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In the Deep Heart's Core Paperback – August 6, 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; First Trade Paper Edition edition (August 6, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802140246
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802140241
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #423,281 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Fresh from a postcollege, intensive five-week crash course, Johnston began his two-year stint with Teach for America, a program that addresses the needs of some of America's most desperate classrooms. In Johnston's case, it's a high school classroom in Greenville, Miss., with "chalkboards so scratched, rusted, and embedded with chalk dust that I couldn't read the boards even if I wrote on them with fresh white paint." There he teaches students who have been through "more funerals than honor roll assemblies" due to drugs and gang violence. The school system's countless institutional failures (among them, a counselor who sells high school credits) challenge Johnston's assurance that education was the "one valuable skill I could bring to Mississippi that she could use." The students' truancy, sexual promiscuity and aggression sorely test Johnston's conviction that "underneath, they were vulnerable... still children." Successes are minuscule and failure is rampant. What makes Johnston's account noteworthy is his ability to move beyond making generalizations about impoverished schools and students. Rather, he takes readers into the constricted and often doomed lives of individuals: Corelle catches up on months of work with a six-hour marathon, but drops out of school; "confident, gracious, and charismatic" Egina becomes the accidental victim of cross fire. Although Johnston occasionally catches sight of a "few students who were trying to work effectively," they occupy the periphery. "In making the Delta my home," he observes, "I found inside her a despair beyond any I could have imagined." That compassion, leavened with good sense, makes this honest and often painful account a moving, memorable call for action.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

A participant in Teach for America, which places teachers in needy areas throughout the country, recounts the program's 12-year history and its accomplishments.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

A must-read for any teacher!
Keith B.
Johnston's novel about teaching in a poverty stricken high school in the still racially divided South is truly inspiring.
Shannon
Michael Johnston is a talented writer, a balanced author and a teacher who truly cares.
Joey B

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Lincoln S. Dall on February 27, 2012
Format: Paperback
I taught at Greenville High School for four years (it became Greenville Weston High School while I was teaching there with the merger of two schools). The author of this book taught at the same school. I arrived right after he left. While he was a member of Teach for America, I was a member of Mississippi Teacher Corps, a program out of Ole Miss where participants earn a Master's degree in Education and commit to work in a "critical needs" school in Mississippi. I taught Spanish and also help Spanish speaking students learn English on the side.

The educational community in Greenville felt very betrayed by this book. I have done a lot of missionary work in other cultures, including work at an inner city soup kitchen up in Canada for two years and missionary work in a jungle rain forest in South America for three years. Experiences like these are very difficult to describe, because it is easy to depict them as either entirely wonderful or as a nightmare, while the reality is somewhere in between. I remember that after my first year of teaching, I was in the summer school program at Ole Miss studying in the library, and I broke down crying up there for about a half hour just thinking about all that I had been through that first year. Going to the Mississippi Delta was a culture shock for me, and in many ways more of a culture shock than going to Africa or the jungles of Ecuador.

We are all entitled to tell our own stories. However, this story hurt a lot of people, and a lot of people felt used and betrayed by the author, like he had an agenda from the very beginning. The students were perplexed at some of the events or stories told in the book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Bennett on December 4, 2009
Format: Paperback
Johnston's IN THE DEEP HEART's CORE is the work of a young man, and his eyes of innocence, his openness about the course corrections he made, and his ability to take the reader with him, make this a very worthwhile book, on its own. What makes it even more interesting is knowing some of the next chapters of the author's story. From two years teaching in the Mississippi Delta for Teach for America, he went to Harvard for a masters in Education, so he could learn more about how to run a school. While there, he co-founded an organization to recruit and train principals for inner city schools. Then he went to Yale for a law degree, so he would know more about how to get legislative backing for education. Then he came home to Colorado and was principal of schools for at-risk kids...in his last position, he took a school which had a graduation rate of 50%, to 100% with four-year- college admission for all graduates. Obama visited his school, and offered him a position in Washington. Instead, Johnston ran for state senate, and won. I am betting he will be in Washington soon. This is a fine writer, a fine Senator, a fine human being. You'll hear more from him.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Gus Huffman on September 30, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I was moved to tears many times while reading this book. Johnston's love for his newfound land is evident and his tender prose reads like poetry in parts. He clearly encountered countless hardships while teaching at Greenville High, but he is quick to take himself to task along with others, which shows his humility. I would recommend this beautifully written account to anyone interested in improving education in America.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Jacobson on May 6, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Twenty-two years old and fresh out of Yale, Michael Johnston, as a member of Teach for America, ventures to Greenville Mississippi to teach high school English. Greenville High School, like many other schools of its kind, has transformed from an all white school in the 1960s and earlier, to now being predominately a poor black school. It is riddled with drugs, violence, teen pregnancy and lost hope.

Johnston tells the stories of Greenville High's students over his two year period as a teacher there. He is able to get beneath the surface of stereotypes and develop an understanding and connection with his students, while learning what it means to truly "teach," while sharing in the triumphs and disappointments of his students. It is these battles that drive to the very core of the reader, filling them with a wave of emotions. He tells the story of a Chico, a star athlete with limitless possibilities who is courted by top colleges around the country, only to be swallowed by the same demons of hopelessness that claim so many of his peers. Johnston also tells the story of a promising young writer who is slowly being lured into the life of drugs and violence that fixates itself among these students' lives.

Overall, a great read, and it reminded me of Savage Inequalities, which I read a few years back and which also moved me in many ways. Johnston has a soft and smoothing demeanor, and his passion for his students and education are expressed well throughout the book. This book does not present solutions, but is meant rather to tell the students stories, and to a degree help shed light on some of the problems we as America still face. These types of schools are far too common and often swept under the rug in America. To look at Greenville High's students in the eyes is to face the reality not just that our race problem is far from solved, but that it is in fact festering in these pockets of abandonment.
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