An opinionated, perceptive insider’s take on an unsung but vital part of America’s education system.

DEFENDING THE CITADEL

CONFRONTING CORPORATE MANAGEMENT AND CORRUPTION IN AN ILLINOIS COMMUNITY COLLEGE

Community college teachers fight for their rights—and the soul of higher education—in Lanter’s feisty memoir.

Lanter (In This House of Men, 2010, etc.) taught English and philosophy at Southwestern Illinois College, a two-year public institution with a history of labor activism. Here he chronicles 25 years of union battles against an administration and board of trustees hell-bent on bringing the crass, exploitative norms of the corporate workplace into academia. The struggle involves familiar issues of pay, workload—officials were forever trying to impose “productivity” benchmarks on instructors—part-time staffing and the fight for recognition of the faculty’s American Association of University Professors bargaining unit. But in the background, Lanter contends, lie deeper conflicts over the meaning of a college education; namely, whether it should be a rigorous tutelage in academic disciplines conducted by professionals or—in extreme terms—a cheap, profit-generating commodity geared toward vocational training and employment credentialing, purveyed by glorified “drug-store clerks.” The narrative provides a comprehensive, if somewhat disorganized and repetitive, case study in academic and labor politics, immersing readers in pay tiers, overtime provisions and tenure guidelines. The author regales readers with the minutes of particularly rancorous meetings and the returns from county board of trustee elections and property-tax referenda. The level of detail is often eye-glazing, but there are dramatic episodes—including a sharp-edged 1980 faculty strike that ended in mass arrests—and an invigorating edge of scorn for the administration, its professorial cronies and its “insidious and parasitical” union-busting lawyers. Intertwined is a caustic, loose-jointed critique of higher education that takes swipes at watered-down grading, vapid learn-at-home telecourses, excessive concern for student self-esteem, junky “education” degrees and religious zealots who want to censor their profs; the whole “American capitalist ideology” under which “democracy has come to mean the right to make a corporate profit” also takes a hit. Lanter’s memoir may be, at times, curmudgeonly, but the author makes a cogent case for defending academic standards—and academics’ dignity—against an onslaught of business values.

An opinionated, perceptive insider’s take on an unsung but vital part of America’s education system.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2012

ISBN: 978-0983841203

Page Count: 392

Publisher: Twiss Hill Press

Review Posted Online: April 20, 2012

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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