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The Water is Wide: A Memoir

4.07  ·  Rating Details ·  14,200 Ratings  ·  1,017 Reviews
The island is nearly deserted, haunting, beautiful. Across a slip of ocean lies South Carolina. But for the handful of families on Yamacraw Island, America is a world away. For years the people here lived proudly from the sea, but now its waters are not safe. Waste from industry threatens their very existence–unless, somehow, they can learn a new life. But they will learn ...more
Paperback, 310 pages
Published March 26th 2002 by Dial Press Trade Paperback (first published 1969)
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Tomislav One of the kids went on to publish a couple of cookbooks such as, "Gullah Home Cooking the Daufuskie Way: Smokin' Joe Butter Beans, Ol' 'Fuskie Fried…moreOne of the kids went on to publish a couple of cookbooks such as, "Gullah Home Cooking the Daufuskie Way: Smokin' Joe Butter Beans, Ol' 'Fuskie Fried Crab Rice, Sticky-Bush Blackberry Dumpling, and Other Sea Island Favorites", by Sallie Ann Robinson.(less)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Alexandra
Aug 28, 2013 Alexandra rated it it was amazing
This is probably more of a reflection than a"review" I read this book when I first started teaching, and my naive and much younger self wanted to be exactly the kind of teacher Pat Conroy had wanted to be-one who worked with children who needed me and whose lives I could touch in some way-only I would do it better of course! My first teaching job plunked me down in a non-air-conditioned overcrowded school in Little Havana (in the heart of the city of Miami, FL for you non-natives) with 100% of ...more
Sue
This is an enlightening book and also obviously the book of a young man as it is at times both overwhelmingly idealistic and alarmingly naive. Pat Conroy agreed to teach for a year on Yamacraw Island off the coast of South Carolina. There he encounters a world apart, conditions unlike anything he has encountered in his teaching on the mainland. He is to teach the children of the island, the people who used to live from fishing but now can't support themselves from polluted waters. He encounters ...more
Chrissie
Feb 27, 2016 Chrissie rated it really liked it
Shelves: bio, usa, race, audible, 2016-read
I want everybody to read, no listen to, The Water is Wide. It is that good a book. There are sublime sentences, most often straight out of the mouths of the eighteen black kids whom he's teaching, 1969-970, on Yamacraw Island (Daufuski Island), South Carolina. Until he got kicked out for insubordination after one year as a teacher! That is told at the very beginning so it is no spoiler. He is a fantastic teacher. He is the kind of teacher these kids needed.

In the prologue the author says how he
...more
Kellie
Jan 28, 2008 Kellie rated it really liked it
I was really impressed with this book. Not only did I enjoy the story, which is true, but I also enjoyed the writing of Pat Conroy. This is the first book I have read by Conroy. This is about the experience Conroy had in the early 70’s teaching in a one room school house on Yamacraw Island (which is the pseudonym for Daufuskie Island), an island off the coast of South Carolina. This island was populated by mostly African Americans. The experience was truly eye opening . It really depicted the ...more
Maureen
Jun 05, 2008 Maureen rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: biography, education
This was the first Pat Conroy book I read, and several years later, I had an opportunity to spend some time on Yamacraw, the island where he taught school. It was a magical place, with sandy roads shaded by great oak trees dripping with spanish moss. The people lived in backwards conditions, but they were tied to the land and their relationship with the land and the ocean in a way that few if any of the rest of us will ever experience. This is an inspiring, uplifting book and I am a better ...more
Jeanette
Jul 15, 2016 Jeanette rated it really liked it
Pat Conroy's memoir of his year teaching 1969-70. It's kids of Gullah dialect S.C. island living who don't have cultural context to the English and other subjects, like American History and reading skills- that he is trying to teach them. He tries to use active trips, other activities which give experience and relate to their family and island life- instead of the usual physical consequence and heavily redundant reciting lessons of former and approved school structure. So he argues with the ...more
Michael
Aug 30, 2015 Michael rated it really liked it
Shelves: conroy
This was another outstanding book by Pat Conroy,he is a amazing storyteller. This book really makes you think about how society and how racism plays a big part in it. The characters were believable and you often felt sympathy for some of the characters. What separates Pat from most authors is the fact that lives what he writes, he is not just telling the story but he actually lived through it.
Sarah Anne
I knew that this was a memoir but I didn't realize it was a memoir about one specific year in the author's life; 1969. He offers to take a teaching position on Yamacraw Island only to realize that these children have been overlooked and basically treated like crap because they're black and poor. Conroy's idealism and belief that right and wrong are the only thing that matters leads to him becoming a passionate advocate of the island children, and earns him the enmity of people who just want to ...more
Amy
I had gotten a copy of this book a while back for a few reasons:
1. It takes place in SC
2. Pat Conroy is a SC writer
3. I like some of his stuff, despite his lunatic family
4. I had fond memories of the movie
5. One of my favorite folk songs is "The Water is Wide".
6. A friend of mine is mentioned in the afterword.

I saw the movie made from this book when I was a teenager, a few years before my family moved to South CArolina. It made a big impression on me, so it was with some trepidation that I actua
...more
BAM
Nov 02, 2016 BAM rated it really liked it
I realize this book has an underlying focus on racism in the South in the late '60s, but the other plot line I what resonated with me-a gifted teacher unfairly losing his job. I lost mine 10 years ago, gosh as long ago now as I taught. It was quite difficult for me to read how inspired Conroy was in the classroom, how much he cared about his students and their minds and futures only to be told he's insubordinate and no longer wanted. "To fire me so insensitively is one thing, but they try to ...more
Rick
Dec 27, 2009 Rick rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Conroy, a successful novelist, spent a year teaching on an isolated island off the coast of South Carolina. The year was the 1969-70 school year and the island populated by highly disadvantaged sea islanders, mostly African-American with a handful of custodial whites who run the island and its limited services. Conroy, in his young twenties, a relatively recent graduate from The Citadel, had taught high school on the mainland for a couple of years. He is shocked by the impact of the historical ...more
Sidna
Aug 24, 2009 Sidna rated it it was amazing
What can I say? I LOVE Pat Conroy's writing! In My Losing Season the way he describes a basketball game is pure poetry. While I was hanging about the local bookseller (as opposed to a book store) waiting for Conroy to write another book, I realized I had never read The Water is Wide. I don't know how I missed a Conroy book. I bought a copy and devoured it as soon as I got home! After having read all his other books and knowing his family history, it was an interesting read. He wrote this book ...more
LemonLinda
Apr 23, 2012 LemonLinda rated it it was amazing
Pat Conroy is a wizard with words. This is a true account of his sojourn as a young teacher in a two room schoolhouse on an impoverished island off the lower South Carolina coast. He made each of these students come to life and I was so involved both in the account of what went on in the classroom as well as what was happening behind the scenes in administration that had kept the inadequacies and inequalities in place.

I guess I so connected with this story because I went to public schools in the
...more
Michael
Moving and enlightening account of a year Conroy spent in the 60�s teaching disadvantaged black elementary school students in a two-room schoolhouse on a small coastal island off of Beaufort, SC. He is appalled at the poor level of education and limited aspirations of his students due to the isolation of the fishing community and cycle of poverty. It was exciting to experience the creative approaches Conroy uses to get through to the kids and efforts to get their parents and school ...more
Kilian Metcalf
Dec 30, 2015 Kilian Metcalf rated it really liked it
I'm having a little literary love affair with Pat Conroy. It started with Prince of Tides and continues with Lords of Discipine and The Great Santini. His is a powerful voice, and I'm glad I'm not involved in any organization or situation that he is interested in. He is a gadfly, afflicting the comfortable. I can see why his strong opinions and vocal criticism would get people's backs up in opposition. He comes on so strong that those who don't share his opinions cannot take the necessary step ...more
Donna
Jul 02, 2015 Donna rated it it was amazing
I love Pat Conroy's way with words. He has such a keen sense of description. He doesn't use a lot of words, yet manages to be very precise in his details. This detail makes his characters vivid and memorable.

There are crappy teachers who care more for their job than the students, and then there are the ones who roll up their sleeves and reach with both hands in order to make a difference. Teachers need to be teachable. Some of the problems with public schools that were addressed in this book, a
...more
Cynthia .
Aug 04, 2011 Cynthia . rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, pat-conroy
It would be hard to explain what Pat Conroy is like if one has never read any of his books. But imagine the beautiful flow of a river; the perpetual dance of its waters and the calming music they create upon their every stroke with every earthly matter. Imagine the soothing feeling you can luxuriate in when you let your feet touch its cool waters. That is what Pat Conroy and his words are for me.

"beautiful
....calming
....soothing
....perpetual"

Melissa
With Mr. Conroy's recent passing, it occurred to me that I had not read any of his books. This one, his first, is a memoir of teaching in the south in the 60s. Much like Gloria Steinem's book from the 80s, his story reminded me that we really have a far way to go.
Russell Sanders
Jul 22, 2016 Russell Sanders rated it it was amazing
During his writing career, the late Pat Conroy proved himself to be one of, if not the, best Southern writer of recent history. His many novels like The Lords of Discipline, The Prince of Tides, South of Broad, and others highlighted his mastery of metaphor. To read a Pat Conroy novel is to indulge in word paintings that are so beautiful, so vivid, that we can see, smell, hear, and savor the Southern—mostly South Carolinian—landscape. Delight in his stories, revel in complex characters, but read ...more
Teresa
I learned things about Pat Conroy's life that I was unaware of. I sure admire his youthful passion and indignation at the inequities in educational opportunities in this small, segregated southern community in the 1960's. As someone who has vacationed numerous times on the South Carolina coast, this sharp look at recent history is very compelling. And, disturbing. How could this have happened in the 60's?

I loved his almost lyrical style of writing. The descriptions of the students giving a summ
...more
Audrey K.
Nov 22, 2015 Audrey K. rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. Pat Conroy tells his adventurous story of being a young white teacher of limited experience in 1969, teaching impoverished and minimally-educated black children on the island of Yamacraw, South Carolina. Integration of schools was new, especially in the South, and especially for some of the crusty old types in the school district hierarchy. Integration was not an issue on Yamacraw - all the children inhabiting the island were black. The children do not know basic math, and most do not ...more
Rhonda
Jul 15, 2009 Rhonda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-fiction
I didn't much care for this book when I read it, not because the unorthodox spirit of teaching was so rampant, but because I didn't think it provided functional answers to the education problem. On the other hand, the creative and unorthodox manner of teaching, that's hard to dislike and I wish we had more teachers who thought this way and could teach in a more unstructured way.
I read this book thoroughly angry with the school superintendent and the whole town for that matter. I demanded that t
...more
Ken
Jan 29, 2014 Ken rated it really liked it
Because I am overly descriptive, I would have subtitled this book "The arrogance of idealism" because it so well documents the reality that comes with facing an entrenched culture and assuming that it can be changed simply because one's ideas are superior.

From a practical perspective I have known many teachers that have faced the ridiculously long odds of administrative agendas that have no bearing on educating children and persevered because they matured enough to persist in what they were doin
...more
Gretchen
Jun 06, 2012 Gretchen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I really enjoyed this book. Mr. Conroy, a young, idealistic, middle-class white teacher is offered a job to teach on mostly-African American Yamacraw Island, an island in South Carolina virtually cut off from society, both figuratively and literally. The year was 1969 and in the Southern United States, children of different races were not educated together. Educating the students who lived on the impoverished island of Yamacraw proved to be a challenge for the young teacher, as he fought for ...more
Elizabeth
Goodreads description of this book is simply terrible. This is the story of a white man, who in 1969, took a job teaching completely illiterate, isolated, culturally ignorant, poverty stricken black children on an island off the coast of South Carolina. None of these children could even name the country they lived in and the white school board in charge of them was apathetic, unaware and oblivious. Conroy spent his year teaching these kids using unconventional methods, anything at all that would ...more
Leslie Nelson
May 01, 2016 Leslie Nelson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
Fascinating story not only about the racial issues that continue to plague us, but on human nature as well. Pat Conroy is very insightful, and I particularly liked how he was willing to own his own past mistakes and prejudices. I don't know what all it will take to heal our country, but I think owning our mistakes and prejudices is a must.
Joanie
Apr 20, 2009 Joanie rated it it was amazing
I can't remember if I read this before or after I saw the movie "Conrack" with Jon Voight but they're both great.
Tiffany Reisz
Jun 16, 2015 Tiffany Reisz rated it it was amazing
Devastating.
Tomislav
Oct 25, 2016 Tomislav rated it really liked it
Shelves: auto-biography
About 45 years ago, a young idealistic teacher named Pat Conroy volunteered to teach a group of kids on isolated Daufuski Island, located on the Lowcountry coast between Savannah, Georgia and Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. After a little more than one year, he was fired for his non-conventional methods and came to write these memoirs. He changed the name of the island to fictionalized Yamacraw Island, and changed the names of at least a few of the characters - but this is intended as a true ...more
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LSPL Book Junkies: The Water is Wide 1 2 Nov 24, 2016 07:45AM  
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Lloyd 2012: foreshadowing 1 10 Oct 08, 2012 03:09AM  
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Lloyd 2012: action verbs, sensory deatails, and colorful modifiers 1 4 Sep 18, 2012 03:48AM  
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Pat Conroy (1945 - 2016) was the New York Times bestselling author of two memoirs and seven novels, including The Prince of Tides, The Great Santini, and The Lords of Discipline. Born the eldest of seven children in a rigidly disciplined military household, he attended the Citadel, the military college of South Carolina. He briefly became a schoolteacher (which he chronicled in his memoir The Wate ...more
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“I dislike poor teachers. They are criminals to me. I’ve seen so much cruelty toward children. I’ve seen so many children not given the opportunity to live up to their potential as human beings.” 4 likes
“Lightning flashed around the island; thunder played its favorite game of scaring the crap out of all the shivering mortals on the earth below.” 3 likes
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