Entertaining and authentic look at the troubled American educational system, courtesy of two men propelled by perseverance...

Developing Minds

AN AMERICAN GHOST STORY

Two unlikely friends learn about life and hard work through the students they teach.

Driving to Miami on a whim, 20-something Luke Entelechy and best friend Billy Lalina, both recent college graduates, embark on a life-changing journey in search of worthwhile jobs in education. Billy is beyond excited to flee southward and away from a teaching assignment at a menacing school in New York City. It’s likewise for Luke, an aspiring writer who became mired in a series of stagnant substitute positions in Buffalo. Initially, both men love Miami for different reasons: Billy, who is gay, enjoys the Cuban eye candy around the notorious City of Sex, and Luke appreciates the fresh start. Things get rocky quickly, but the men adapt. Billy scores a teaching position at highly ranked Little Havana Elementary, while Luke settles on a job at a lower-accredited inner-city school with high instructor turnover and classrooms full of rude, violent students. A trip to Key West refreshes him—a good thing, considering the coming weeks of trial and error Luke sees in his troublesome classroom of rowdy students who eventually (and miraculously) acquiesce to the idea of learning and succeeding as a cohesive group. Meanwhile, Billy frets that his homosexuality will cause a rift in his own employment as both men socialize with some of the more unrestrained teachers, like “Hurricane Margo.” Luke enjoys an unexpected, long-distance romance in Mexico and attempts to make the best of their time in Miami even though, working in the public education network, “every day was psychological warfare, and if you didn’t stay sharp, the system would grind you into human pencil shavings.” Inspired by his own travels, screenwriter and author LaPoma’s narrative is raw and edgy, effectively anchored by two protagonists whose brio and “same sense of adventure” keep the story alive. Luke, who principally narrates the novel, will resonate most with readers who sympathize and respect today’s teachers, who guide a greatly distracted generation of impressionable minds.

Entertaining and authentic look at the troubled American educational system, courtesy of two men propelled by perseverance and adventuresome spirits.

Pub Date: April 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9988403-6-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Almendro Arts

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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