The Fall of Rome
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The Fall of Rome

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3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  307 ratings  ·  56 reviews
Latin instructor Jerome Washington is a man out of place. The lone African-American teacher at the Chelsea School, an elite all-boys boarding school in Connecticut, he has spent nearly two decades trying not to appear too "racial." So he is unnerved when Rashid Bryson, a promising black inner-city student who is new to the school, seeks Washington as a potential ally again...more
Paperback, 219 pages
Published June 1st 2003 by Pocket Books (first published January 1st 2002)
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Jackie
This is why I read books!! I was about to dismiss this book because of its title. Then I considered what I would have titled it otherwise. I'm not quite sure, because you wouldn't want to sell it cheap.

The revolving perspectives in each chapter is an interesting device. I found it intriguing that the author chose first person for some of the characters but third for the young man. The examination of both race and class issues was handled thoughtfully. It felt like a movie at some points--in tha...more
Ozimandias
This is a rather compelling novel about three characters who "live at the margins of the elite" by being in an an all-boys school for the wealthy and priveleged, with some "lower class" kids added in to secure school funding. Jerome Washington, Latin/Classics teacher, Negro, as he likes to call himself, can be said to be part of that affirmative action. Rashid Bryson, decades later, is also there for the same reason. The difference between the two, and really the whole point of the book, is how...more
Canice Johnson
I love the set up of this novel on how you had three main characters and you saw thier point of view of an issue and not just what someone thought they were thinking. You have three main characters Jerome Washington who is a black teacher, Rashid Bryson who is a student, and Jana Hansen who is a white teacher. These characters lives intertwine and unexpectedly shows who your friends are and who your enemies are. This book is set in a boarding school that is predominantly white and only one membe...more
Charlene
I enjoyed this book. I found the author's choice to tell the story through the eyes of three separate characters effective. Each of the three characters including a black teenager, a black male teacher and a white female teacher experienced the events in the book differently as filtered by their unique life experiences.

I had not heard of this author before reading an August 12th review of Katherine Stockett's The Help. This review included a short piece written by Ms Southgate. It was less than...more
Sarah Terese *Kili!*
I feel like it might be some sort of curse to give this book a bad rating since I'm a young white girl living in a safe neighborhood, but I'm going to do it anyways. Because it's not necessarily the content of the book that's the problem (even if people are going to insist I'm a racist pig despite that disclaimer) I just didn't like the writing, or the plot really.

Overall, issues addressed: good.

Follow through: meh.

Title to story accuracy: misleading. Very. I thought it was about THE FALL OF R...more
James
So I have been reading a lot of books about outsiders at prep schools as of late. This is almost the best of the books that I have read, but I am still conflicted about the book. First, I have to admit that it was a compelling read, there were moments when I really did not want to put it down. Second, I think her choice of creating an antagonism between an inner-city African American boy and the only African American member of the faculty was an inspired one. Which leads us into my largest probl...more
Liralen
This reminded me somewhat of Black Boy White School, although “The Fall of Rome” was published earlier and is arguably considerably more complex.

Much of this complexity owes itself to the multiple points of view, especially those of Jerome and Jana. Rashid’s story is important, but it’s also the most straightforward of the stories, rendering it sometimes predictable. Jana is a realistic blend of optimism and fatigue –- she still believes that she can make a difference, but she’s more or less giv...more
Continualknowledge
Awww I do like Martha Southgate!!!! But I don't always like her characters and this is one such book where I struggled to like at different times all of the main characters. That's what I like about Southgate, she doesn't give you predictable characters. She presents them in their complexity, with nuances and debatable traits. What I enjoyed about this story is that she presents African Americans not as one monolithic group and does an admirable if not short-sighted look at some individuals who...more
tamia
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
M
1.5 stars.

Oh, if only this book had been at ALL well written. Martha, I don't know what went down at your MFA program, but please explain to me how a book with such wonderful conflicts had to read like it was written by and for a twelve year old????
I bumped this up half a star because the topic is so great - we are in a boys prep school, modern day, and the school is trying to 'diversify' because all white just doesn't please the masses anymore. In the meantime, the one black teacher there has a...more
Desiree
While reading this I was just so frustrated with Jerome Washington. By the time I got to the end though all I felt was pity. Rashid Bryson is undeniably a wonderful and promising young man. His dedication and perseverance were so admirable in spite of the tragedy he and his parents had to face. I liked Jana Hansen's role in the story especially since she served as a counterbalance to Jerome and a source of encouragement to Rashid.

Random commentary:
I see that the Goodreads blurb about this book...more
Marvin
Alternating chapters are told in the voice of (1) a longtime African American teacher of classics at an elite New England prep school for boys; (2) a new English teacher at the school, recently divorced and attracted to (1), who previously taught for many years at an innter city school in Cleveland; and (3) (told in third-person for some reason) a 14-year-old African American boy from Brooklyn who enrolls at the mostly white school after his promising older brother is killed in a senseless shoot...more
Sarah
Very engaging with shifting points of view from very different characters. Shocking plot. In some ways outdated, but in other ways very relevant.
Mia
Having attended a majority white school as a young black female, I found this book very accurate in its portayal of an independent school system and its infrastructure. Southgate had me on edge as I read, trying to discover the resolution of this multiple perspective account. I appreciated the overlap of events and narration. I felt like I was given a supernatural omniscience that allowed me to truly enjoy the subject matter. There are some powerful issues raised in this novel; Southgate does a...more
Jennifer
Since I teach at an all-boys private school, many moments of this book rang true to me. What did not feel so realistic, however, was the character of Mr. Washington...I just felt like there should be more nuance to the character, who instead felt like such a wooden figure. The interplay between the two African-American main characters intrigued me, but ultimately I felt like the teacher's side of it was too rigid to be believed. Good story...certainly would be great for a conversation on themes...more
D.Lee
I'm a teacher, an English teacher, no less and saw myself in Jana, minus the affair with a colleague :). I've had students like Rashid - who are out of place in their own neighborhood and/or home. I enjoyed Ms. Southgate's take on Rashid's inner life. Although Jerome Washington is the central character, I hope to keep Rashid's voice, in my head, in my life as a teacher of many struggling young adolescents.

I stumbled upon "the Fall" at Paperback Swap; I wish it were more well known.
Keeley
A decent novel attempting to grapple with racial issues in privileged academe. The plot and concept are better than the characterization and voice. In fact, if you combined this book's plot with the disturbing characterization of Donna Tartt's Secret History, you'd end up with something powerful enough and creepy enough for Toni Morrison. (Not like she'd bother with privileged academe.)
Shayla
I don't have the clearest memory of this book. I think I dead it during my Admissions days, on the road, because on the college counselors gave it to me. Anyway, from what I recall, it was fine. The reading was quick and Southgate touched on the black experience at private elite schools from the perspective a black teacher. It's worth a reread on my part.
Marya
I'm sure this is a compelling book on class, race, student/teacher relations, and whatever else it says in the review.

Unfortunately, there's also a "relationship" in the book. An adult "relationship". A "let's show the foibles, insecurities, and identity- seeking behavior in a literary way" relationship. Ugh. I hate it when I feel like I have to put scare quotes around what should be common words.
Alisa
The jacket made it seem like an "issues" kind of book, which put me off, but it wasn't that at all. I mean, race was a big part of the story, and of the characters' behaviors, but that wasn't why I couldn't wait to get back to it every time I put it down. Everyone was so alive and so interesting and there was this delicious feeling of doom and collision hanging over every encounter. A great read.
Katrina
This was a really good story. I really enjoyed the story was told through the three voices. I don't think i've ever despised and felt sorry for a character in book so much until i got to know Mr. Washington. He was such a sad and angry man who never really had normal childhood. I hated the way he treated Rashid for no good reason at all.

Sharonm
Very interesting take on minorities/scholarship students in independent schools, their feelings and their relationships with minority faculty. This especially made me think about the role many minority faculty are asked to assume as mentors for minority students who may have nothing in common with them other than the color of their skin.
Malika
I didn't realize how many books today are "noisy." As I read "Fall of Rome," I kept saying: "OH here is where the bombshell is..." There is no bombshell. There is no wild west showdown. There is no great new tragedy. Only an intriging character story--a quiet book that makes you think, even after it is done.
Janea
I love the fact that you get to experience this story through three different perspectives. It brings a lot of racial issues out for discussion without being too aggressive about it. I will admit I cried several times while reading from Rashid's point of view. It's worth the read.
Lori
I didn't even know about this book until the church book club in which I was a member selected it one month. It was wonderful, refreshing and not at all what I expected. I'm looking foward to reading some of Ms. Southgate's other titles. If only I had more time (smile).
Jessica
Great novel about race relations at an all boy's private school. The story is told from three very different perspectives. I've been thinking about this book off and on since I finished it, which is rare for me.
Jennifer
The story of a black teacher, white teacher and black student at a predominately white boarding school. The narration shifts between the three in different chapters. I enjoyed the issues around race and class.
Lulu
Loved this book -- had me look at life from a different perspective -- had dinner with the author -- she is absolutely delightful but more importantly, extraordinarily intelligent! Can't wait for her next book.
Colin
A really interesting story about race and privilege in education, through the eyes of a black Latin teacher. I really enjoyed it, though it's not very flattering to the profession.
Martha
Small book that packs a lot of punch. The story explores minorities who have achieved a lot and those who they should help in their footsteps, but can't seen to do the right thing.
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Martha Southgate is the author of four novels. Her newest, The Taste of Salt, is available in bookstores and online now. Her previous novel, Third Girl from the Left won the Best Novel of the Year award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association and was shortlisted for the PEN/Beyond Margins Award and the Hurston/Wright Legacy award. Her novel The Fall of Rome received the 2003 Alex...more
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