A well-written, yearlong chronicle packed with humor, pathos and valued insights on nearly every page.

A high school teacher who became a full-time writer returns to the high school where he taught for years.

Harper’s contributor Keizer (Privacy, 2011, etc.) chronicles his return to teaching at a rural Vermont high school 14 years after his departure. One of Keizer's former students was now the principal, all the students now possessed smartphones, and teaching to the test was more common than before. Some phenomena had not changed, however: the motivated students, the indifferent students, the time-consuming lesson plans, the seemingly endless grading of essays, the individual crises of students at home and in the hallways, as well as the occasional classroom revolts that any teacher would have difficulty controlling. Keizer is a sometimes-sardonic, sometimes-maudlin, always entertaining guide to contemporary high school atmospherics. The paperwork he must complete about each student's performance led him to conclude that it has become increasingly difficult to teach the actual educational substance of what the paperwork indicates should be measured by the curriculum. Keizer explains that even if teaching conditions were closer to ideal, many of the students come from homes where nobody previously has graduated from high school; thus, a higher education will not carry much value in the minds of older rural Vermont residents. Even though he often hoped for the school year to end, Keizer felt devoted to each student, knowing that the schoolwork was providing the acculturation that students lacked at home. The author never romanticizes classroom teaching, and he skillfully compares his own admittedly challenging daily tasks to the even more difficult tasks willingly undertaken by his wife and his adult daughter, who teach special needs children. “It’s fair to say that I have never gone to work in a school with what might be called purity of heart,” writes the author, “though much of what I know about purity of heart I learned there.”

A well-written, yearlong chronicle packed with humor, pathos and valued insights on nearly every page.

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9643-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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