When did you decide to write I Beat the Odds?
As the movie took off, I started to get a huge flood of mail from people wanting to know what I thought of it and if my life was really the way it looked on screen. I also started getting letters from kids in foster care or from families who had taken in troubled kids, and they all thanked me for being a voice for them. That really made me start to realize the need for someone to step up and speak out about the reality of life for too many kids in America. It seemed to me that maybe God was giving me the opportunity to help people by sharing not just my perspective on the story, but also to try to become the kind of role model I wish I’d had when I was growing up.
2 This is a very personal look at your early years in Memphis and growing up in foster care system. What gave you the strength to remember?
I had gotten as far as I did by trying not to remember – by putting everything behind me and not dwelling on the past. Sometimes, it’s scary to think about looking back because you’re afraid that you might get pulled back into the world you’ve fought so hard to try to escape. But if I was going to write a book about my story, it needed to be as honest as possible. I wasn’t doing this for me; I was doing it for all the other kids out there who were like me, and I wanted to give them something real.
3 What was it like working with Don Yaeger?
He was a lot of fun to work with because he knows how to ask good questions – he got me to talk about some things I’ve never really talked about – and really get to the heart of an issue, but he’s also just a funny guy. We ended up laughing a lot as we were working on things.
4. Chapter 17, On Raven's Wings begins with a great Cinderella* reference. How much grief will your teammates give you for that?
If anyone wants to give me grief about it, we can settle it by arm wrestling.
5. It was clear you were dedicated to your academics. In your sophomore year at Ole Miss, you made the Dean's list Did you like reading in college? Any favorites?
I really enjoy poetry. I would encourage young people to branch out and read poetry, short stories, novels, essays, non-fiction. You might be surprised by what appeals to you.
6. For those who may doubt the purpose and need of I Beat the Odds. You quickly set them straight in the prologue. At one point you said "In many ways, book is a guide to life, a look at how I made it to where I am today." Who did you write this guide for?
The guide is for anyone who is looking for advice about how to beat the odds. That might be a young person coming from a bad home life, or it might be a teacher or coach who wants to help that kid, or it might be a family who is looking around their community and trying to figure out who they can help. The numbers are stacked against kids growing up like I did, and I really wanted to provide a tool for any person who is committed to trying to change the future of even just one kid.
If it can give some perspective to an adult as to how better reach a troubled child, that’s great. If it can give the child some hope that he or she has the strength to overcome the odds even without a family coming to the rescue, that’s even better. It’s really for anyone who sees the problem and wants to do something about it.
Oher has several tour dates coming up. Including stops in NYC, Baltimore, Mississippi, Memphis and Atlanta.
* People like to talk about "Cinderella stories," but Cinderella didn't get her happy ending without lifting a finger. She had to show up at the ball, be charming and smooth, and win over the prince. Of course she had help along the way, but ultimately it was up to her to make the fairytale ending happen.