My Family’s Slave by Alex Tizon: A Memoir Review

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It’s been a month, I guess,  since the late Pulitzer-prize winner Alex Tizon’s article about Lola went  viral on social media . His article was posthumously published as the cover story of the June 2017 issue of The Atlantic .

I showed interest in reading his article when it had a ground swell of opinions that he had been complicit with his parents’ crime in a sense that he did not do anything to help her out. Rather, he did so right after his  parents kicked  the bucket. Besides, his article bears hypocrisy  inasmuch as he simultaneously  did hide her existence from his friends. Thus, his article suggests that his family, especially his parents, deprived Lola of her humanity.

After reading the article. I  found out that the “bashers” could be right that Lola had a miserable life with Alex’s family. She served them for 56 years , taking care of him and his siblings without pay,  having no  good opportunity to return to the Philippines as what his parents had promised her. The revealing and revolting   fact is that she was not even allowed to  pay respect to her parents’ death – a heart-rending situation whoever will experience  doesn’t want to miss in her/ his life.  So, who can’t be furious about this unimaginably cruel  truth?

However, the problem with the bashers is that they incriminate Alex in a crime he had been innocent of. Bear in mind that he was too young to understand the situation he found bizarre. Besides, he was too obedient to stand up to his parents who were both overweeningly ambitious.  His father was a busy business man hobnobbing with the elitists whereas his mother an inspiring doctor , striving to get a better streak. He only mustered up  enough courage to defend Lola when they both berated her for not feeding his younger sister. Therefore, pin the blame on his parents who are now somewhere in heaven.

There’s been even a speculation that Alex wrote Lola’s story  for his own interest since he was an award-winning journalist. Those bashers must be deluded into the notion that he must have wanted to put himself on the literary pedestal. Whatever it is that makes them delusional and irrational, in my book, what I see is that he must have wanted to imply that Lola could be the apotheosis of a caring “yaya” or ” kasambahay“. He must have wanted us to deeply understand the sacrifices our “katulong‘, “yaya” , and “kasambahay” does for us. Besides,  I’m pretty sure that Alex  was aware of  that what his parents’ treatment toward Lola was cruel  and inhuman. Thus, I’m pretty sure that what he wanted us to do is to  consider her  as part of the family as to what he did to Lola contrary to the ideal value his  parents  unconsciously  inculcated in him.

Given that Lola had a miserable life with the Tizon family, I do believe that Lola came to the point that she accepted her fate, for she was borne upon the idea that she was a “slave”. She learned to love the family she had served for many years. She had almost stood as the biological parents to Alex and his siblings when his parents were up to their ears in work. Also, I do believe that she was even considered part of the family based on the pictures Alex shared on the social media. Lola had sweet and wide smiles showing how she did not look like a slave but a loving and understanding grandma to them. Plus, remember, her world turned upside down when Alex’s mother was in great distress. Lola was the only one whom she could turn to for comfort. It was like a scene in a movie when the antagonist turned into a lamb, moved by the oppressed’s magnanimity.  In other words, bashers must be  grossly literally exaggerated.

Alex Tizon’s memoir is deeply moving and well-written. It even incites bittersweet memories of  childhood; I was impressed by his scrupulous use of vivid descriptions. Also, since it is a short memoir, he made sure that he was able to write it well-balanced, bearing his award-winning journalistic skills. No wonder the bashers are  irrationally taking it for granted. However, I’m almost familiar with how he circulated the story by blending the past and the present time.

My family and I have never had any nanny, helper, or maid since only rich and well-to-do family can afford to pay their service. However, I grew out of the stereotype that the last resort a woman who is desperate for  working  herself through university or an old woman who lives with a poor family and is expected to be the “bread winner of her family”  is to be employed as “ katulong ”  “ kasambahay” or “ yaya” . So, I never thought of that having this kind of job was a form of slavery. I was just  taught that this symbolizes your economic status in society. In short, you’re poor.  After reading Pulitzer-prize winner, Alex Tizon’s memoir on his family’s big secret, a simplistic and laughable realization came to me that we must,  indeed,  take their case seriously. The word slavery itself has a wider scope we must muse over in the context of  social sciences.

Rating: 4/ 5 stars ( I really liked it. )

 

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Going Solo (Roald Dahl’s Autobiography #2) by Roald Dahl: A Book Review

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“I was already beginning to realize that the only way to conduct oneself in a situation where bombs rained down and bullets whizzed past, was to accept the dangers and all the consequences as calmly as possible. Fretting and sweating about it all was not going to help.”

I liken Roald Dahl to ‘Lola Basyang “  (literally  Grandmother Basyang) in Philippine literature, a legendary grandma who has become a symbol for someone who has many short stories to tell, and the nom de plume of  Severino Reyes, the “Father of Tagalog Plays”.

His books are interesting and engrossing to read, so I never get sick and tired of them. They even make me feel like going back to my childhood when I was totally absorbed in children stories. Of course, he can also bear a striking resemblance to Hans Christian Andersen, best remembered for his fairy tales. However, a childish-adult-like reader like me can still prefer stories which can no longer sound superannuated, old-fashioned, or ancient. I am now in a modern era when literature is no longer what you see is what you believe.

Going Solo is another one I felt that how I was listening to a story teller or, formally speaking, a raconteur. I enjoyed most of the stories, notably his African adventures, despite that I could not relate to what a war freak is blabbering about.

Going Solo is said to be the sequel to Dahl’s autobiography, Boy: Tales of Childhood. The latter one is far funnier but more heat-breaking than the former one, something a reader should be sympathetic to. The former one is more on his adventurous and breath-gasping blow-by-blow account. It tells his perilous adventures in Africa where he survived the wild animals especially leopards and mambas. The account is new to me since I have read a great deal of wild African life. However, some of his stories seem to be hyperbolic and exaggerated. His anecdotes seem to be fictitious. I don’t know if Dahl intended to twist his real stories to not lose his readers’ interest. Probably, it could be a half-fiction and half-autobiography the same with his Boy: Tales of Childhood.

When I was drawn into his flying and war experience, at that moment, I lost my interest because most of the words are technical which I did not want to grasp any longer.  Perhaps, I was not interested in stories related to military service. Had I not read it deeply, I would have put it aside aligned with the other unread books. Nevertheless, Dahl has the talent to turn stories others may find irrelevant, inappropriate into interesting ones. His telegraphs to his mother, meeting with a beautiful nurse, and encounter with the Germans and bandits caught my attention. I told you so, he is a raconteur, indeed.

Finally, what I liked most of the parts of the book is the ending. I felt how a soldier misses his family so badly. In other words, I was not left clinging. I was very satisfied with it. It may be simple but this is one of the best endings I really finished in awe. Sooooo, I want another Dahl’s books!!!!

Rating: 3/ 5 stars ( I liked it.)

Falling into the Manhole:A Memoir by John Jack G. Wigley: A Book Review

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A million thanks to my fellow teacher for this book. She decided to give it away to me as a gift since she saw how my eyes popped out of their sockets in excitement upon seeing it displayed on her book shelf. It was just as well that she read it already. I hope the people I am acquainted with will do the same way. (laughs)

This was one of the local books I promised myself to buy , no matter how hard up I was, when I  stumbled upon how the galaxy  of our contemporary local writers including the writers I consider part of the Super Novas of the Philippine literature such as F. Sionil Jose, Gilda Cordero – Fernando, Jessica Hagedorn, Miguel Syjuco, Lualhati Bautista, Ricky Lee, Bob Ong, Jessica Zafra ,Felisa Batacan, Genevive L. Asenjo, Merlinda Bobis, Danton Remoto,Bebang Siy, not to mention the promising ones : Genaro R. Gojo Cruz and Edgar Calabia  Samar, the apples of my eyes, turned out to be stellar, heavenly , and dazzling. Coming to this realization, I found its price  affordable and reasonable. However, I was between the lever of a teeter-totter whether it should be on my list since I could spend 220 pesos on the other books more famous than this, which writer I had never heard of. Sorry po, Professor Wigley. It just happened that I was not aware of your literary stardom.  Doggone it!  I must have been ambivalent about what local book I should have first read. I was surrounded by books I have never read yet, let alone that I was a “pooritang” reader unable to buy astronomical books, especially the best-sellers on the market. No wonder I was exhilarated by receiving this book as a gift.

John Jack G. Wigley’s memoir Falling into the Manhole is a collection of his how’s  before he became a successful  writer and professor , as to how he took to watching movies at movie theaters and was gorgonized  by  his mother’s being  die-hard Noranian ; how he was born and lived  the dilemma of being Amerasian ; how his family and he lived as nomads  moving from one house to different houses in a year ; how he became an avid fan of Madonna who was the instrument for understanding his sexual orientation; how he fell in love with his best friend- the story that I blinked my tears away because I know what it feels like; how he became a “butterfingered”  fast-food chain crew ; how he was proud to be Lea Salonga fan who was the reason why he fell into the manhole;  how he became a theatre actor and had the good chance to stage at CCP;  how he fell in love with Meryl Streep‘s acting style;  how he had the opportunity to go to America on tour and find his  American father, the missing link; how he became a teacher who can be a blooper despite that he is supposed to be superior and infallible;  how he survived Ondoy trauma; how he became one of the best and respected  UST professors; and finally,  how he took care of his mother passionately. All of his anecdotes have inspiring lessons you should learn.

Personally speaking, the book is intended for homosexuals and for those who are inspired to be a successful professor and writer. As a member of the confederation, I experienced to be an avid fan of beauty pageants. In fact, although I didn’t live in the 1980’s, I want to blow my horn  and beat others to it that I know how Chat Silayan  represented the prestigious pageant and presented herself gorgeously. Thanks to YouTube. Like him, I would also wait for its live telecast and take notes of the petite delegates in  the  semifinals.  In fact, I could almost memorize all the yearly winners by heart. It was one of my passionate hobbies in my teen-age life.( laughs)

His memoir reminded me of children’s book writer Genaro Gojo Cruz‘s Connecting the Dots because both their memoirs bear little resemblance to how they became successful in life. Like Wigley, Genaro also persevered to get out of poverty. He  was so determined not to get dumped  by  his abject miseries in life. In fact, both writers lived in a broken family with this desire to be complete by  reminiscing of their fathers . Both of their memoirs also suggest their intellectual humility; they must never imply that  they are gifted writers. Genaro admits that he never excelled in school whereas Wigley knows his  limitation upon academic excellence.

Laying it aside with the other books on my reading table,my spirit that has been bogged down in muddy despair has been sloughed off. I have learned now  how to be a writer more,  how humanity works, and how I should  love  and be passionate about my work as a teacher.Boo-ya!

Rating: 4/ 5 stars ( I really liked it.)

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl: A Book Review

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I was imagining if I were one of those people imprisoned in Auschwitz, what would have I done? Would have I been able to survive the suffering I could have endured, especially the nerve-racking  fear of the gas chamber? I think I wouldn’t have because I would have been chosen to be ushered into the right path;they would have found me  physically and politically useless, inferior , or undesirable (unless they would have taken into consideration my passion for epistemology) : I am a wee bit skinny-boned and hard-hearing. The SS, a unit of Nazis in charge of the mass extermination, would have given me a distaste look and hit in my flat abdomen. Ugh, what a miserable life species I would have been! But lo and behold, Victor Frankl said that the meaning of life is found in every moment of living; life never ceases to have meaning, even in suffering and death. So, my death would not have been nothing; it would   have been meaningful. Not that I know of.

Victor Frankl , a Viennese psychiatrist and neurologist, recounted the heart-twitching memories he had experienced in Auschwitz. Therein lied the indelibly abject miseries he went through with other inmates under the SS, of how he suffered a lot in the camp   with a meager of food and water, of how he brought himself to sleep with other inmates in one bed that was inhabited by mites aplenty, soaked with pee and dung, in a shirt that was almost tattered and rugged. And the throat-slashing one was the uncertainty, having no idea of when an inmate could be locked up and immolated in the gas chamber… Indeed, a person like me living in this generation   does not have the atom of   imagination of how Frankl’ s  life was a total hell.

From the beginning to the end of his historical accounts, the leitmotif that bore down on me is the gas chamber.( As a matter of fact, I dreamed about it before  after reading Anne Frank’s Diary , of how she ended up in that place.) Whenever Frankl described the story and explained the idiosyncratic behavioral patterns of his inmates, I could not  take off my mind the  chamber which  every inmate at that time  feared most. I didn’t mind the imaginary descriptions  and illustrations  of how those inmates were starved to death, malnourished and thirsty for clean water, pica for nonnutritious food, living with gangrenes as long as the chamber would not be mentioned. Like Frankl’s fellow inmates, I also tended to be paranoid about it imagining how  people found inferior died inside that big room. What a hair-raising and heartbreaking   scene it could have been!

Aside from  his experiences in a concentration camp , Frankl also included in this book  his discussion about   logotherapy in a nutshell and the case for a tragic optimism.

When Frankl was in the different concentration camps, he observed not only himself but also his inmates how they would react to such a hellhole. Most of them became hopeless, apathetic, bitter, disillusioned. Some were suicidal.  Eventually, using his background in medicine, he came up with   logotherapy to help some of them survive. In this therapy, a patient is helped to find the meaning of his/ her life as the primary motivational force. It focuses on the future, on the meanings a patient wants to fulfill in the future.

Before I just had the idea that life is a question of existentialism, but logotherapy  dawned upon me that  we can discover this meaning in life   in three different ways: (1)by creating a work or doing a deed; (2)by experiencing something or encountering someone; and (3) by the attitude we take toward un avoidable suffering.( p.133)

What caught my interest was the real meaning of existentialism which I took to when I studied psychology. I was enlightened  when  Frankl  clearly discussed that the term “ existential” may be used in three ways to refer to : (1) existence itself; (2) the meaning of existence;  and (3)the striving to find the concrete meaning in personal existence, that is to say, the will to meaning. ( p.123)

The last part discusses the real meaning of a “ tragic optimism”. In brief it means  that one is, and remains, optimistic in spite of the “ tragic triad,”  such as pain , guilt, and death.

The  most important thing that I have learned , proved in effect, is that LOVE indeed  is the most powerful emotional element in the universe. This is the last resort a man in dire can turn to , aside from God he/she believes in ( but I don’t ) , in order to survive.

Since it is a memoir focusing on the concept of logotherapy, the book is not as ambitious as other famous ones. I wonder if it could be a hit should it have been written  like a novel.

For the third time, I have failed to catch my dream: to study in graduate school. I missed it due to some personal reasons. I have been so depressed that I  might never be interested in it anymore.To protect my ego from this soul-devastating frustration, I thought that I might just spend my life reading the books I have been storing for a  long time or writing  short stories I have  always wanted to  do . However, I still can’t get over this ambitious fiasco. Sometimes, I blame myself for not being a risk taker. Nevertheless, this book has reminded me of my favorite philosophy that life is a matter of choice; I am responsible for the life I want to choose.

” He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” – Friedrich Nietzsche-

Rating: 3/ 5 ( I liked it.)

 

The Man Who Could Not Kill Enough by Anne E. Schwartz: A Book Review

1919345_10206221091788031_3040929295635042686_nYou are on the balcony, taking some rest   after studying for an exam when you notice out the window that there is a man standing beside the light post in front of the building. You will get terrified when you witness him killing a girl. You will get in a panic more when you see him deeply staring and snickering at you. It occurs to you that the man could be a serial killer just the like of the characters you watch in movies. Then, your hair will stand on end when you notice that he points his finger at the ground floor of the apartment building where you stay in. What do you think the man is doing with his finger?

Actually, this is a psychopath test, quite   popular among my Korean students, to determine if you have what it takes to be like Jeffrey Dahmer. (laughs) Read your answer later.

In the past, to determine if one had the tendency to be a criminal was through the shapes of the skull. Cesare Lombroso, the founder of the Italian School of Positivist Criminology and considered as the father of scientific criminology, argued that criminality was inherited and that the “born criminal” could be identified by physical defects, which confirmed as criminal as“ savage,” or “ atavistic”. According to him, you were cut out to be one if you have the following traits: large jaws, forward projection of jaw, low sloping forehead, high cheekbones, flattened or upturned nose, handle-shaped ears, hawk-like noses or fleshy lips, hard shifty eyes, scanty beard or baldness, insensitivity to pain, and long arms relative to lower limbs. (http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Cesare_Lombroso)However,Lombroso’s theory is considered as a pseudo-science. In short, it has no scientific basis.

When   American serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer made an earth-shattering headline across the globe in 1992, the people were flummoxed how they could know if someone they met on daily basis had the tendency to be like him. They could not get around the fact that someone quiet, reserved like him would be able to bestially kill more than 17 people, mostly Blacks, and preserve them in his own house in that no one in the neighborhood had had the idea of his heinous crime. So, many self-proclaimed experts from different   scientific fields bombastically expressed   their   views ad nauseam until the   people got cross-eyed to whose expertise they had to defer. Eventually, there is one thing they were in common- no one can guess whether a person is a psychopath or not because there are many   behavioral patterns. However, Dahmer’s behavioral patterns were unfairly used as the bases, particularly by parents, to preclude a child’s psychopathic tendency. So, you have the tendency to be Jeffrey Dahmer  if you did or do all of  the following :

  1. You  made fun of animals by torturing them when you were still as young as in elementary because you were amazed at the internal organs of a living species. Besides, you wanted to collect their bones and skeletons.
  2. You barely got along with anybody.
  3. You started  drinking   scotch at early age.
  4. You started to read porn magazines as well as porn videos at early age, so you jerked off many times in a day.
  5. You always had financial problem.
  6. You cannot express your sexual preference because of your conventionally filial atmosphere, so you are in the habit of frequenting at gay bars.
  7. You fantasize people whom you want to sleep with.
  8. You were a drop-out student.
  9. You come from a broken family.

Although I was teeming with prejudice, I understood, with the help of my background in clinical psychology, that Jeffrey Dahmer was both a victim and suspect. He was a victim of what is so-called ‘naked existence’ as how Victor Frankl put it in his book Man’s Search for Meaning, when  his parents did not cater to him the  atmospheric LOVE he wanted to feel and  be exposed to. The divorce and conjugal misunderstanding between his parents also added to the fuel of his emptiness. In other words, Dahmer grew up in a world that he was ALONE, where no one guided and admonished him for his delinquent behaviors. Therefore, whatever the   bad foundation built at his early age was the trunk of his life later on in that he became a serial killer. So, who should have been responsible for Dahmer’s life? Himself  or his significant others, particularly his parents?

I am not a true-crime votary, but I had interest in Dahmer’s life story when my best friend kept on telling me about him. His name became immortal when I found out that American novelist Joyce Carol Oates wrote Zombie   based on him. Fortunately, I found this biography

All I would say is that this book is perfect. First, the author is a known and trusted journalist who happened to be the first one to be   tipped off when Dahmer’s skeleton in the closet was found. Second, it is full of  clear but blood-curdling accounts of  how and why Dahmer became a serial killer- from the time he showed latent  behavioral patterns to the time when he was killed. Finally, in all fairness, it knocked my socks off; I could not sleep at that night while reading it. I made sure that I heretically locked my door and windows as what I usually did when I was young whenever I watched crime stories.

The only thing that I cringed at is the author’s nettlesome partiality for the policemen who were said to be incompetent in their job because they missed the fact that the man they were supposed to take over to the authority turned out to be Dahmer’s victim. She argued that policemen were not perfect   and had no any idea of what a serial killer’s behavioral patterns are. Also, she reasoned that it was not easy to be in that line of duty since they stay up late to monitor around the city  at nights.

These are the answers to the   psychopath test above. You are normal if your answer is that he memorizes your face. You are a psychopath if you think that he counts what floor you live in.

Rating: 4/ 5 stars ( I  was terrified by  it.)

Three Cups of Tea: Young Reader’s Edition (Paperback) by Greg Mortenson: A Book Review

threecupschildI decided to put it in my bag unmolested for a few days before I mustered up enough desire to finish it. As a matter of fact, its edition is intended for young readers. However, I swerved off after having watched the report of 60 Minutes by CBS News about the author’s credibility on Youtube in 2011. According to the news, the book contained fabrications and he mismanaged Central Asia Institute, the charity he co-founded. In an interview with author John Krauker, he said that it is a beautiful story, and it’s a lie. He also added that a companion on the 1993 attempt to climb K2 refuted Mortenson’s account that people in the remote Pakistani village of Korphe nursed him back to health. The reports also accused Mortenson of using the charity to enrich himself and promote his books without sharing the royalties or speaking fees.( For more information, see the news here http://www.cbsnews.com/news/three-cups-of-tea-author-greg-mortenson-to-retire-from-charity/)

In the end, while trying to finish it and despite the author’s credibility in question, I thought that, somehow, the book has a message each and every one of us should be aware of: All children elsewhere have the right to acquire decent education.

I had seen its original book several times in a second-hand book store. However, I just ignored it because I was not interested in such genre yet at that time. Besides, as I have always crowed to the world, I don’t want to buy a tattered book any more. It just happened that I stumbled on its new and childish edition.

As I started reading it, I began to mutter under my breath regretting why I did not dare reading it before since there were paperbacks aplenty. I was touched to read Greg Monterson’s humble life story , on how he began to realize that there was something he could do more than climbing the second highest mountain in the world, K2. Back in America, he worked his butt off to ante up enough fund to make his promise come true. Fortunately, he made it. Despite all the trepidation, he never gave up on his calling.

Since the book is for young readers, obviously, it is light, not that much heavily detailed as the original although I have this feeling that I want to know the story more- in detail. I guess the author may have selected only some important parts paralleling with a young reader’s comprehension level.

After reading it, I forgot the controversy about Greg. I don’t mind it anymore except the messages he wants to tell the world: Education is a human right. Besides, I will still give his two books a try such as his original Three Cups Of Tea: One Man’s Mission To Promote Peace One School At A Time and Stones Into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

               

On the other hand, it occurred to me that corruption is indeed a big temptation to a person who has been deprived of poverty unless that person grows in a home where love is taught as the most powerful element in the world.

In January of this year, Greg Mortenson retired from Central Asia Institute, the charity he managed for nine years. He is now 58 years old . He can now spend more quality time with his family, but for sure he cannot escape the specter of the weathering controversy he has been facing .

Meanwhile, here are the catchphrases I want to dwell in my mind when Haji Ali spoke to Monterson:

“If you want to thrive in Baltistan, you must respect our ways. The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger. The second time you take tea, you are an honored guest. The third time you share a cup of tea, you become family, and for our family, we are prepared to do anything, even die. Doctor Greg, you must take time to share three cups of tea. We may be uneducated but we are not stupid. We have lived and survived here for a long time.’ That day, Haji Ali taught me the most important lesson I’ve ever learned in my life. We Americans think you have to accomplish everything quickly…Haji Ali taught me to share three cups of tea, to slow down and make building relationships as important as building projects. He taught me that I had more to learn from the people I work with than I could ever hope to teach them.”

Rating: 3/ 5 stars (  I liked it.)

Crossing the Water: Eighteen Months on an Island Working with Troubled Boys–A Teacher’s Memoir by Daniel Robb: A Book Review

1457748I have been teaching Koreans for seven years. There are times that I also teach non-native speakers from Asia and Africa. I have not taught my fellow Filipinos yet although I dream of it.

There is a big difference between teaching other foreign students and teaching my countrymen: It is a matter of cultural differences. When it comes to Korean educational system, Korean students, especially in these days, have academic competition. Their parents work their butts off to make sure that their parents can afford to send them through expensive academies and schools. In fact, it is a quite common thing to do that they are supported in school overseas. In other words, what all students are supposed to do is to focus on their studies while their parents are away, busy with their jobs. Consequently, based on my observation, students tend to experience psychological and physiological effects. Physiologically, they are always tired and sleepy during class because they always stay up very late , busy  pulling an all-nighter. Also, some of them tend to have short attention span. Meaning to say, they can easily lose patience under slow circumstances. I have learned that students, or I guess my student then and  I coined it ourselves , “ Bali-bali syndrome”, an expression in Korean  which  means, “ Hurry up!”Psychologically, without offense, some I have taught have delinquent behavior. Some were rude to me. Some discriminated against me. Some played tricks on me. Some tended to get uppity because Korea is richer than my country. So, within seven years, I always have had a hard time teaching my students. Nevertheless, I have known it all along that it has been a big challenge for me until I have learned that the best way to build a harmonious student-teacher relationship is to adapt their culture. I found that this kind of approach somehow works.

Daniel Robb, the author of the book, is an English teacher too. He wrote in his memoir about his teaching life on an island which is Pekinese where juvenile delinquents are sent to be rectified. He, along with the other staff on the island, lived with many kinds of handfuls whose lives have been complicated. He taught them academics, particularly English which is his forte, carpentry, and other household chores. The big challenge for Mr. Robb was how to catch his students’ interest, for they were predisposed to anti-social behaviors.  How would you teach students who keep on cussing you? A student who is always making a fool of you? An arson student who can risk your life while you are asleep? A student who likes to get in high? A student who likes to play hit-and-run? A sexually  preoccupied student? Or even a psycho student? Fortunately, Mr. Robb somehow managed to handle them. He tried to be tough and empathic at the same time. However, there were times that  he could no longer put up with them alike. But the longer he stayed on the island, the more he had heuristic insights into his life. There ,on the island,  he learned to understand the students’ abject misery. Like them, Mr. Robb also grew without a father figure.

Given the book is powerful and deeply moving , I really liked it  because I can relate to his pedagogical dilemma. Also, there are some parts in which he tells about some literary and historical pieces such as on Marxism and Mao Zedong. Furthermore, it is perfectly well-written giving the indication that Mr. Robb is a gifted writer. However, I just had a hard time reading some dialogues with various English accents  since his students came from different regions of the U.S.

In the end, Mr. Robb and I , maybe even you when you read it , are in the same opinion that there are juvenile delinquents because of the familial problems which come into existence at home. After all, parents should be responsible for their kids.  They should love their kids because love is a powerful element created in the universe.

Although Mr. Robb quit teaching on the island, he still represents all  teachers who have the same passion for teaching regardless of money or environment elsewhere.

For  the same theme, I suggest that you read Frank McCourt’s Teacher Man. This memoir deals with Mr. McCourt’s teaching difficulties  in a vocational and melting-pot school.

 

Rating: 4/ 5 stars ( I really liked it. )