Sunday, September 18, 2016

What is Michael Copperman reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Michael Copperman, author of Teacher: Two Years in the Mississippi Delta.

His entry begins:
I am reading, as I tend to, a number of books at once.

Story by story, saving each to savor, is Lucia Berlin’s collection, A Manual for Cleaning Women. Like so many brilliant writers who never quite break into the limelight, Ms. Berlin was unknown to me until my friend Heather Ryan gave me this book. The prose so strong and assured, the stories and their subjects so unpretentious and relatable, the angle of vision so clear—I cannot understand how I didn’t hear of Ms. Berlin while she was alive, but...[read on]
About Teacher: Two Years in the Mississippi Delta, from the publisher:
When Michael Copperman left Stanford University for the Mississippi Delta in 2002, he imagined he would lift underprivileged children from the narrow horizons of rural poverty. Well-meaning but naive, the Asian American from the West Coast soon lost his bearings in a world divided between black and white. He had no idea how to manage a classroom or help children navigate the considerable challenges they faced. In trying to help students, he often found he couldn't afford to give what they required--sometimes, with heartbreaking consequences. His desperate efforts to save child after child were misguided but sincere. He offered children the best invitations to success he could manage. But he still felt like an outsider who was failing the children and himself.

Teach For America has for a decade been the nation's largest employer of recent college graduates but has come under increasing criticism in recent years even as it has grown exponentially. This memoir considers the distance between the idealism of the organization's creed that "One day, all children will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education" and what it actually means to teach in America's poorest and most troubled public schools.

Copperman's memoir vividly captures his disorientation in the divided world of the Delta, even as the author marvels at the wit and resilience of the children in his classroom. To them, he is at once an authority figure and a stranger minority than even they are--a lone Asian, an outsider among outsiders. His journey is of great relevance to teachers, administrators, and parents longing for quality education in America. His frank story shows that the solutions for impoverished schools are far from simple.
Visit Michael Copperman's website.

The Page 99 Test: Teacher.

Writers Read: Michael Copperman.

--Marshal Zeringue