I’m so honored. The Milk Truck is running my post (Breastfeeding Banned at Chain Gang Elementary, except for hamsters) on the organization’s facebook page. What is especially awesome is the vehicle they tool around in. Check it out and learn more here.
I’m a whimsical and somewhat optimistic cynic, so the latest news about the SAT cheating scandal just totally and completely made my day, and maybe my whole year. Sam Eshaghoff–that Emory University student who used fake IDs to take SAT tests (at $1,500 to $2,500 a pop) for underachieving rich kids in New York? He’d going to be on Sixty Minutes! Just think for a moment what a great advertisement that will be for his start-up SAT-tutorial service! This is just amazing. I can’t wait for the football games to be over Sunday. I’m going out right now to get popcorn for this!
Sixty Minutes is on at 7 p.m. eastern on Sunday. Don’t miss this one!
From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
(Eshaghoff) told “60 Minutes” that he believed he saved peoples’ lives by scoring high marks for them on the tests.
“A kid who has a horrible grade-point average, who, no matter how much he studies is going to totally bomb this test,” says Eshaghoff, “By giving him an amazing score, I totally give him … a new lease on life. He’s going to go to a totally new college … be bound for a totally new career … new path in life,” he said.
The Emory sophomore told “60 Minutes” that if he could start over, he “never would have done it.”
Eshaghoff won’t serve jail time. But his punishment may fit the crime. Under a plea deal, he will tutor low-income students on how to ace college entrance exams.
I was very interested in what John Pearson had to say about Chain Gang Elementary, since he’s both a teacher and an author. He quit and engineering job to become a math teacher in an inner-city school and wrote about his experiences in Learn Me Good. He’s managed to keep his sense of humor–his sequel is Learn Me Gooder. He also maintains a website and blog. Check them out. The review below was originally posted on John’s Amazon.com page.
Very Well-Written and Engrossing
by John Pearson, Author of Learn Me Good
(December 29, 2011) This review is from: Chain Gang Elementary (Kindle Edition).
I was contacted by Jonathan Grant a few months ago and asked if I would like a copy of his new book, Chain Gang Elementary, in order to review and share with the readers of my blog. Being a teacher myself, I got a bit bogged down in the intervening time period and didn’t get a chance to read it, but here in the middle of our Christmas break, I was really able to get into it.
I highly enjoyed this novel. It was exceptionally well-written, the dialogue was crisp, and the characters were completely believable. I found only a couple of formatting errors, and most importantly, once I got into it, it had me enthralled.
The hero, Richard Gray, is a parent at the school, who winds up falling into the position of Parent Teacher Organization president. Since this is his story, most of the people on his side (the protagonists) are fellow parents and PTO members. Many of the antagonists are teachers and administrators at the school. Believe me when I say, the LAST thing I want to read is another round of teacher-bashing (which seems to be getting way too prevalent nowadays), and I will admit that I was a bit anxious when I started getting into the “battle mode” of the story. However, this is not at all a work of teacher-bashing. There was a very heroic teacher (who was of course labeled “the worst teacher at the school”), along with several other common-sense, cause-friendly teachers at the school. The teachers and administrators who were “enemy combatants” were truly idiots and awful people. I found myself getting angry at their actions, thinking that if I or anyone I knew did those sorts of things (putting in a cartoon then lying down in the teacher’s lounge, while kids got into fights in the classroom, for instance), I would want to take legal action myself.
I have worked with my share of kids like Devonious, Alicia, and Nick. Obviously, Jonathan Grant has had some experience as well, because the characterizations were authentic.
Well done, Mr. Grant, and best of luck with the promotion of this great work.
Chain Gang Elementary is included in the roundup article in today’s posting at Books Bits that includeds Bill Cosby, Stephen King, Sherlock Holmes, Roald Dahl, Hunter S. Thompson and other literati. (By the way, the reviewer gave it an “A.”)
Review: When fact and fiction tell the whole story…’Chain Gang Elementary’ by Jonathan Grant – “Try wrapping teaching, testing, tutoring, sex, attempted murder, egos, child abuse and discrimination into one book. At times, Chain Gang Elementary (Thornbriar Press) does read like an improbable, overdone soap opera. But it is not often that a born newspaperman turns out a fiction piece that becomes a searing commentary on education’s strengths and failings, while throwing in an extramarital affair and other inducements.” – Joplin Independent
The current controversy (does it ever go away?) over public breastfeeding has now embroiled two of America’s most popular institutions, Target and NASCAR. Target stores are now the sites of demonstrations by breastfeeding mothers following its crackdown on the practice, and NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne was compelled to apologize on his facebook page after enraging many of his fans by tweeting about his disgust at seeing a mother suckling a child in a supermarket.
According to ABC News:
Last month at a Webster, Texas Target store, Hickman began nursing her fussy, hungry infant son in the store’s women’s clothing section. Hickman, 35, said that eight Target employees eventually surrounded her and two asked her to move to a fitting room to finish nursing. The other employees, she said, rolled their eyes at her and gave her dirty looks.
Chain Gang Elementary is not immune to this controversy. In fact, the issue of breastfeeding is at the root of the enmity between two of the novel’s major characters. Here’s the excerpt from the novel apropos breastfeeding.
From Chapter Four of Chain Gang Elementary, by Jonathan Grant:
A week after the PTO board meeting, Rita Malloy accosted Richard Gray in the school hall at dismissal. She wore faded jeans and a black sweatshirt emblazoned with words, PHILOSOPHY: I’M IN IT FOR THE MONEY. “I meant what I said last Thursday,” she said. “The PTO’s goal should be to replace Miz Rutherford and bring the school into the 1960s.”
Her favorite decade, no doubt. “I don’t know—”
“She’s a closet segregationist. Another reason to despise her.” She adopted a pensive expression. “Then again, I’ve hated her for ten years, at least.”
“That long?” Richard recoiled in amazement. “What happened?”
“I was breastfeeding Bertie in the cafeteria. Don’t look so shocked. It was empty, no big deal. I’d been working with Catherine’s fourth-grade class. Bertie was four months old and hungry. What could I do? I took the blanket I carried around and shut the doors behind me, went to a corner, and turned my back, hunched over, meek as a mouse. Ten seconds after Bertie starts, I hear the door creak like in a horror movie. Her. My blood curdled. Hell, my milk curdled. ‘What are you doing?’ she asks, real cold. ‘Nursing my baby.’” Rita wagged her head back and forth as she recounted. “‘You can’t do that here. What if a child saw it?’ ‘Every child has seen it.’ ‘I don’t allow it in my school. You must leave.’ Just like that. That’s how it started with me.”
“I see. She’s a baby-starver.”
“Exactly!” Rita cried out. “You know, I’ve got a confession of sorts. Bertie was Stanford’s going-away present. I was forty-two. Ah, such memories. Did you know we named him after Bertrand Russell? Everyone thinks he’s named after the Sesame Street character. The gay one.”
“You were divorced right after that?”
“More or less. Don’t look at me that way. OK, we weren’t big on formality. We’re not really divorced because we never really married. You must think I’m just an old hippie.”
“Old hippies are cool. Got any Grateful Dead concert tapes I can borrow?”
“Shut up. When I told him he’d knocked me up he said, ‘That which does not kill us, makes us strong.’ I said, ‘Bullshit, asshole. That which does not kill us makes us sick.’” She sighed. “He still comes by sometimes, when his grad student du jour locks him out. What can I do? I’m a sucker for a bald philosophy professor who’s always late on child support. He’s … familiar. It doesn’t seem odd to crawl into bed and—”
“Too much information, Rita.”
“We’ll probably end up together, old and toothless. I hate sleeping alone. So, any time—”
“I need to get Nick,” Richard blurted, then saw the principal approach. His Detention Avoidance Reflex caused him to step away from Rita. Miz R gave them a warden’s smile, as if they were a pair of bumbling inmates caught trying to escape. Richard kept moving, leaving the two women who had long ago abandoned attempts at civility staring at each other. When he returned with his son, both were gone.
* * *
Chain Gang Elementary is available at bookstores and online, in both print and eBook editions. To learn about purchasing options, click here.
Brambleman–my novel about Forsyth County, Georgia, and its horrific past– is in post-post proofreading. One more read-through before it goes to the typesetter/eBook publishers. The eBook may be out in January. Print version will come later. If you’re interested in an advance copy, send an e-mail to email@example.com.