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

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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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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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