"Told in a humane and inviting fashion, Themes for English B gives us a poignant glimpse into the mind of a man fighting disillusionment with the ideals of the visionaries of the past and the privileges that brought him, a white Columbia graduate, to the halls of Salem State College where he teaches in Massachusetts."
—Robin Hemley, Director of the Nonfiction Writing Program, University of Iowa
Scrimgeour's obligations to his students and his hopes for them glance off each other and sometimes collide with the realities of the classroom: the unread assignments and the empty desks. Is there too great a student-teacher divide? Can Richard Wright, Langston Hughes, or any other writer Scrimgeour teaches have something to say to a single mother with a full course load, two jobs, a sick kid, and a broken car? Yes, it turns out, and it is magic when it happens.
The pupil inside the teacher emerges when Scrimgeour finds unexpected occasions for his own ongoing education. Pickup basketball games at a local park become exercises in improvisation, in finding new strengths to compensate for age and injury. His collaboration on a word-and-movement performance piece with a colleague, a dancer mourning the death of a beloved niece, leads him into unfamiliar creative terrain.
A routine catch on a baseball field long ago, a challenged student in a grade school writing workshop, a yellowed statue of education pioneer Horace Mann: each memory, each encounter, forces revisions to a life's lesson plan. Scrimgeour's achingly honest, intimate essays offer clear-eyed yet compassionate accounts of the trials of learning.
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