An Arkansas teacher's memoir: Only the heroes stay | Arkansas Blog

Monday, July 31, 2017

An Arkansas teacher's memoir: Only the heroes stay

Posted By on Mon, Jul 31, 2017 at 11:54 AM

The New York Times today has an interview with Michelle Kuo, author of  a memoir,"Readings with Patrick."

Kuo, a Harvard graduate, came to Helena, Arkansas with Teach for America and became a mentor to a 15-year-old student, Patrick Browning. He made great progress. But after she left Arkansas, he was charged with murder. She returned to continue teaching him for seven months while he awaited trial. Letters she wrote to a friend and Browning's continued blossoming as a writer helped inspire the memoir.

One Q&A:

When did you first get the idea to write this book?

When I found out Patrick had been arrested, I was totally shocked and devastated, and flew from Boston to Arkansas to visit him in jail. I started writing these really long letters to my friend. They were my way of sorting out whether I had let Patrick down. Patrick was a student I had poured all these hopes into. I had even made this promise to him — and I’m probably more careful now about the promises I make — that I would stay in Arkansas to watch him graduate. I motivated him, and he started coming to school every day and doing really well. So then I decided to leave Arkansas, which is a place that outsiders who have come in tend to leave. Only the heroes tend to stay.
She calls her book a story about the failure of education and criminal justice systems and the legacy of slavery.

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