An unflinchingly honest account of one man’s experiences with inner-city education.

THE BATTLE FOR ROOM 314

MY YEAR OF HOPE AND DESPAIR IN A NEW YORK CITY HIGH SCHOOL

A nonprofit executive tells the story of the year he spent as a teacher in a struggling urban high school on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

A few years into his career as the development director of Project Advance, a nonprofit organization that helped underprivileged kids attain elite educations, Boland decided that he wanted in on “the front lines of education.” After two years of graduate training, he quit his comfortable job and began his teaching apprenticeship, where his idealism was soon tested. While the author worked with a few genuinely good teacher-mentors, many he observed turned out to be “burned out and boring” if not outright incompetent. His hope was temporarily restored when he began his first job teaching ninth-grade world history at Union Street School. There, he met dynamic instructors who seemed to be making a difference among the urban youth they taught. As soon as he stepped into his own classroom, however, he discovered just how difficult his task would be. Many students openly defied him as they derailed his efforts to teach them; only a few showed any sincere willingness to learn. When he and his colleagues attempted to make changes to their schedules to better manage the large number of students they taught, the administration rejected their plans. What made his job, which he left after one year, even more trying was learning about the lives of his students outside of class. Many had not only dealt with poverty, but also violence, drug and sexual abuse, neglect, and even homelessness. Three years later, Boland learned that half of his original 90 students graduated; only a tiny fraction went on to attend college. Though told with compassion and wry humor, the book is often difficult to read. Yet the ideal-shattering truths it reveals are important ones for teachers and administrators seeking to reform the urban education system in the United States.

An unflinchingly honest account of one man’s experiences with inner-city education.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4555-6061-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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