Michelle Kuo joined Teach For America and wound up in Helena, Arkansas, where she formed a bond with her student Patrick Browning over literature. "He had a feeling of being somebody who was often observing his peers, rather than getting sucked into their world," she said in an interview with One Day Magazine. "And he also just was naturally drawn to poetry and writing. Sometimes I had to sell poetry to students by talking about how it was a lot like hip-hop, but Patrick understood that intuitively. And I loved that about him—he was very quiet, very introspective. And he flourished at reading."
Eventually, her commitment to Teach For America ended and she moved away for law school. While studying criminal law, she learned that Patrick got in a fight and killed somebody. "I was devastated and honestly just didn't believe it because Patrick had never been violent in my class or at the school," she said. "He even broke up a fight outside of our classroom because he didn't want to see people hurting each other."
This news prompted her to move back to Arkansas and reconnect with Patrick, who was forgotten in the brutal prison system of the rural South. Through reading together with Patrick, Michelle was able to continue Patrick's education and address some of her failures from when she was a teacher. Her new book Reading for Patrick—an important and moving book about education, failure, criminal justice, and redemption—is a product of this time spent with Patrick.
Michelle Kuo read on Thacker Mountain Radio next Thursday, September 28th. We'll be donating a portion of proceeds to Teach for America.
To reserve your signed copy and learn more about the event click here.