Dismazed & Driven Reviews

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Los Angeles Review of Books
by Eleanor J. Bader

December 23, 2020

LARB "Deeply personal — Nilan coined the word 'dismazed' to capture her despair and amazement — the book is both inspiring and infuriating, a deep dive into the failure of US policymakers to tackle poverty and meaningfully address the affordable housing crisis. Her piercing observations chronicle bureaucratic bumbling, as well as political indifference and victim blaming. At the same time, Nilan pays homage to the many intrepid people she’s met, from homeless moms, dads, and children to the many advocates who are working tirelessly, even in a pandemic, to offer support and material comfort to those in need. The book is also prescriptive, with clear recommendations about what needs to be done."
Sister Simone Campbell, SSS 
Executive Director
NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice and
Leader of Nuns on the Bus

Diane Nilan travels the country to lift up the stories of people experiencing homelessness and the challenges they face. She uses her experience of literal “bumps in the road” as a metaphor for the failures and limitations of US housing policy.  She tells stories of families’ bravery, determination, great care and daunting economic realities. In this COVID time (or any time) it is a wakeup call to all of us to pay attention. We as a nation are better than this! Ms. Nilan helps us to recognize this and motivates us to work to make change.

Parker J. Palmer
Author of
On the Brink of Everything,
Let Your Life Speak
The Courage to Teach, and
Healing the Heart of Democracy

Diane Nilan hooked me with the opening lines of her book: “I’ve spent 15 years on America’s backroads [while living in a small RV] chronicling the plight and promise of families experiencing homelessness.”

The book takes the “blue highways” genre to new depths by lifting up, in lively prose, one of most critical moral-political issues we face. She addresses our growing homeless crisis with human-scale stories about parents and kids that will first break your heart, then move you to act. (Nilan has acted on what she’s learned by founding a nonprofit called HEAR US, Inc. at www.hearus.us)

I’ve never met the author, but after reading this book, I feel I know her heart. We need to clone that heart across this land so we can overcome the twin crises of homelessness and heartlessness with the power of MLK’s Beloved Community. 

Judy Borich 
Middle River Press, Oakland Park, FL
 Dismazed and Driven will pull you into the world of the author and the homeless families she seeks out.  Join Diane Nilan as she continues to drive dismazed, sharing her life and stories and anecdotes of families that reveal disastrous and overlooked conditions. This book paints a realistic, sometimes startling, and often touching picture of homelessness in America that is not common knowledge. But once you know, you will never forget.
Heather Denny 
MT State Coordinator for Homeless Education
There is no one who has devoted more time and energy to bringing attention to the crisis of homeless children and families in America. From the “happiest place on Earth” to the Pacific Northwest, Diane has travelled the highways and backroads giving voice to the voiceless. This recounting of her adventures is heartwarming, poignant, and powerful.
Dr. Anita C. Levine
Professor of Elementary Education, SUNY Oneonta, NY
Diane Nilan's memoir, Dismazed and Driven, is a powerful blend of storytelling and call for social justice for our most vulnerable and disenfranchised. A must-read for those seeking insight into the deleterious effects of homelessness on families, children and youth here in the United States.

Darlene Newsom
CEO UMOM New Day Centers, Phoenix, AZ

Diane did an incredible job in bringing homeless families and their stories to light, the stories gave me goose bumps and I was intrigued on how she circled back to give updates on the families.  She hit the root causes of homelessness highlighting trauma, poverty, and domestic violence. We can move the needle on focusing on homeless families and creating a livable wage and affordable housing.  None of us should tolerate homeless children living on the street. 

Joe Willard
Vice President, People’s Emergency Center, Philadelphia, PA

 Dismazed and Driven joins America's literature of life on the road. It captures America's spirit of the search for meaning while one explores. It departs from the selfish part of road literature because it’s about one person's dedication to people caught in poverty and inequality. Diane Nilan travels to meet and record the experiences of families and their children who are homeless, with tenderness and sadness, but tinged with hope.  A lovely read.

Jan Davis
Retired Educator, Massachusetts
Diane's Childhood friend/classmate 


Not What You Think
If you think of the homeless as those people you see sleeping on a park bench, think again.  Do you know how many homeless kids are in your own school system -- for that matter, are you even aware that your school system has (should have) a homeless liaison?  Are you aware that HUD only counts the homeless once a year and that those persons who are doubled up with family (because they have no home of their own) or those who are staying in a motel room (because they have no other home, and there are 6 people in one motel room) are NOT counted?  There's so much to learn about homelessness and so much to just simply be aware of.  This book will change your perception.  It's a much needed down-to-earth perspective on the realities written by a woman who sold everything and began traveling the USA to document and fight against the situations that cause homelessness.  It's eminently readable, but you won't read it in one sitting; you will find yourself with the book on your lap while you assess your own perceptions.  It's worth every bit of your time.

An assortment of reviews...

RL: "Diane tells it like it really is. I know I've seen it being homeless living in a Homeless Shelter for women. Too many are out there with no place to live. The U.S.A. needs to change. Too many are on the streets, living in cars or with friends or family till they get thrown out. Take it from me who knows. Read this book and change this government."

MEH: "You don't want to miss this opportunity to be enlightened by Diane Nilan, a fierce advocate for families experiencing homelessness. In Dismazed and Driven, Diane shares what she has learned about the struggles and the reslilience of families across the U.S. experiencing homelessness. It is a quick and powerful read that weaves together Diane's reflections on her travels across the county in her van/home and the experiences of families without homes she met along the way. I ordered 6 more copies to give as gifts and to send to policymakers who need to understand the complexities of family homelessness."

Pat: "Diane Nilan invented the word dismayed [dismazed]. You know... when something is so dumbfoundingly stupid that it astonishes even them most jaded among us. People like me. I have witnesses sadness and cruelty - perhaps you have too. Have you chucked everything, to use your talents and determination, to right those wrongs?

Diane has.

And this memoir tells you how she did that... as daunting and unlikely as that journey seemed at times. If you read this book with an open heart - well it just might inspire you to pitch in and help as well.

Problems can't be solved - no matter how dismazing they may be - until they are understood. Here's a way to get a handle on that understanding."

MT: "DISMAZED AND DRIVEN .... Diane Nilan takes us along with her through the United States to show what the challenges of living, surviving for these homeless children and their families daily lives. I can't say enough how appreciative this new awareness brought to me, plus her many challenges keeping her small home on wheels safe. The least I can do is contact my government reps to encourage their support. I am so glad I purchased and read this, so I bought copies for my two daughters. Thank you."

PWA: "Just finished reading "Dismazed and Driven" - amazing journey you are on and the journey millions of homelessness people are on. The stories you shared about the people you met along the way provided a heartbreaking insight into family homelessness and the commitment by parents to meert the needs of their children. I learned quite a bit about the dramatic implications of the definition of 'homelessness' and how the Dept of Education has been at the forefront of helping children and youth. Also how HUD's definition of homelessness needs to align with the Dept of Ed definition by passing the bipartisan Homeless Children and Youth Act. As so many more people are homeless or on the verge of being homeless as a result of the pandemic, a change in defintion of homeless by HUD to align with the Dept of Ed would help so many people in desperate situations. Thank you Diane for you dedication and selfless service for enlightening all of us and helping people that are homeless."


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