An inspiring memoir of a determined man committed to social change.


The triumphs of a progressive educator.

In a book that is both a memoir and manifesto for education reform, Cummins (Two Americas, Two Educations, 2006, etc.) chronicles his remarkable career as a teacher, headmaster, and school founder. Though he was a mediocre high school student, the author was accepted to Stanford due to his impressive sports activities. “I was really ignorant,” he admits. “I didn’t read…I generally relied on Classic Comics when writing book reports on Dickens or Hemingway.” He thought little about his future, either, assuming he would join his father’s business. However, his classes in history and literature—and one course in particular, “Liberal Tradition in American History”—radically changed his perspective. “It was the intellectual equivalent of an earthquake,” he writes. Cummins began to question his parents’ political conservatism, revised his attitudes about social justice, and decided to become a teacher. Schools, he concluded, “seem to be the only place from which genuine reform can emanate.” Influenced by John Dewey, Jonathan Kozol, and Reinhold Niebuhr, Cummins enacted reform first in his own classrooms at several private high schools, and then, in 1971, at Crossroads, which he established in West Los Angeles. At first seen as a “hippie, progressive, artsy, flaky, unstructured, ‘liberal’ school,” Crossroads soon earned a reputation for rigorous academics. Its graduates, some who entered as underachieving students, were accepted into leading colleges. It also attracted the children of celebrities, who added glamour and talent to school events and fundraisers. Raising money, this book reveals, is Cummins’ forte. He not only found support for Crossroads, but also for the several other schools and foundations that he established: the New Roads School, Camino Nuevo Charter Academy, the New Visions Foundation (dedicated to creating racially and socially diverse schools), and P.S. Arts, a nonprofit focused on providing in-school arts experiences in public schools.

An inspiring memoir of a determined man committed to social change.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-939096-40-1

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Xeno/Red Hen Press

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.



In her first nonfiction book, novelist Grande (Dancing with Butterflies, 2009, etc.) delves into her family’s cycle of separation and reunification.

Raised in poverty so severe that spaghetti reminded her of the tapeworms endemic to children in her Mexican hometown, the author is her family’s only college graduate and writer, whose honors include an American Book Award and International Latino Book Award. Though she was too young to remember her father when he entered the United States illegally seeking money to improve life for his family, she idolized him from afar. However, she also blamed him for taking away her mother after he sent for her when the author was not yet 5 years old. Though she emulated her sister, she ultimately answered to herself, and both siblings constantly sought affirmation of their parents’ love, whether they were present or not. When one caused disappointment, the siblings focused their hopes on the other. These contradictions prove to be the narrator’s hallmarks, as she consistently displays a fierce willingness to ask tough questions, accept startling answers, and candidly render emotional and physical violence. Even as a girl, Grande understood the redemptive power of language to define—in the U.S., her name’s literal translation, “big queen,” led to ridicule from other children—and to complicate. In spelling class, when a teacher used the sentence “my mamá loves me” (mi mamá me ama), Grande decided to “rearrange the words so that they formed a question: ¿Me ama mi mamá? Does my mama love me?”

A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-6177-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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