The Road Out: A Teacher's Odyssey in Poor America

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9780520266490: The Road Out: A Teacher's Odyssey in Poor America

Can one teacher truly make a difference in her students’ lives when everything is working against them? Can a love for literature and learning save the most vulnerable of youth from a life of poverty? The Road Out is a gripping account of one teacher’s journey of hope and discovery with her students girls growing up poor in a neighborhood that was once home to white Appalachian workers, and is now a ghetto. Deborah Hicks, set out to give one group of girls something she never had: a first-rate education, and a chance to live their dreams. A contemporary tragedy is brought to life as she leads us deep into the worlds of Adriana, Blair, Mariah, Elizabeth, Shannon, Jessica, and Alicia?seven girls coming of age in poverty.

This is a moving story about girls who have lost their childhoods, but who face the street’s torments with courage and resiliency. I want out,” says 10-year-old Blair, a tiny but tough girl who is extremely poor and yet deeply imaginative and precocious. Hicks tries to convey to her students a sense of the power of fiction and of sisterhood to get them through the toughest years of adolescence. But by the time they’re sixteen, eight years after the start of the class, the girls are experiencing the collision of their youthful dreams with the pitfalls of growing up in chaotic single-parent families amid the deteriorating cityscape. Yet even as they face disappointments and sometimes despair, these girls cling to their desire for a better future. The author’s own life story from a poorly educated girl in a small mountain town to a Harvard-educated writer, teacher, and social advocate infuses this chronicle with a message of hope.

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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

About the Author:

Deborah Hicks has written about the lives of children for two decades. She works in the Program in Education at Duke University and directs an educational program for girls in Appalachia.

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