Small Victories: The Real World of a Teacher, Her Students, and Their High School

Samuel G. Freedman, Author
Samuel G. Freedman, Author HarperCollins Publishers $22.95 (431p) ISBN 978-0-06-016254-2
Reviewed on: 05/01/1990
Release date: 05/01/1990
A year in the life of a dedicated urban high school teacher and her students is chronicled in this unsentimental yet moving portrait. Jessica Siegel, who was raised in New Jersey, came to Seward Park High School on Manhattan's lower East Side endowed with an intellectual heritage of Jewish liberalism that would have been familiar in those same streets a century earlier, when Jacob Riis and others worked with a different immigrant population. The composition of the class of 1988, for whom Siegel labored as teacher of English and journalism, is chiefly Hispanic, black and Asian. Members of a new underclass, they are housed in a crumbling school building where student failure is rampant. As Freedman, a former New York Times reporter, shadows Siegel, we see the teacher bicycling to work each day, meeting with students whose private lives are chaotic, too often filled with violence and loss. We share her ``small victories'': getting a senior class to read The Great Gatsby ; encouraging college aspirations. A primary ``defeat'' is Siegel's withdrawal from the trenches of teaching at the year's end. 50,000 first printing; $75,000 ad/promo; first serial to McCall's, Teacher magazine and Savvy; film option to Twentieth Century-Fox; QPB and Education Book Club alternates; BOMC and Reader's Digest Condensed Books selections; author tour. (May)
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