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On the Outside Looking In: A Year in an Inner-City High School Paperback – January 6, 1999

4.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Cristina Rathbone's critically acclaimed On the Outside Looking In is the story of inner-city kids who come from poverty, dysfunctional homes, and drug-riddled neighborhoods; of an underfunded high school and its devoted principal, who represent their last slim connection to mainstream society; and of a young reporter who, as Samuel Freedman wrote, "offered her young subjects both compassion and unflinching honesty . . . even as she bore witness to the social chaos around them and the persistent humanity in them all." On the Outside Looking In is an important work about American poverty, and a moving, inspiring book about the persistence of the human spirit among a segment of our population that many seem to have written off.

"On the Outside Looking In is exhilarating, mostly because of the teenagers' unquenchable vitality, and because of Ms. Rathbone's lively respect for their energy and resilience. This is an important and moving work, instructive and eye-opening in the most essential and valuable ways."-Francine Prose, The New York Observer

"On the Outside Looking In is a tour de force of literary sociology, a truly fascinating and delicious reading experience, and a work that is destined to be a landmark in the genre of inner-city literature."-Claude Brown, author of Manchild in the Promised Land

"An authentic and critically important story."-Stephen O'Conner, The New York Times Book Review

"Teachers have a friend in Cristina Rathbone, who gives a rich and sympathetic account of the world of a tough urban high school. On the Outside Looking In is a book that does for public schools what Michael Ruhlman's Boys Themselves did for private schools: It gives their students and faculty an exceptionally fair and insightful hearing that never devolves into caricatures or stereotypes."-Janice Harayda, The Cleveland Plain Dealer

Cristina Rathbone has written for numerous magazines and newspapers, including the Miami Herald, The New York Daily News, and Doubletake. She has worked for The Fresh Air Fund, and is a part-time teacher.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press (January 6, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0871137364
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871137364
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,188,339 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is one of those eye-opening books that brings to vivid life a world that you might previously have known absolutely nothing about. This is not fiction - this is real. Cristina Rathbone is a journalist who spent a year as an observer in one of New York's most struggling high schools, one which has become a "dumping ground" for the students that no other school will take. 'On the Outside Looking In' is Ms. Rathbone's chronicle of the experience.
The students of West Side High are deeply troubled. Many are homeless, in trouble with the law, victims of abuse, members of gangs, or any and all of the above. They have never known a world other than the streets that they grew up on. It is evident through Rathbone's writing that she grew to care deeply about many of the students that she came into contact with. Through her chronicling of the time she spent with them, Rathbone shows how several of the kids allowed her brief glimpses into their inner selves, the personalities hiding behind the tough front.
One scene in particular comes to mind, as a 13-year-old girl who comes to school every day from a home for disturbed teens uncharacteristically volunteers to read to her class a prayer that she had written: "...So, Father, can you tell me who there is to talk to when people seem deaf? How is there a river overflow when there's no tears? How is there fear when there's no emotion? How are you a victim with no crime? There is no response. Just dead silence....Where do I turn when loneliness is near? Will the answer appear or will I have to just keep on searching?" Revelations like this are strewn throughout the book.
This is *not* a book about how to teach urban youth.
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By A Customer on July 12, 1999
Format: Paperback
As a teacher, I'm always interested in reading other peoples' experiences in the classroom. In this book, however, Ms. Rathbone seems completely out of touch with any pedagogical techniques whatsoever. She is not a teacher, only an observer, but doesn't do this particularly well, since she intersperses descriptions of class activities with a history of herself and her own experiences dealing drugs. I find her tendency to romanticize students' illicit activities disturbing. I love my students, too, but I recognize their faults and their environmental challenges as exactly that-- challenges to overcome, not to admire and commit to pages for the world to see.
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By A Customer on July 14, 1999
Format: Paperback
Ms. (Or is it Mrs.?) Rathbone's true life observations of high school life in an alternative school in Manhattan's West Side is a book I'll never forget. The characters are unforgettable as well. The situations are so graphically real and sad that you almost forget the kids are real. That feeling doesn't last long though, as memory reminds the reader that these tragic lives are lived in cities across the country. The portraits of these kids lives' are unforgettable, can make you angry at their situation and you want to try to help them out of it. Cheers to Christina Rathbone's professionalism in writing the book and it is understandable that she became part of their lives for a bit. As an observer, what else could you do?
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Format: Paperback
The book sings, though the song is most often as sad as can be. Rathbone fumes and hopes and gets kicked around by an experience harder than any I've personally ever had. The environment in a "last-chance" high school in New York City is not one I would EVER intentionally place myself. This of course is the whole point. Rathbone immerses herself in the lives of the most marginal of human beings...she literally goes to places none of us want to know exist. She becomes friends with people for whom chaos is an everyday reality. Out of her experience comes a brilliant book, one that slaps the face of those of us who want to look away, those of us who are ashamed and afraid to know. I applaud her bravery. It has made living in New York a different experience.
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