Book Reviews

Book Review: I Beat the Odds: From Homelessness, to The Blind Side, and Beyond by Michael Oher

I don’t know anyone who hasn’t seen the movie The Blind Side. Sandra Bullock won an Oscar for her portrayal of Leigh Anne Touhy. However, that’s the Hollywood version of the story. Michael Oher wrote a book to set the record straight, give a little more depth to the story, as well as inspire other kids trapped in poverty like he was.

Not to discount the impact various people had in his life, after reading this I realized the movie was presented as a white family “rescuing” a black child from the ghetto. The reality was, Oher was driven for quite some time to improve his situation. By the time he met the Touhy’s, he had already had many hands helping him up, but had also done quite a bit on his own to help himself.

For the two people out there who might not have seen the film or know anything about the story, Michael Oher’s life journey began as a homeless child. His life took a remarkable journey from there to Superbowl Champion with the Baltimore Ravens at the end of the 2012 season.

Michael grew up in Memphis, one of nine siblings with a mother who was an addict. In the area he lived, the story was a common one and young Michael didn’t see anything wrong with the lifestyle they were living. They were taught to fear the police and social workers who occasionally nosed around the family, helping them to fall through the cracks.

Unlike the film, Michael was actually doing a decent job on his own rising above all of that when he met the Touhy’s. He details the many people who helped him along the way. He didn’t just one day show up in the Touhy’s life and everything changed. Michael was already a star football player and was trying to do well in school. The problem was a lack of stability and a lack of a family supporting him.

This is where it’s a lot different than the film. Michael was living some of the time with an auto mechanic and his family when he was admitted to Briarcrest Christian School with their son. His grades were not great, but many people worked with him to help him do better. He also had a drive inside of himself to do better.

Oher writes in detail about his struggles and successes. He makes it clear that this is not a scenario where you can look at every child born into poverty and addiction like he was and say “if he could do it, why couldn’t they?” Hence, the title. There were so many things that had to go right for him to achieve what he did. One person turning their back instead of offering a helping hand could have given him a very different outcome in life. Teachers and tutors worked with him to help build his academics and he started to actually enjoy school. The co-writer on the book is Don Yeager, but the introduction is Oher’s and you can see he is well-versed.

It was at Briarcrest that he met the Touhy’s. They accepted him into their family, seemingly without hesitation. That sense of belonging was one Oher had never had before. I could tell he was struggling to express what that felt like. It’s something those of us who have a family take for granted. They fed him, clothed him, helped him with tutors, bought him a truck when he got his driver’s license, and more. How many people would open up their lives that much to a homeless boy? Oher was the one who asked for them to adopt him because he wanted to really be a member of the family.

If you’ve seen The Blind Side, you owe it to yourself to read the real story. Oher doesn’t disparage the movie – he just makes the point that it is A MOVIE with a Hollywood story. I think I’m taking more issue with it now on reflection. We just need to put this in the hands of kids who need to read it (and make sure they can read).

Leave a Reply