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Reading with Patrick: A Teacher, a Student, and a Life-Changing Friendship

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  4,555 ratings  ·  899 reviews
Recently graduated from Harvard University, Michelle Kuo arrived in the rural town of Helena, Arkansas, as a Teach for America volunteer, bursting with optimism and drive. But she soon encountered the jarring realities of life in one of the poorest counties in America, still disabled by the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow. In this stirring memoir, Kuo, the child of Taiwanes ...more
Hardcover, 296 pages
Published July 11th 2017 by Random House
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Average rating 4.16  · 
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 ·  4,555 ratings  ·  899 reviews

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Diane S ☔
Jul 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I read, and I read alot, but I still have a rush of anticipation, of wonder when I open the cover of a new book. This only works with an actual physical book, E-readers have their place but the same feel just isn't there. Will this book be good, memorable, will it astonish me, teach me? So many questions. Yet, still I was surprised by how special I found this book, profound, made me think as all truly good books should.

I have read plenty of stories set in the Mississippi Delta, but never knew th
Cindy Burnett
Jul 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: net-galley
While I agree with the many reviewers that find this memoir “inspiring” and “moving”, my first choice of a descriptive adjective would be heartbreaking. Reading with Patrick offers a glimpse into a world that few will believe still exists today in the United States. Michelle Kuo tells the tale of a young African American boy, Patrick Browning, who lives in a Helena, Arkansas, a town situated in one of the poorest counties in the U.S. Kuo is sent to Helena through the Teach for America program an ...more
Michelle Kuo’s debut stopped me in my tracks. All other work I had on my plate was shoved to the side while I read this nonfiction detailing Kuo’s after-college years teaching English to at-risk kids in Helena, Arkansas in the Mississippi Delta. As a piece of literature, this memoir succeeds beautifully; her organization is laced with poetry, and the work exudes a kind of transcendental grace. More than once I found myself barking out sobs at the waste of lives we tolerate every day and for her ...more
Stephanie Anze
Nov 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"This was what reading could do: It could make you, however fleeetingly, unpredictable. You were not someone about whom another could say, You are this kind of person, but rather a person for whom nothing is predeterminated."

Michelle Kuo was an idealistic, recent Harvard graduate when she joined the Teach for America program. A passionate reader, Kuo thought that simply teaching the kids would be enough to exert change. She was wrong. Sent to the Delta, to Helena, Arkansas Kuo is assigned to Sta
Jun 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Patrick could become a writer.

The injustices that are caused by our system’s disregard for black people continue when they are let out of prison because they are still a felon when released and so have not the ability to get a job, rent a house or an apartment and much more, but this also applies to anyone let out of prison. It is as if they have never done their time; it never ends.

What a powerful book. I read it because I really liked Pat Conroy’s book, “The Water is Wide.” But instead of tea
Jennifer Blankfein
Sep 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing

Follow me on Book Nation by Jen for all reviews.

Heartbreaking, inspiring and a tribute to dedication, Reading With Patrick: A Teacher, a Student, and a Life-Changing Friendship is the memoir of an Asian American Teach For America teacher and her friendship with a poor, black student in Helena, Arkansas. Their special relationship is in the forefront of the story with race relations, education and the legal system the backdrop for setting.

Michelle had always
The GR book description outlines step by step the events of the book. There is no reason to repeat that already explained. In my view, it says too much. Moreover, that we are told in the final paragraph the story is inspirational can surely be debated.

What this book does extremely well is to describe in vivid detail the extreme violence, poverty and discrimination that exists in the South today. For this reason alone, it is worth reading.

The book asks if one can change a person's life through
**Note: I initially had this at 4 stars, but after thinking about it more and finishing my review, I’ve decided that the fact this book impacted me in such a personal way makes it well-deserving of 5 stars.**

Reading with Patrick: A Teacher, a Student, and a Life-Changing Friendship is not a memoir in the traditional sense in that its author Michelle Kuo doesn’t really write a whole lot about herself. Rather, she writes about the students she taught while volunteering in the Teach for America pr
Aug 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! Michelle Kuo writes with clarity and warmth about her experiences teaching in the Mississippi Delta and her relationship with one young man, Patrick. She avoids the traps that I half-expected - not trying to force her story into an arc that would work better for an "inspirational" book.

Kuo is a remarkable, brave teacher and writer whose book about a complicated friendship manages to also illuminate race and poverty and education and the criminal justice system. Oh yes - and t
Linda Lipko
Jun 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
By far the best early review book I've received and read to date. I liked this book so much that is is difficult to put into words the beauty of it! Michelle is inspired to enroll in the Teach for America project. She lands in the Southern Delta in Helena Arkansas. Helena is a sleepy town with little outlet, majority of the people are black, and there are very few jobs.

Her parents came to America from Asia. Before arriving in Helena, she read Malcolm x, many books of Martin Luther King, Jr. and
Feb 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
I have read some great memoirs this year written by fascinating people, and Reading With Patrick is high up there on that list. Michelle Kuo spent two years teaching English at an alternative high school in rural Arkansas through Teach for America. After getting her undergraduate degree at Harvard, Kuo was accustomed to big-city amenities and opportunities and was shocked by the isolation and economic depression of her new home. Her students, already kicked out of traditional public schools for ...more
Mysteries, Yes

Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
  to be understood.

How grass can be nourishing in the
  mouths of the lambs.

How rivers and stones are forever
  in allegiance with gravity
    while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds
  will never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
  scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.

Let me keep my distance, always, from those
  who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say
  “Look!” a
Dec 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a story of failure. Not individual failure. Given the circumstances the subject of this book, Patrick, does exceptionally well. No, this is a failure of a whole system, the indictment of a whole country, of a whole history. Riddle me this, what is the point of a country, any country that abandons its people to bear the burden of sins that are not theirs?

Michelle Kuo is a Taiwanese-American, Harvard educated young woman who goes to Helena, Arkansas to teach kids about books. She was young
Jun 06, 2017 rated it it was ok
To be honest, this book frustrated me, similar to how the program "Teach for America" frustrates me. I'm a teacher in a Title I school, where the majority of TFA candidates are sent. Teaching is a calling, a lifelong pursuit. Not a hobby or something to make Ivy Leaguers feel good about themselves before law school. Michelle returned to the Delta to try to assuage some of her guilt for leaving in the first place. Patrick became a project for her but she couldn't fix the problems that put him in ...more
Jul 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Michelle Kuo is a Chinese-American who grew up in West Michigan. I've lived in West Michigan. I lived in an entire county with only a handful of African Americans. I don't think there was one Asian person out of the 40,000. So it is understandable that Kuo grew up feeling alienated, identifying with the African American experience.

I admire how Kuo struggled with her immigrant parent's dreams for her and her personal desire to dedicate her talent to human rights. And I appreciated her honesty in
Sharon Metcalf
Apr 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
4.5 stars
The following words extracted from the New York Times and attributed to Michelle Kuo perfectly summarise her book Reading With Patrick. A teacher, a student and a life-changing friendship

It’s an intimate story about the failure of the education and criminal justice systems and the legacy of slavery; about how literature is for everyone, how books connect people, and the hope that with enough openness and generosity we can do the hard work of knowing each other and ourselves.

From the int
Nov 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Michelle Kuo took a year between college and law school to work with Teach America where she taught at risk teens in rural Arkansas. She quickly fell in love with these young people neglected by society. One particularly quiet young man, Patrick, found a special place in her heart. As she was finishing law school, Kuo learned that Patrick had been arrested for stabbing a man. So Kuo puts her law career hold for another year and returns to Arkansas to tutor Patrick as he awaits his trial in priso ...more
Apr 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
After a slow start, I then became caught up in this story and enjoyed it a lot. It's the author's true story of her time spent in Helena, Arkansas, as a Teach for America volunteer. She also had a slow start there as the predominantly African American students exhibit poor attendance, a lack of interest and self confidence, all amidst an atmosphere of extreme poverty and depression. She takes a special interest in one student named Patrick who thrives under her tutelage, and the two of them deve ...more
Sep 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
In the world of non-profit marketing, there’s an understanding that you need to make things personal and individual to get people involved. Michelle Kuo’s story of working in Alabama with a young student called Patrick is compelling precisely because he exemplifies the problems facing many African Americans. You want this kid to succeed. But the odds are stacked against him. As another reviewer wrote, the adjective to use with this book is ‘heartbreaking’. And yet there is hope there too. And re ...more
Apr 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I was a goodreads giveaway winner of this book. I like to read books about teachers and their students. This is a very nice one. Michelle Kuo went to a small town in Arkansas after graduating from college. She spent two years teaching in a town that was know for it's poverty. She taught children in junior high who were barely getting by in their education. She is especially focused on a student named Patrick. He is very poor a year behind in school and is doing poorly in his classes. She tutors ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
May 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: teaching, learning
This is a book that was written for me, I think. Patrick is a trouble student from a difficult high school, and Michelle Kuo is a deeply committed teacher who wants to change the world one student at a time. Kuo bows to her parents' wishes and leaves her Teach for America stint in Arkansas to go to Harvard Law School, but later learns that one of her most promising students is in jail awaiting trial for murder. Kuo resolves to meet with Patrick one-on-one and tutor him, and she does, with amazin ...more
May 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Where to start? Other reviewers have captured this beautiful memoir so well. I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review. Thank you for this opportunity!

Kuo's Reading with Patrick was stunning.
Kuo chronicles a time when she taught with Teach America in Arkansas and some years after. She is clearly a gifted teacher.

Full of history, literature, beautiful imagery and insightful sociological and psychology commentary- the memoir is truly astounding- it really packs a punch
For its emotional impact, for the way I related to it, and for its honesty & heart this book is five stars. Kuo's compassion is evident and inspirational, but she is also honest about her idealism and her romantic notions about teaching. Specifically, she realizes that education and literacy as the pathways to ultimate success are way too simplistic in this largely forgotten town.
In this book, Kuo ponders the role of a teacher as well as how difficult it is for students to succeed when faced wi
Julia Chuang
May 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I read this book in a single frenzied sitting! (Though I did get up twice to grab Kleenex.) In the opening, Michelle Kuo writes about meeting her student, Patrick, a "wry and pensive" student who draws her deeply into his life. Over the next decade, Michelle and Patrick engage in an ongoing conversation that becomes, for each, a formative moral education. Kuo tells Patrick's story in direct sentences: true to life, often heartbreakingly so. The second half of the book slayed me. It was unrelenti ...more
Dick Whittington
I thought the description of the book was much more interesting and involving than the story itself. I felt Patrick was the true hero and his convictions stood out in direct opposition to the on-again, off-again nature of the main character. I was ready to close the book and give up about half way through, but remembered how strongly I was drawn to the description and forced myself to finish. When I finished I found myself feeling duped and disappointed by the story's lack of delivery on the pro ...more
Jul 28, 2017 rated it it was ok
This is a well-written book with several compelling story elements. I finished the book in one day. And I am troubled by a certain trope. My concerns are summarized by asking: If an African American went to a poor, predominantly African American school (or to a poor, white school!) and did good, would that person get a book deal? How does Kuo's story fit in the American racial lexicon?

The author has numerous progressive street credentials. She’s the child of immigrants and she’s worked at a non
Robert Blumenthal
Aug 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a combination memoir and analysis of the continuing racism, especially in the South, that exists in our country. The author talks about her experiences teaching in an all Black middle school in Helena, Arkansas. She connects with a 15-year old student named Patrick and teaches him for one year. She leaves to go to Harvard Law School, and later learns that Patrick is in jail for stabbing another boy to death. She returns to Helena and proceeds to visit him in the jail and read with him. S ...more
Unflinchingly and unapologetically honest - uncomfortably so, many times over. Michelle Kuo doesn't mince words. Brutal at times in observation and language. I didn't fully connect with Kuo's style of writing, though I will say it is extremely proficient. And I'm not a fan of expletives and F-bombs. BUT....

This is the everyday reality for far more people than Patrick and/or southern Arkansas and the Mississippi Delta. It's the sort of brutal and controversial - don't turn your head and pretend
May 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
I received a free ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

Reading with Patrick: A Teacher, a Student, and a Life-Changing Friendship stands as the best book I have read this year. Michelle Kuo, an Asian-American Harvard graduate, opts to join Teach for America and spend two years in rural Arkansas. Kuo's parents are mystified and question her motivations and long-term goals. Their questions, however, serve as a counterpoint Kuo's questions and doubts about her purpose and effective
Aug 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It feels like an undeserved gift for this book to exist. Reading it, I experienced the kind of warm, unadulterated joy that you get in seeing your own stories written out on the page. A joy that is all the more rare for Asian Americans in the United States, and all the more precious for Asian Americans in the Deep South. Kuo's gift, it seems, is that every friend who has read this sees themselves, in some way, in the words of her story -- the passion for students, a flawed and naive idealism hea ...more
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Michelle Kuo is the author of the memoir READING WITH PATRICK, a story of race, inequality, and the transformative power of literature. The book was a runner-up for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, Reading Women Award, and shortlisted for Goddard Riverside Stephen Russo Book Prize for Social Justice. It has been honored as a community reads pick at programs across the United States, including Wash ...more

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