Vasha7's Reviews > Teacher Man: A Memoir

Teacher Man by Frank McCourt
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May 28, 2011

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This anecdotal memoir is self-revealing but also tells something about teaching and about the people he taught. McCourt has a constant urge to put himself down, and he reveals a lot of not-so-good things he did (the part where he hit a student was just about unforgivable), as well as constant doubt along the way. His past of fear and victimhood leads him to go on the attack sometimes when he feels threatened (he says "I wasn't tough, just desperate"); at one point a boy named Benny "Boom Boom" Brandt corrects him on that with the most unexpected grace. It's true he was voted "Teacher of the Year" once, and there's a few places where it's clear how that happened, but only a few. He wanted the students to enjoy class, and sometimes feared he was just playing along with that, but at places his fierce commitment to freedom shows through, especially in the next-to-last chapter: "From fear to freedom". In newspaper articles written after this book came out, McCourt's students explain things he didn't put in his modestly self-doubting memoir: how he was not only interesting and fun, but pushed students to be themselves, to think and feel, and be free as they could in the stifling high-pressure atmosphere they lived in. Sometimes, he is inspiring on the pages of this book, too.

McCourt has a great gift for writing. If this was a novel it would get high marks, and as a memoir (where you're not sure where the line between honesty, exaggeration, and BS lies) it's vivid enough for a novel.
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