Michael Oher: Childhood and System Failure

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Blind Side" by Michael Lewis. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What was Michael Oher’s childhood like? How did Michael Oher end up in foster care?

Michael Oher first lived with his biological mother, Denise. When Michael was a child, he wound up in foster care, and quickly got lost in the system.

Read more about Michael Oher, his childhood, and how his time in foster care.

Michael Oher: Childhood in Foster Care

For Michael Oher, childhood was difficult. He was born to his mother, Denise, and spent his early years with her and his family. Though he remembers Denise loving the kids, she couldn’t care for them and Michael remembers not having enough food, and drinking water to feel full. Michael and his brothers and sisters were taken away and put in foster care.

Several weeks after the girls were taken, the police found Michael and his brother Carlos at school. They were taken to live with Velma Jones, an obese woman who used to sit on them when they were bad. Velma was guardian of several foster children, and they used to pick on Michael and Carlos. 

Michael ran away two days after arriving and went back to his mother’s place. Despite his pleas, Dee Dee knew things would get worse if Michael didn’t go back, and she escorted him there. He tried the same move a few weeks later, and Dee Dee took him back again. 

Two years later, both Michael and Carlos escaped from Velma’s for good. The social workers took Michael to a hospital to have him tested for mental illness, and he was checked into a juvenile ward. Once again, Michael ran away from the hospital. He wandered the dark streets until he found Dixie Homes, the project where Dee Dee lived. But she didn’t live there anymore. In the years that he’d been gone, she’d moved to Hurt Village. 

Michael found Dee Dee at Hurt Village, but he went to hide at her abandoned apartment at Dixie Homes to avoid getting taken back to foster care. Carlos showed up soon after, and the two went on the run. When they realized the police were no longer looking for them, they moved in with Dee Dee and a few siblings, some old and some new. The eight of them shared a two-room apartment and stayed there for the next five years. 

Michael Oher: Childhood and System Failure

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Michael Lewis's "The Blind Side" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full The Blind Side summary:

  • How Michael Oher went from the projects in Memphis to the NFL
  • Why the combination of size and speed became essential for football stars
  • How Oher was taken in by the wealthy Tuohy family

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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