Michelle Kuo, "Reading with Patrick: A Teacher, A Student, and a Life-Changing Friendship" (Random House, 2017)


It takes courage to walk into a classroom when students don't look like you. It takes courage to return every day to teach a class when students devalue education. Media has portrayed the scenario in films like Freedom Writers and Dangerous Minds with white teachers symbolizing the great white hope to a class of minority students. Well, Michelle Kuo is not the great white hope, but she becomes hope and maintains hope for young black students in Mississippi Delta, specifically Patrick. Kuo writes about her journey in the memoir Reading with Patrick: A Teacher, a Student, and a Life-Changing Friendship (Random House, 2017). Her story focuses on race, justice and education in the rural south where she taught American History through black literature. Kuo, a Harvard graduate born to Taiwainese parents, wanted to work in a place where she was needed. Thus, she was assigned to an alternative school, which the local administration used as a dumping ground for the so-called "bad kids"---where rabble-rousers who had already been expelled from mainstream schools now given a final chance before being permanently ejected from the public education system. Her memoir navigates the terrain of teacher speaking to students through books and poems they can understand. Reading with Patrick points to a teacher who breaks the rule, choosing favorites. The memoir includes effective teaching tools Kuo used in the classroom. Most importantly, the memoir illustrates humanity when Kuo leaves Helena for a law school but returns after discovering her favorite student, Patrick, has gone to jail. Michelle Kuo teaches in the History, Law and Society program at the American University of Paris. She and Patrick share the royalties from this book.

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