In this stunning debut memoir, Hong (Special Education/Brigham Young Univ.-Hawaii) recounts her exceptional transformation from floundering student to flourishing professor.
Born in Singapore to an uneducated mother and an alcoholic, abusive father, Hong grew up in severe poverty. She attended school against her parents’ wishes. Despite her intellectual curiosity, she consistently failed her subjects because she couldn’t keep up with the fast-paced, competitive, shame-inducing educational style. Flunking her 10th-grade finals just about extinguished her academic hopes. But one act of kindness radically changed her trajectory when an inspired acquaintance convinced her to redo the grade. Her new teacher—who was passionate and caring—taught students instead of subjects. A friend from her church gave her the finest tutoring, much-needed friendship, and even an example of a loving home and family. After completing 10th grade with top marks, she spent her remaining school years working tirelessly, eventually earning the Best All-Round Student award. Her passion for learning expanded into a passion for teaching; she pursued post-secondary degrees in America and began an influential career as a professor of education and international education consultant. Hong’s eloquent present-tense narration animates scenes of family strife and academic struggle and evokes an astounding range of emotions—commiseration, frustration, and eventually elation. Something is always developing, whether it’s the narrator herself or the plot. Though the memoir charts the author’s intellectual growth, it also considers complex family relationships, poverty, Southeast Asian culture and education, disability, and determination. Hong demonstrates, through her own experiences, the pleasures and rewards of scholarship and effective teaching, and her account underscores how ordinary people can have life-changing effects on others.
An absorbing, eye-opening narrative about the value of grit and education, sure to inspire a wide audience.