The Road Out: A Teacher's Odyssey in Poor America and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more
Buy New
  • List Price: $29.95
  • Save: $8.01 (27%)
FREE Shipping on orders over $35.
Only 18 left in stock (more on the way).
Ships from and sold by
Gift-wrap available.
Add to Cart
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

The Road Out: A Teacher's Odyssey in Poor America Hardcover – February 12, 2013

See all 3 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price New from Used from
"Please retry"
"Please retry"
$9.98 $7.30

Frequently Bought Together

The Road Out: A Teacher's Odyssey in Poor America + Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It
Price for both: $37.20

Buy the selected items together


Looking for the Audiobook Edition?
Tell us that you'd like this title to be produced as an audiobook, and we'll alert our colleagues at If you are the author or rights holder, let Audible help you produce the audiobook: Learn more at

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 294 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (February 12, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520266498
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520266490
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.9 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #698,671 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“It’s become a standard book and movie trope: An idealistic teacher walks into a classroom of hardened, at-risk students and strives to reach them.But the outlines of the story, while familiar, can still surprise and inspire.”
(Boston Globe Book Section 2013-03-02)

“A valuable look at the intellectual lives (and fragile potential) of girls buffeted by American social realities, and an excellent reflection on the challenges of teaching.”
(Kirkus Reviews 2013-01-03)

From the Inside Flap

"I was one of those girls reading books the librarians hesitated to let me carry away, but taking from those books the resilience and strength necessary to change my life. Reading The Road Out, I was taken back to my own teenage years in the best way possible. From a place where hope seems almost impossible, we find more than hope—we find inspiration. Read this book, it is a cure for what I sometimes think is the only unforgivable sin—despair."—Dorothy Allison, author of Bastard Out of Carolina

"The Road Out is vital and enriching. I think it's an important book that should be required reading for every American who's concerned with education of the poorest and most forgotten in our society. The stories [in this book] filled me with outrage and sorrow. But there's hope here, as well, and with more teachers like Deborah Hicks, perhaps that ray of hope will grow to a beam...and then to a flood." —Stephen King

The Road Out is a moving testament to the power of fiction and friendship—as compassionate teacher Deborah Hicks gently leads us into the lives of a group of at-risk girls growing up in a white Appalachian ghetto in Cincinnati. Here are the girls who fall through all the cracks: poor, often all but abandoned, coming of age in the toughest of circumstances, yet filled with dreams nonetheless. This is an extraordinary, eye-opening, riveting book about hidden girlhoods, and real girls who will stay with you forever. Wonderful writing, astute social commentary, full of heart. A beautiful and very important book.”—Lee Smith, author of The Last Girls among other novels

"A wrenching, extraordinary tale. The Road Out is not a story of victims, but a story of passion and literacy. With abundant authority and vulnerability, Hicks uncovers unexpected insights and offers new ways to bring a love of reading along with some hope into the far corners of urban lives on the margins."—Carol Stack, author of All Our Kin and Call To Home

"This stunning book will open your eyes and break your heart. Reminiscent of Robert Coles' magisterial Children of Crisis, The Road Out is the best book I've read on the inner lives of working-class girls."—Mike Rose, author of Back to School: Why Everyone Deserves a Second Chance at Education

"The Road Outis a powerful, beautifully written memoir. The author is a remarkable teacher who recounts how she struggled to use her love of literacy to help young girls in Appalachia confront the devastating forces of rural poverty that she herself faced as a child. Like all great works of literature, it tells us as much about the author and her own continuous learning experiences as it does about the remarkable girls whose stories she tells. The Road Out is ultimately a story of hope and a vindication of courage. It is also a warning shot for school reformers who preach simplistic answers to the question of how schools can deal with the impact of poverty on learning."—Edward Fiske, former Education Editor of The New York Times, and editor of the The Fiske Guide to Colleges

More About the Author

Discover books, learn about writers, read author blogs, and more.

Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
Share your thoughts with other customers

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Jude on January 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Road Out vividly brings to life the stories of adolescent girls in Cincinnati's Appalachian ghetto. Their stories are little known, but they deserve to be famous. Reading The Road Out we come to understand in human terms the breadth and depth of problems confronting the lives of the unknown poor: parents too self-absorbed or drug addicted to raise their children, schools lacking resources or unable to see their students' potential, neighborhoods that offer those who live there little more than drugs and fights. The author ties the girls' histories to her own struggle to redeem herself from the poverty of circumstance and opportunity of her own Appalachian childhood. The prose is lively and page turning. For those who think education is all about raising test scores, Hicks illustrates how literature, the pleasure of reading, can provide a road out, a stimulus for wanting to learn. The girls are heartbreaking, but they're also so very alive--smart, sassy, resilient, and surprising. It's a book to savor and remember.
2 Comments Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Lou pendergrast on February 12, 2013
Format: Hardcover
"When I was a young girl growing up in a sleepy Appalachian paper mill town, I had a lot of dreams for a girl with limited opportunity. Probably the biggest of all my dreams was just to get away from where I was."

This is the opening testament of the author who set on a road to do that very same thing for a group of unfortunate girls that reside in conditions more darker and truer than fiction, this dilemma is a common and increasing reality of our modern age.

She goes on to write in her introduction.

"My own life journey, from a poorly educated girl in a small mountain town to a Harvard educated writer, teacher, and social advocate is one message of hope. But then so are the stories of seven determined girls who were every bit as gifted and promising as I once was. Each different, but all steadfast in their desire for a better life than the one they had inherited. These daughters and granddaughters of southern Appalachian workers have grit and resolve, but they need much more if they are to succeed in our new unforgiving economy. The stories that follow provide a chronicle of one teacher's odyssey in poor America, and of the pitfalls and possibilities that arose along a road carved out of simple materials: literature, reading and stories of childhood dreams."

I fitting account of the tragedy and triumph that resides in these pages touching and awe inspiring. A teacher, a heroine, equipped with a pencil, a sword of victory.
With hope and belief in oneself on a journey, a road on out to a greater good, the pen could be mightier against the sword/destroyers of dreams.
A true story to read, that may inspire many.
Read more ›
3 Comments Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Cecilia Rose on July 28, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Deborah Hicks's book is a kind of "education memoir" about a special after-school reading program Hicks created for six disadvantaged girls in Cincinnati. Hicks details the lives of her students, drawing parallels with her own childhood in Appalachia, and intersperses the girls' stories with details of her literature-based curriculum and its effects upon the girls' emerging self-awareness. Between the lines is a veiled critique of the national high-stakes testing policies initiated under No Child Left Behind, with the implication that not only does "teaching to the test" deprive students (especially poor students) of valuable instructional time, but also that standardized tests are unequipped to accurately measure real intelligence. Hicks begins her after-school program in the hope of showing these poor young girls a "road out" of their bleak lives, a road paved by literature. Sadly, though perhaps predictably, Hicks's efforts and commitments do not bear the fruit she had hoped for.

Hicks is clearly not only a compassionate person, but also a creative and inspired teacher with a unique understanding of the lives of her students, who are one generation removed from rural Appalachia and now live in a white urban ghetto. But her book, I feel does not go far enough. She muses throughout the book about the possible reasons that she was able to get out of Appalachia and go to an Ivy League school while her charges are not, but she never mentions the most obvious reasons of all: her parents were married; they were not addicted to drugs; and her father had a job. Hicks's family was stable, in spite of the fact that is was not, as she suggests, happy, and this kind of stability is as foreign to the chaotic lives of her young students as the moon.
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Marianne M. Davis on May 10, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I cannot choose the blue star for "I hate it", but also I hesitate to choose "it's okay".

Deborah should think about writing novels. She writes well. She has demonstrated her ability to describe settings. I am not so sure that her work with those girls of poverty served to assist them in coping with the realities of their situation. I have to think that if she had had more knowledge of how to lead a group of pubescent young women on issues of absence of mothering and their dawning sexuality, they could have been more wary of their chosen ways of socialization. I wonder if she had enlightened them on ways to prevent early pregnancy would have improved their chances to "get out". Research data indicate that early pregnancy is one of the factors of cause in perpetuating poverty. Had Deborah achieved a degree in counseling teens prior to this longitudinal study perhaps the results would have been different.

The title told me that the book would show how she led the girls out of their community and into a "better life". I do not think that the book achieved that goal. I believe that all that happened was that the girls repeated the pattern set by the values and expectations of the community. I was left with the sinking feeling that her years with those girls failed to produce the results that she thought they would. It would seem that the goals she tried to help the girls set for themselves evaporated in the heat of teenage passion!
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again