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Cross-X: The Amazing True Story of How the Most Unlikely Team from the Most Unlikely of Places Overcame Staggering Obstacles at Home and at School to ... Community on Race, Power, and Education Hardcover – October 3, 2006

4.5 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. For anyone who thinks of high school debate and envisions nerdy teens, the story of the Kansas City Central debate squad will be eye-opening. Despite the inner-city school's academic deficiencies, and the students' own turbulent home lives, the young African-American debaters have been able to carve out a sphere of success for themselves—in part by making the racial issues surrounding their participation a key part of their arguments. Miller, a local reporter, spends most of his time with two teams of debaters: underclassmen Ebony and Antoine, who are still learning the ropes, and seniors Marcus and Brandon, working their way toward a national championship in Atlanta. Miller embeds himself deep into their lives and is forthright about how his journalistic objectivity slowly eroded. (First, he tells Marcus not to skip a debate; eventually he becomes the team's assistant coach.) Convinced by the energetic competitions that debate is "the best education-reform tool I've ever seen," he attacks the bureaucratic red tape of a "dysfunctional" school system that forces the students to break the rules in order to travel to out-of-state events. The reporting is both lively and engrossing, and even at nearly 500 pages, the book encourages most readers to learn more about these remarkable teens. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School—Kansas City's Central High is a designated underachieving Missouri school with a dismal record. It has, however, a strong debate team that has qualified to compete in the Tournament of Champions on the national level. Miller spent several years in the city's debate scene while writing this book, although his primary focus here is on one season with the top team. He follows the students as they cope with the highs and lows. To his credit, the author admits that his journalistic objectivity was compromised by spending so much time with his subjects. However, it is that commitment that makes this book an engaging read. Debate on the national circuit is political, occasionally nasty, and as much about style as it is about substance, and Miller exposes these facets, while taking readers into the lives of four teens surviving in a poor school and poor homes. The story is about race, teens, and the art and science of debate; it is also an indictment of public education. YAs will find the lives of the participants, particularly aspects of college recruitment and the daily school environment, as interesting as the details about how the team wins.—Mary Ann Harlan, Arcata High School, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (October 3, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374131945
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374131944
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 6.2 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,537,613 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Rachel Kramer Bussel VINE VOICE on October 20, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Journalist Joe Miller takes readers deep inside the world of high school debate in his first book, Cross-X, recounting the 2002-2003 school year he spent with several members of the Kansas City, Missouri Central High School squad. But rather than focus on the mechanics of the debate world (though there's plenty of bureaucratic politics and minute rule-making and breaking here), this is a story about race, desegregation, class, education, power, and hope. He takes readers inside the lives of coach Jane Rinehart and the stars of her team, Ebony Rose, Antoine Lewis, Brandon Dial, and Marcus Leach. By the end, Miller's given us Foucault, poverty, a shooting, the high of winning and the despair of losing. Also college recruiters, internal debate sniping, crying during rounds, rap music, and travel around the world.

Miller doesn't just dryly observe what he's seeing; from the first page, it's clear that he cares deeply about the topic he's covering and the racial divides in Kansas City, situating himself, a white journalist, in one of the "stylish nooks that make cities bearable for people like me." He contrasts his neighborhood with the boarded-up houses and general disrepair he sees on the mostly black side of town, but the inequalities come into full focus when he talks about Central High School, the attempts to revitalize it, and their abysmal failure. His history of both Central and the effects of desegregation are one of the most fascinating parts of the book--part legal history and part shameful discrepancies in educational funding.

Yet he contrasts these stories with the actual emotions, dreams, ambitions and lives of the students he's covering, quoting them extensively and giving a real feel for what they see as the possibilities of their worlds.
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Format: Hardcover
Cross-X by Joe Miller covers about a year in the lives of several students from Central High School in Kansas City, Missouri as they travel on the debate team. They face racism, infighting from the state activities board, and the choices made by their own family. Miller does an amazing job taking this story and making it accessible to all readers. The stories of Ebony, Marcus, Antoine, and Brandon are poignant stories of survival. These black teenagers compete against white kids from private schools and win because of their quick wit and determination to win. Miller completely changed my ideas about debate: what it is and what it stands for. He includes a history of Central High School, a flashpoint in the controversy over Brown vs. Board of Education and also the site of an astronomically expensive renovation to encourage white families to move to the district. Instead these teens have to face ambivalent teachers, tough home lives, and peer pressure in an environment that expects them to fail. The story ultimately becomes about racism and the right to be different. The only disappointment in the book is when Miller inserts himself into the story by becoming a coach to two of the boys. As an objective observer, Miller was able to narrate a tale showing all of the different sides to these young men. As an active participant, he becomes strident as he attempts to be their savior. As such, the ending is a bit of a let-down. The book exposes the deep differences between black and white education and points out that we need to make a change so that all children have the same opportunities for education so they can succeed. It opened my eyes to the incipient racism in schools today.
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Format: Hardcover
I think that Cross-X may be one of the best non-academic education-related books that I have ever read. I want to recommend it to everyone. The book's got a lot of things that make it great: nailbiting suspense (during the descriptions of intense debate competitions), depressing history (about farcical desegregation efforts in Kansas City), highly detailed character portraits (when delving into the histories and quirks of the main characters and their families), musings on journalist ethics (when the author Joe Miller [no relation, by the way] realizes that he's becoming personally involved in the story) and reflections on the nature of racism (throughout the entire book).

As a debate teacher, many of the details about inner-city schools, their students, and the students' parents rang true to me -- and Joe Miller's self-critiques about his perceptions of the debaters and their backgrounds also rang true.

This book is so fascinating that I carried it with me everywhere so I could keep reading and find out what happens next. Usually when I do that with books, they're well-written works of fiction with detailed characters and amazing plot twists; the real-life story that Joe Miller tells is every bit as captivating as the best fiction.
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Format: Hardcover
I have never before felt compelled to write a book review, but I would love to see this book become more well known and widely read. Most white Americans do not intimately interact with black Americans, and there is a racial and economic divide in this country. This book might be able to provide insight into others lives, and it will bring daily injustices to light. One core American ideal is that of justice, unfortunately as a society I feel we are too apathetic to complicate our already complicated lives by going out of our way to help others. Fortunately as human beings it is difficult for us to ignore injustice when it is out in the open. This book has the ability to change race relations in this country because it shows that the poor black teenagers are actually human beings, they are neither the stereotypical inner city black thugs or genius nerds fighting the man. The characters are real people, and they experience things that people should not experience in a just society. That is why I was compelled to write this review.
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