Sunday, July 10, 2005

introduction, paragraphs one and two

Here are the first two paragraphs of the introduction. This is still a first draft. I just had to get something down so I could know where I was going.
The book consists of the entire blog and all the comments, and the five journals I kept over the past year. I also included some emails. Everything is chronological. I TYPED the five journals in!
Here's the beginning of the introduction at the moment, though that changes almost hourly.
I welcome any suggestions you might have. Thank you.

I asked myself some questions to try to get me going on this introduction. I’m not good at beginnings. The most pressing (but not most important) question is, what is it? What kind of book is this? What category does it fit? Who would be interested in reading a book like this? (A book like what?) Even though I’m a teacher and the premise of the book is me leaving a suburban school and going to an inner-city school, and though it ended up involving a lot of teachers expressing some very deep things about teaching, it is not a book about teaching. Also, while everything in this book is true and really happened, there is a lot of conjecture on my part and on the part of others, and I’ll be changing the names of every character in the school story, but it’s not fiction. And though I’m the one who wrote it, the one who had the experiences, the one who kept a journal all year, it is not about me and it is not a memoir. So I went into Borders book store and looked around for something similar, so I’d have something to call it, and the closest thing I could find was the sociology section, where I saw books about racism and the American dream (and loss of it) and poverty and being of service. Then the other day I had a conversation with my friend Mary. She had just finished Rick Bragg’s book, All Over But the Shoutin’, which is about his growing up years. And yes, it’s true that it is about HIS family, but his family is part of the bigger family of man wherein all human experiences matter, resonate, and touch each other. And that’s the closest thing I can say my book is about, an aspect of the human experience. There’s no section in Borders for that.
I also asked myself why I did what I did, which was to leave a very comfortable 12 year teaching position of respect in a respectable blue-ribbon suburban highschool which I loved in order to teach in a storied and infamous inner-city highschool in a bad neighborhood. Wonderful things were occurring at Mandeville. The faculty was like family. I was not bored or under-stimulated. However, every day on my way home downtown, from suburbia 24 miles over a lake away from home, I would see little kids in school uniforms holding hands, standing on the neutral ground curb waiting to cross Elysian Fields, which is a busy three lane avenue, crossing over into decrepit houses in dangerous neighborhoods and into dire circumstances. I knew that some of those children were getting themselves dressed and to school by themselves in the mornings. And it killed me to think that they were not being rewarded for their efforts, that I, for example, their neighbor, was giving my good work to a school 24 miles away across a lake, to kids who already got the best of everything in school. It hurt my heart that they were getting dressed for nothing. Or for not much. (I’d read the stories about Orleans Parish schools. For very understandable reasons, fine, experienced, respected teachers do not want to work in Orleans, as you will understand when you read what follows.) I thought the kids here needed me more. I felt they were being betrayed.


Blogger Nancy McKeand said...

Maybe it is too soon to comment, but I will anyway.

I know you, so this makes sense. But I wonder if it would to a total stranger. I wonder if it might not be better to start with the second paragraph -- explain what you did -- first. Then you could go into the type of book. You hint at what you did in the first paragrpah, but it kind of gets lost in all the rest of it.

7:47 AM  
Anonymous Nettie McDaniel said...

Well, hello.

The ramble down to the little girls holding hands suits me. I can't wait to read on.

7:22 PM  
Blogger Clay said...

" I would see little kid... waiting to cross Elysian Fields, which is a busy three lane avenue,...."

I just heard (or read) the other day what the Elysian Fields refers to. (I just knew it as that street).

You probably already know this, but if not, thought you might find it interesting.

"The Elysian fields were the final resting place of the souls of the heroic virtuous"

More on this:

PS 0 I agree with Nancy - the intro is for someone who has NEVER HEARD about the book. The first paragraph may be very confusing to a stranger. (And hopefully, lots of strangers will be picking up your book).


12:30 AM  

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