is ugly and we do an injustice when we display it any other way.

Yankoski does make some great points throughout the book which should make the reader seriously reflect and contemplate how they treat others who are made in the image of Christ.  Let me share a few of my favorite quotes:

“If we are the body of Christ – and Christ came not for the healthy by the sick – we need to be fully present in the places where people are most broken.” (p. 36)

“[O]ur good intentions and sound theology are wasted if those we minister to don’t feel that we care about their immediate concerns.” (p. 37)

“Love can’t cover wrongs if we let frustrations and failures keep us apart.” (p. 161)

“The bottom line is that real love always shows itself in action.  Nothing happens or changes in this world unless, by faith, we actually do something.” (p. 213-4)

I particularly appreciated Yankosi’s honesty as he reflected on his own struggles in what he experienced during his time on the streets, particularly his realization that he “wanted to live in plenty but remember the sharp lessons of living in want.” (p. 209)

Overall, I’ll give the book 4 out of 5 stars.  Definitely worth the read.

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I received this book free from Multnomah Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Filed under Christian Living, Non-Fiction

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