A sequel to the lively recounting of life in an inner-city high school. The original, My Posse Don't Do Homework (1992), is...

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THE GIRLS IN THE BACK OF THE CLASS

A sequel to the lively recounting of life in an inner-city high school. The original, My Posse Don't Do Homework (1992), is soon to be a major Michelle Pfeiffer motion picture (called Dangerous Minds, it's also due for release in May). That book dealt with Johnson's experiences in a mini-academy set up within an East Palo Alto, Calif., high school. The English teacher's students were hand-picked as children who could make it, given enough attention and encouragement. This volume aims to put the emphasis on young women in the academy, neglected, Johnson feels, both in the first set of tales and in the classroom. She blames herself as well as the system, suggesting that girls are simply overwhelmed in the classroom by boys' noisy demands for attention. Girls whisper, Johnson theorizes simplistically, ""wring their hands in quiet desperation for a few weeks, then disappear."" She introduces Simoa, who, terrorized into leaving home, finally returns to school pregnant; Tyeisha, whose mother abandoned her; Araceli, an artist, who challenges whether Johnson is truly color-blind. Unfortunately, she doesn't introduce their stories until halfway through the book, and then is often distracted by the noisy demands of the boys in her class. But whether it's about boys or girls, Johnson, an ex-Marine, is also a good storyteller, bringing drama and suspense to tales from her classroom, and total dedication to her students. She gives up her Sundays to take them to concerts, museums, and plays, hugs them, remembers their birthdays, cries for them, and at year's end sees most of them graduate, with many -- girls included -- headed for college. She too heads back to college -- ""to get a life,"" as her students have urged her, and a graduate degree in New Mexico. Every student, girl or boy, needs a teacher like this -- caring and committed to helping them succeed in school and in life.

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 256

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995