[2018] May The Best Book Win!

Over the past week, posts on my Facebook groups has been filled with hashtags #2018fav6, #2018fav9, you get the idea. I didn’t participate because it would be too hard to pick 6! But then along came a true genius who cooked up a fed-up post, asking us to share our least favorite books of the year. Needless to say I jumped in because that was super easy for me. I even thanked her for that!

Back to May The Best Book Win!

Here are my favorite books of the year. Some genres are intertwined (supposed to, for example, some memoirs are of war and history but I didn’t categorize them under that genre). So to get around that, I compartmentalized them under the genre intended by the author or publisher (“it’s a memoir about war and history, therefore it’s a memoir”).

Here’s the list! For a brief version click here.

Best in Memoirs, Autobiographies

Tie!

I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had: My Year as a Rookie Teacher at Northeast High, by Tony Danza

&

She’s Not There by Jennifer Finney Boylan

Best in Biographies

In Extremis: The Life and Death of the War Correspondent Marie Colvin by Lindsey Hilsum

Best in Current Affairs, War, History

Fire And Fury, by Michael Wolff 

Best in Business

Bad Blood: Secrets & Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou

Best in LGBTQIA

Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family, by Amy Ellis Nutt

Best in True Crime

Mossad: The Greatest Missions of The Israeli Secret Service, by Michael Bar-Zohar and Nissim Mishal

Best in Fiction

房思琪的初戀樂園, 林奕含 著 
Fang Si-Chi’s First Love Paradise by  Lin Yi-Han

You’ve reached the end of this post and the year – Thank you for reading my posts (or this blog). I hope you’ve found what you were looking for. Keep reading, stay foolish!

Read: I’d Like To Apologize To Every Teacher I Ever Had

I’ve written four “reviews” posts over the past hour. I think I’ll attempt another before it’s time to disconnect from my keyboard.

This book. I picked it up because it was:

  1. Written by Tony Danza.
  2. Tony Danza did a good deed by doing what he did and hence this book.
  3. About education.

That was all on what compelled me to read his book.

I am not familiar with the American public school system. What I do know is that they have no school uniforms, always appear to be complaining underfunded, and food in the cafeteria is never scarce. It’s the USA after all, you can’t compared it to Asia. In our public schools (I do not, speak for all), you gotta have money to buy food from the cafeteria. There’s no fees to pay, but if you’re enrolled, never expect to attend school without cash or food from home. Otherwise, you will starve. We don’t just pick a tray and line up and have slabs of food served on them. Most of our public school life ain’t that privileged.

Ah, I obviously deviated from there. Let’s backtrack a little shall we.

Where I come from (I attended 6 years of public schooling before my parents switched me to a private school when I was 13), the government does expel students who do not show up in class as required (amount of trauncy leads to expulsion). Just like the States. Then there’s the issue about counselling. I don’t think our counselling is on par with any first world countries. I highly fucking doubt it. There’s only this much a school teacher can do. You have 1 teacher to 50 kids. How are you supposed to keep track of every kid you have? Sure some can. They’d probably have to sacrifice their own familes to do that.

(I could easily write a post about our school “counsellors”, but since it’s gonna be mockery and nothing else, I guess I’d better just shut the fuck up.)

So that’s one of the key takeaways from this book. Tony Danza does his BEST, I believe, to keep his students together, in school, or help their minds focus on getting educated, reaching out to them before they drop-out altogether. This book is a testimony of not just his own struggles dealing with all kinds of shit, but many teachers around America, heck, the world, even.

Then there’s the stress that has to do with the whole public schooling system. Paperwork. Politics. Doing what you’re paid to do. Not going beyond your limits. Lack of funding. Lack of parental support. Lack of acamedic support. Lack of government support. Bureaucracy. You name it, he’s addressed it.

Allow me to, again, deviate a little and tell you the stories I’d heard from a family friend who is currently serving as the head of a public school – secondary/high school, to be precise. I’ll name this family friend G. If you don’t gasp, means you’ve heard it all and I hope you have since developed more compassion toward society. If you gasp, then I hope you will learn to see reality with a little more compassion.

G told me that many of his kids (he calls them his kids) only gets to enjoy have one meal a day. We aren’t even a 3rd world, war-torn country, mind you. They come to school hungry, and when you’re hungry, in class, how else are you supposed to focus on what’s ahead of you? Thinking about achieving good grades? Understanding the syllabus? Fuck that. (That was me. G has never used the F word during our entire conversation).

When kids are hungry, and they don’t thrive in school, and with the fucked-up, bereaucratic public school tests and grading system in place, as the head of school, what are your excuses if the government sees how badly your kids are performing? What if the government cuts certain funding because of it? That, reader, should be the bigger “picture” here.

Next.

“Some of my kids come to school late. They don’t get enough sleep. When I was first assigned to this school, I didn’t know why. But after some patience and much probing, they opened up to me. Are you ready for it?”

“Sure, tell me. Surprise me.”

“Their parents kick them (with siblings along, if there are siblings. Most have siblings) out of the room in the middle of the night so that they can have sex.”

(I wish G had used the F word).

“What? But why?”

“They all sleep in one room. Mattresses the floor. Many of them rent rooms, because they can’t afford to rent an entire house. And they are so poor that most can only rent one single room. Sometimes, there are seven to eight of them in a single room. No bathrooms. It’s like some sort of a communal house. And this is in the heart of the city. The slums that you can’t see because you choose not to see it’s an area the privileged don’t really visit.”

“So where do these kids go?”

“They just hang around after school until it’s dinner time (assuming dinner’s the only meal they can afford or have together). They don’t go home because there’s nothing to do in the room. What is there to do? They would finish their homework outside, or at school. But the school is shared amongst other classes throughout the day, hence there really isn’t any space let alone enough time to do that. If you look with your heart, you can see them, these young kids, hanging around town. Most have stripped themselves out of their school uniforms. And there’s something else.”

“What is it?”

“Some of them, they have jobs. They work. How are they going to do well in school, when they spend their after school hours working? Some don’t even come to school. As in they skip school, periodically. They tell me, they have to work. No work, no money. No money? Empty stomachs. No pocket food for basic school necessities. These kids, they just don’t, or simply can’t, see a future beyond their means. If they get a high school diploma, it’s not going to be B’s and C’s. It’s going to be D’s and E’s. Not because they didn’t try, but they simply couldn’t try. How is one to study and thrive with all these hardships in teeenager’s simple life?”

There’s more, but this is all I’d like to divulge in this post.

Being a teacher isn’t just about making sure that your kids could read, write, and speak. You have to help them fall in love with getting and completing an education. You have to spend time with them, talk to them, hear them out. You have to fight the system, and hope that the system is all about the kids’ overall well-being and not just the “grades and politics”. That’s what Tony Danza discovered, and damn well fought, and struggled with.

Great read for teachers, although not all teachers (geographically wise). Pick it up. I promise you, you won’t leave without the reiterating the title yourself – I’d like to apologise to every teacher I ever had.