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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2013 Ilana Garon (P)2013 Audible Inc.

What listeners say about Why Do Only White People Get Abducted by Aliens?

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Compelling characters and superb writing...

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 people found this helpful

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Awful.

I can't two which is worse, the writing or the narration. This book is everything that it's trying not to be. Awful accents and typical boring musings of a teacher. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington meets Lean on Me, and the result is this hot vomit soup.

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Overall, a pretty good memoir

Overall, Garon's is a pretty good memoir that tends to avoid the trope of the white savior. Though she never explicitly critiques such narratives, given her early discussion of Dangerous Minds and similar movies, it seems obvious that the book was written to challenge the idea that the well-meaning white woman could, through force of will or whatever, fix everything wrong with American inner-city schools.

That said, her prescriptions seem a little simplistic. The conclusion that poverty is the root problem facing the public school system seems uncontroversial, but her ideas about discipline seem to run contrary to her reported experience (e.g. meditations, police presence, detention, etc.), and they likewise ignore the way punitive and carceral solutions only serve to compound the problems her students face. One could point to such issues as the school-to-prison pipeline, for example, but even her own experience shows that students fall further and further behind when they are sent to juvie, prison, suspended, and the like.

Nevertheless, the book is wonderful. It simultaneously comes off as upsetting and touching. Garon is clearly a gifted writer, and I hope to read more from her in the future. As for this book, I would recommend it to anyone hoping to understand the situation of the country's public schools, and as a college-level educator, anyone hoping to understand the experiences of their own students with public secondary education. However, anyone looking for an answer to the whimsical research question Garon borrowed from one of her students for the title of her book would do better to look elsewhere.

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Kids and the teacher who treAts them like kids

What impressed me most was this was a story about a young teacher doing her best to provide a education for kids that many would write off as a lost cause. There are no scenes ripped from Dangerous Minds, or Freedom Writers just kids.

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such a good read!

I loved this. so much going on in the visualization and deep dive into the characters was really great. I want to hear more!

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bleh

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.

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Hilarious and touching

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.