While the title might make listeners think this is a work of humor, the reality is more interesting. This is an honest and reflective account of what it's like for an earnest white woman from the suburbs to teach public high school in the Bronx. There's no narrative of the "hero teacher" here, but a frank account of what it's like teaching in the midst of drugs, gangs, abusive relationships, and cockroaches. Despite it all, author Ilana Garon makes real connections with her students, and listeners will enjoy watching her grow in empathy and wisdom. Narrator Romy Nordlinger does a great job bringing Garon to life, and capturing the variety of beautiful and challenging students she meets.
The true story of a young teacher attempting to change lives in a troubled educational system. According to Ilana Garon, popular books and movies are inundated with the myth of the "hero teacher" - the one who charges headfirst into dysfunctional inner-city schools like a firefighter into an inferno, bringing the student victims to safety through a combination of charisma and innate righteousness. The students are then "saved" by the teacher’s idealism, empathy, and faith. This is not that type of book.
Here, Garon reveals the sometimes humorous, oftentimes frustrating, and occasionally horrifying truths that accompany the experience of teaching at a public high school in the Bronx. The overcrowded classrooms, lack of textbooks, and abundance of mice, cockroaches, and drugs weren’t the only challenges Garon faced during her first four years as a teacher. Every day, she’d interact with students dealing with addiction, miscarriages, stints in "juvie", abusive relationships, and gang violence. These students brought with them big dreams and uncommon insight - and challenged everything Garon thought she knew about education.
In response, Garon - a naive, suburban girl with a curly ponytail, freckles, and Harry Potter glasses - opened her eyes, rolled up her sleeves, and learned to distinguish between mitigated failure and qualified success. In this book, Garon explains how she realized that being a new teacher was about trial by fire, making mistakes, learning from the very students she was teaching, and occasionally admitting that she may not have answers to their thought-provoking (and amusing) questions.
Any additional comments?
...what more could you ask for from a book? Okay, perhaps insightful analyses as well as commentary on the human condition -- but these are present as well, in superb form.
By turns hilarious, horrific, and suspenseful, this book sucks you in such that you forget that you're reading and are wholly transported into the author's world. For me, immersion is the single most important criteria for measuring the success of any artistic work in any medium -- and this book is absolutely immersive, beyond a shadow of a doubt. Highly recommended.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
I loved this. so much going on in the visualization and deep dive into the characters was really great. I want to hear more!
Any additional comments?
The narrator was really lacking and her impersonations of Garon's black and brown students' voices were poorly done and frankly offensive.
What did you love best about Why Do Only White People Get Abducted by Aliens??
Disclaimer: Ilana and I went to college together.
This book is hilarious--Ilana writes with an irresistible combination of dry wit and humbleness that keeps the pages turning in a way that I rarely encounter with non-fiction. She paints such vivid pictures of her students, and you can almost hear their voices. The depth of feeling that she has for even the most challenging ones is unbelievably touching.
Teaching memoirs can tend to be a compendium of coming-of-age stories for the students that cross the teacher's path; this is essentially a coming-of-age story for Ilana herself as a teacher, and it is masterfully constructed.
Have you listened to any of Romy Nordlinger’s other performances before? How does this one compare?
No, but it would have been nice if she had learned to pronounce the author's name correctly.
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
I actually loved the fact that the book was broken up into vignettes about the various students that have defined Ilana's teaching experience. It was easy to set the book down and then come back to it the next time there was a patch of time.
0 of 4 people found this review helpful