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What distinguishes this account from all those others dealing with a year of teaching deprived youngsters is the high spirits, humor, and rawboned sincerity of the author, who throughout is not above a few self-deprecatory swipes at his bulldozer idealism or his compulsive determination to see likable qualities in everyone -- even his enemies. Young Mr. Conroy took on a teaching position on an outpost island off the South Carolina coast inhabited mainly by poor blacks. The elementary school was tyrannized over by a fierce black principal who felt no affinity with the islanders. The children were apathetic, insular, illiterate, and completely oblivious to the world beyond the island -- they didn't know what country they were in or who was the President. ""All around me, in the grinning faces of my students, I could see a crime, so ugly that it could be interpreted as a condemnation of an entire society."" Conroy sets to work wisecracking and gently bullying his ""gang"" awake as he teaches numbers, the alphabet, and music (re ""Bay Toven the Fifth"" and the first notes interpreted as Death "" 'Do you hear that rotten death?' I yelled. 'Don't hear nothin' . . . . 'Shut up and listen to that bloodsucker death,' I yelled again. 'Yeah, I hear 'im'""). Conroy arranged trips to the mainland and to Washington, encouraged talented guest teachers, fought for his students and his job against the entrenched white establishment. He lost the final battle with the school board and concludes he did little to change the children's lives significantly, but he ""felt the beauty in my year with them."" So will the reader.

Pub Date: June 19th, 1972
ISBN: 0553381571
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin