Anyone who's been lucky enough to have a really good teacher knows how inspiring they can be and what a gift it is to be in their classroom. So I expe...moreAnyone who's been lucky enough to have a really good teacher knows how inspiring they can be and what a gift it is to be in their classroom. So I expected a book that collects the stories of 50 "extraordinary" teachers to be similarly inspiring. Unfortunately, this book didn't exactly inspire me. Each teacher gets 3 or 4 pages in which to tell their story, and they are all informative in their own way, but it's clear that simple words on a page aren't the best medium for most of these teachers. This should come as no surprise, as it's their dynamic natures and imaginative thinking that have earned them their "extraordinary" label. Most of the teachers couldn't be clearer in their belief that you must teach to the student, and not to the test, and meeting the needs of each student in their classroom requires more energy and enthusiasm than can be demonstrated between the pages of a book. But there is one thing that they all communicated clearly: the best teachers are the ones who have a passion for the profession, and every person included in this book has that passion in spades.(less)
It may be a cliche to say that you laughed so hard you cried, except that I did while reading this book. Several times. Greene tells the story of how...moreIt may be a cliche to say that you laughed so hard you cried, except that I did while reading this book. Several times. Greene tells the story of how her family created itself with such wonderful humor that you can't help but fall in love with them all.
Of course, a book like this can't be all sunshine and smiles, and Greene doesn't pull her punches when relating stories of family tribulation. Nor does she leave us in any doubt that children around the world face horrifying poverty and hunger every day.
If this book has a flaw, it's that it's a little uneven. In the midst of discussing the process of adopting one child, the narrative jumps back to relate an anecdote involving an older child, or Green's own childhood. These leaps never detract from the overall story, but the transitions are sometimes jarring.
Another cliche: this book is both hysterical and heartbreaking. But mostly it is about how family bonds are about love and effort more than blood.(less)
When reading a book written some time ago, it's important to remember that standards and tastes may have been different back then. Such is the case he...moreWhen reading a book written some time ago, it's important to remember that standards and tastes may have been different back then. Such is the case here. It's entirely possible (in this case, likely) that this book was considered eminently readable when it was published in 1927, but today's readers might find it somewhat more difficult.
Asbury presents us with a dizzying array of names of people (real names, pseudonyms, and nicknames) and places (modern and historical), barely pausing for breath, let alone meaningful distinction among them (I lost count of the number of gangsters described as "huge"). A map would have been nice, and a cast of characters even better.
Anecdotes are piled one on top of another, with little or no explanation as to why any of them are important or how any of them are connected. And each one is more sensationalistic than the last, making me wonder where Asbury got his information from. A bibliography is appended at the end of the book, but it's impossible to tell which stories he got from which sources (and, indeed, which came from "personal interviews" with criminals and police officers). So, as hard a time as I had just wading through the mass of details, I almost had an even harder time believing them. (less)
What an amazing, amazing book. I had to keep reminding myself that it was about real people!
In this, her second memoir, Janice tells the story of volu...moreWhat an amazing, amazing book. I had to keep reminding myself that it was about real people!
In this, her second memoir, Janice tells the story of volunteering at the shelter she lived in briefly as a teenage and of meeting Sam. Although the relationship she forms with Sam may ultimately have been good for her, showing her that she had internal strength she would never have guessed out. It makes for a very powerful story.
I think the most interesting part of this book was Janice's honesty about her negative feelings toward Sam. To be able to say that you're angry at a person in Sam's position takes a lot of strength. The same to admit that you have doubts about the truth of what someone you care about says to you.
And this is a memoir that is easy to read. One might always be skeptical of the claim that a memoir reads like a novel, but in this case, I found that it did. I was drawn in from the very beginning, and ended the book hoping that Ms. Erlbaum will write another memoir in the future.(less)
Here’s an interesting technique of historiography: match up pairs of historical figures, making sure that in each pair you agree with one, and disagre...moreHere’s an interesting technique of historiography: match up pairs of historical figures, making sure that in each pair you agree with one, and disagree with the other. Then praise the one in almost every way, while denigrating the other. Lastly, declare that the first was on the side of truth and justice, while the other was merely self-serving. Rosen applies this rubric to pairs of Supreme Court Justices through the ages (although, oddly, he pairs John Marshall with Thomas Jefferson, who of course was never on the Court). Rosen is somewhat ambivalent about the actual role of truth and justice on the Court, but he pulls no punches in proclaiming his thesis that a jurist who looks only to his own legacy will, in the end, have a very poor legacy indeed. He holds in high regard those Justices who essentially play along to get along, and work toward consensus and unity on the Court (he includes Marshall, Harlan, Black, and Rehnquist as the more collegial Justices), rather than those Justices who carve their own jurisprudential path and stick to it (Jefferson, Holmes, Douglas, and Scalia get labeled as “ideologues” under this rubric). Rosen’s thesis may seem unbiased, but he doesn’t give us enough of a reason to believe that consensus is a virtue in its own right. As hard as it is to come down on the same side of any issue as Justice Scalia, I find myself wondering if developing a clear and consistent legal theory, and then applying it fairly, isn’t more important than trying to get people to agree with you.
Having dispensed with the basic premise of Rosen’s book, I did quite enjoy the book itself. It’s very well written, and the anecdotes about both current and historical figures are very interesting. Any student of the Court, or even those with a more cursory interest, will find this book a valuable and enjoyable read.(less)