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Reading with Patrick: A Teacher, a Student,…
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Reading with Patrick: A Teacher, a Student, and a Life-Changing Friendship

by Michelle Kuo

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This is an unusual memoir in that it examines the lives of the students and, the author, one of the staff of an Arkansas school in a severely depressed area. Needless to say, it is not a feel good book. There are moments of hope and even things to cheer about, but they don’t last and are the overwhelming minority of the moments in the book. In places it reminded me of The Blackboard Jungle, Up the Down Staircase, and To Sir, With Love. Even though I read each of those books many years ago, I don’t remember any of them being as depressing as this book. But maybe the difference is not in the books, but in me. I’m much older and, one hopes, more knowledgeable about the ways of the world and how rarely humans are able to overcome the horrors of poverty, crime, and racism. The author is searching, as her students are, but they are searching for very different things and the chances for success are monumentally different based on economics and race alone. All of the above having been said, this book definitely gave me a window into the challenges of an economically depressed area of the country I hadn’t know existed. ( )
  whymaggiemay | Jul 3, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The strength of this book lies in its ability to underscore some of the most pernicious effects of structural racism in our country. The author is clearly a dedicated individual ... and... the type that we need to continue working to improve equity in our country. The book, however, fell flat and its ability to draw a larger conclusions. While it's understandable that much has gone unanswered for the author throughout her experience I believe there was more for her to tell and more conclusions to draw. ( )
  lucas20 | May 10, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
READING WITH PATRICK by Michelle Kuo tells the true story of a teacher and her gifted student. What makes this memoir compelling is the complex relationship between Kuo and her troubled, but brilliant student.

ARC courtesy of the publisher and LibraryThing. ( )
  eduscapes | Mar 22, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I received an Advance Reader's Copy of this book.

This is one of the most impactful books I have ever read. It is a testament to the power of books. Michelle Kuo is a young teacher of Taiwanese descent, who is deployed to Helena, Arkansas, as part of the Teach for America program. She is an idealist who hopes to influence her young students, primarily African-American, in this poor community. She makes a connection with Patrick, the eighth grader who appears to thrive under Kuo's mentorship. The friendship picks up again years later, when Kuo learns that Patrick is now jailed for having committed a murder. This story is filled with hope but is firmly planted in reality, now in Hollywood. This is not a fairy tale. It is certainly timely and I hope it will be widely read to start many conversations. ( )
  ravensfan | Nov 12, 2017 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 081299731X, Hardcover)

A memoir of race, inequality, and the power of literature told through the life-changing friendship between an idealistic young teacher and her gifted student, jailed for murder in the Mississippi Delta

Recently graduated from Harvard University, Michelle Kuo arrived in the rural town of Helena, Arkansas, as a Teach for America volunteer in 2004, bursting with optimism and drive. But she soon encountered the jarring realities of life in one of the poorest counties in America, still disabled by the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow. In this stirring memoir, Kuo, the child of Taiwanese immigrants, shares the story of her complicated but rewarding mentorship of one student, Patrick Browning, and his remarkable literary and political awakening.

Convinced she can make a difference in the lives of her teenaged students, Michelle Kuo puts her heart into her work, using quiet reading time and guided writing to foster a sense of self in students left behind by a broken school system. Though Michelle loses some students to gun violence and truancy, she is inspired by students such as Patrick. Fifteen and in the eighth grade, Patrick begins to thrive under Michelle's exacting attention, rising to meet her rigorous expectations. However, after two years of teaching, Michelle feels pressure from her parents and the draw of opportunities outside the Delta, and leaves Arkansas to attend law school.

Years later, on the eve of her graduation, she learns that Patrick has been jailed for murder. Feeling that she had left the Delta prematurely, and determined to fix her mistake, Michelle returns to Helena and resumes Patrick's education--even as he sits in a jail cell awaiting trial. Every day for the next seven months they pore over classic novels, poems, and works of history. Little by little, Patrick grows into a confident, expressive writer and a dedicated reader galvanized by the works of Frederick Douglass, James Baldwin, Marilynne Robinson, W. S. Merwin, and others. In her time reading with Patrick, Michelle is herself transformed, contending with the legacy of racism and the question of what the privileged owe to those with bleaker prospects.

Reading with Patrick is an inspirational story of friendship, a coming-of-age story for both a young teacher and a student, an expansive, deeply resonant meditation on education, race, and justice in the rural South, and a love letter to literature and its power to transcend social barriers.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 13 Mar 2017 22:05:30 -0400)

Michelle Kuo arrived in the rural town of Helena, Arkansas, as a Teach for America volunteer in 2004, bursting with optimism and drive. But she soon encountered the jarring realities of life in one of the poorest counties in America. In this unforgettable memoir, Michelle shares the story of her complicated but rewarding mentorship of one student, Patrick Browning, and his remarkable literary and political awakening. Fifteen and in the eighth grade, Patrick begins to thrive under Michelle's exacting attention. However, after two years of teaching, Michelle leaves Arkansas to attend law school. When, on graduating, she learns that Patrick has been jailed for murder, Michelle returns to Helena and resumes Patrick's education as he sits in jail awaiting trial. For the next seven months they pore over classic novels, poems, and history, and Patrick is galvanized by the works of Frederick Douglass, James Baldwin, Marilynne Robinson, W. S. Merwin, and many others. Reading with Patrick is an inspirational story of friendship, a coming-of-age story for both a young teacher and student, a resonant meditation on race and justice, and a love letter to literature and its power to bind us together.… (more)

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