Cross-X: A Turbulent, Triumphant Season with an Inner-City Debate Squad

Joe Miller, Author
Joe Miller, Author . Farrar, Straus & Giroux $26 (480p) ISBN 978-0-374-13194-4
Paperback - 512 pages - 978-0-312-42697-2
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For anyone who thinks of high school debate and envisions nerdy teens, the story of the Kansas City Central debate squad will be eye-opening. Despite the inner-city school's academic deficiencies, and the students' own turbulent home lives, the young African-American debaters have been able to carve out a sphere of success for themselves—in part by making the racial issues surrounding their participation a key part of their arguments. Miller, a local reporter, spends most of his time with two teams of debaters: underclassmen Ebony and Antoine, who are still learning the ropes, and seniors Marcus and Brandon, working their way toward a national championship in Atlanta. Miller embeds himself deep into their lives and is forthright about how his journalistic objectivity slowly eroded. (First, he tells Marcus not to skip a debate; eventually he becomes the team's assistant coach.) Convinced by the energetic competitions that debate is "the best education-reform tool I've ever seen," he attacks the bureaucratic red tape of a "dysfunctional" school system that forces the students to break the rules in order to travel to out-of-state events. The reporting is both lively and engrossing, and even at nearly 500 pages, the book encourages most readers to learn more about these remarkable teens. (Oct.)

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