Why Do Only White People Get Abducted by Aliens? (Hardcover)

Teaching Lessons from the Bronx

By Ilana Garon

Skyhorse, 9781626361133, 256pp.

Publication Date: September 1, 2013

List Price: 24.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.

Description

According to Ilana Garon, popular books and movies are inundated with the myth of the “hero teacher”—the one who charges headfirst into dysfunctional inner city schools like a firefighter into an inferno, bringing the student victims to safety through a combination of charisma and innate righteousness. The students are then “saved” by the teacher’s idealism, empathy, and willingness to put faith in kids who have been given up on by society as a whole.“Why Do Only White People Get Abducted by Aliens?” is not that type of book.
In this book, Garon reveals the sometimes humorous, oftentimes frustrating, and occasionally horrifying truths that accompany the experience of teaching at a public high school in the Bronx today. The overcrowded classrooms, lack of textbooks, and abundance of mice, cockroaches, and drugs weren’t the only challenges Garon faced during her first four years as a teacher. Every day, she’d interact with students such as Kayron, Carlos, Felicia, Jonah, Elizabeth, and Tonya—students dealing with real-life addictions, miscarriages, stints in “juvie,” abusive relationships, turf wars, and gang violence. These students also brought with them big dreams and uncommon insight—and challenged everything Garon thought she knew about education.
In response, Garon—a naive, suburban girl with a curly ponytail, freckles, and Harry Potter glasses—opened her eyes, rolled up her sleeves, and learned to distinguish between mitigated failure and qualified success. In this book, Garon explains how she learned that being a new teacher was about trial by fire, making mistakes, learning from the very students she was teaching, and occasionally admitting that she may not have answers to their thought-provoking (and amusing) questions.


About the Author

Ilana Garon is an English teacher at a public high school in the Bronx, New York, and holds master’s degrees in both secondary English education and fine arts. Throughout the past ten years, she has taught every level of high school English, from ESL to AP, and even math in emergency situations. She also writes about education issues for Dissent Magazine, Huffington Post, and Education Week. Ilana lives in New York City.


Praise For Why Do Only White People Get Abducted by Aliens?: Teaching Lessons from the Bronx

From Publishers Weekly
Part memoir and part sociology study on the lives of teenagers, Garon reflects on her first four years teaching at a public high school in the Bronx. The title is taken from a student's suggestion for a research topic. Amidst her Garon finds herself sobering up a smart but troubled student when he comes to class drunk, helping a young girl in an abusive co-dependent relationship, and grappling with the "polite way to ask someone if they are in a gang." She profiles the troublemakers like the arrogant Kayron who alternates between tormenting and admiring Garon, along with the hard-luck cases like Felicia, a tremendously smart and wildly charismatic student who is self-mutilating. Then there are the more uplifting stories like Callum, the bright but apathetic student Garon forms a strong bond with, staying in touch through his college years and helping him find work as a journalist. As Garon writes in her introduction, this book is not about the "myth of the ˜hero teacher'" changing the lives of inner city kids, though she does do that, nor is it "a scathing indictment" of the education system. It is that refreshing lack of agenda and Garon's self-awareness that makes this book charming and raw in its honesty. (Sept.)

Review
“Ilana Garon writes with radical honesty and bountiful compassion about her experience as a teacher in a Bronx high school—and about the students she came to know. Anyone who thinks that what these students need is more tests should be required to read this book. In fact, we all need to go to school with Ilana Garon.” (Michael Walzer, professor emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study)

“This irresistible, passionate, hilariously funny look at a young teacher and her surprisingly lovable students lights up the landscape of recent writing about American education.” (Susan Cheever)

“Ilana Garon starts by assuring readers this is not just another hero-teacher book, and this talented writer makes good on her promise. With striking honesty and wit, she tells a story about learning to embrace imperfection: her school’s, her students’, the system’s, and mostly her own. In doing so, she captures the essence of a teacher’s journey—from naive beginnings to dashed hopes to ultimately hard-earned wisdom. The best part is that, all along, it’s a joy to read.” (Liana Heitin, associate editor of Education Week Teacher)

“Ilana Garon’s wise and vivid narrative about her experiences in a working-class high school cuts through all the talk about 'reform' to reveal what it really means to be a good teacher. This is a book that anyone who cares about American education should read.” (Michael Kazin, editor of Dissent Magazine and professor of history, Georgetown University)

“In her beautifully written Why Do Only White People Get Abducted By Aliens?, Ilana Garon brings us inside the New York City public school system by taking us inside the heads and hearts of her pupils. The result is a riveting, firsthand account of what teachers, trying to help our most at-risk students, can do to make their students’ lives better. Not since Jonathan Kozol’s 1967 classic, Death at an Early Age have we had such an important report on the day-to-day workings of an urban school.” (Nicolaus Mills, Sarah Lawrence College, author of The Triumph of Meanness: America’s War Against Its Better Self)

“With honesty and refreshing straightforwardness, Garon delivers true stories of her time spent in high school classrooms in the Bronx. . . . A gritty and candid exposé of inner-city teaching.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Ilana Garon does the rare and elegant work of marrying non-fiction and storytelling in a highly readable and uniquely honest book. Without pretension or agenda, Why Do Only White People Get Abducted by Aliens? reveals the modern classroom from all angles from the desks to the chalkboards to the windows outside. Her characters and experiences are real and graciously dispose of moth-eaten stereotypes with humility and humor. This is an important book, not just because its stories interlock and lend us unvarnished insight, but because of the way Garon deftly and graciously handles such difficult material.” (Adam Chandler, staff writer, Tablet Magazine)

From Publishers Weekly
Part memoir and part sociology study on the lives of teenagers, Garon reflects on her first four years teaching at a public high school in the Bronx. The title is taken from a student's suggestion for a research topic. Amidst her Garon finds herself sobering up a smart but troubled student when he comes to class drunk, helping a young girl in an abusive co-dependent relationship, and grappling with the "polite way to ask someone if they are in a gang." She profiles the troublemakers like the arrogant Kayron who alternates between tormenting and admiring Garon, along with the hard-luck cases like Felicia, a tremendously smart and wildly charismatic student who is self-mutilating. Then there are the more uplifting stories like Callum, the bright but apathetic student Garon forms a strong bond with, staying in touch through his college years and helping him find work as a journalist. As Garon writes in her introduction, this book is not about the "myth of the ˜hero teacher'" changing the lives of inner city kids, though she does do that, nor is it "a scathing indictment" of the education system. It is that refreshing lack of agenda and Garon's self-awareness that makes this book charming and raw in its honesty. (Sept.)

Review
“Ilana Garon writes with radical honesty and bountiful compassion about her experience as a teacher in a Bronx high school—and about the students she came to know. Anyone who thinks that what these students need is more tests should be required to read this book. In fact, we all need to go to school with Ilana Garon.” (Michael Walzer, professor emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study)

“This irresistible, passionate, hilariously funny look at a young teacher and her surprisingly lovable students lights up the landscape of recent writing about American education.” (Susan Cheever)

“Ilana Garon starts by assuring readers this is not just another hero-teacher book, and this talented writer makes good on her promise. With striking honesty and wit, she tells a story about learning to embrace imperfection: her school’s, her students’, the system’s, and mostly her own. In doing so, she captures the essence of a teacher’s journey—from naive beginnings to dashed hopes to ultimately hard-earned wisdom. The best part is that, all along, it’s a joy to read.” (Liana Heitin, associate editor of Education Week Teacher)

“Ilana Garon’s wise and vivid narrative about her experiences in a working-class high school cuts through all the talk about 'reform' to reveal what it really means to be a good teacher. This is a book that anyone who cares about American education should read.” (Michael Kazin, editor of Dissent Magazine and professor of history, Georgetown University)

“In her beautifully written Why Do Only White People Get Abducted By Aliens?, Ilana Garon brings us inside the New York City public school system by taking us inside the heads and hearts of her pupils. The result is a riveting, firsthand account of what teachers, trying to help our most at-risk students, can do to make their students’ lives better. Not since Jonathan Kozol’s 1967 classic, Death at an Early Age have we had such an important report on the day-to-day workings of an urban school.” (Nicolaus Mills, Sarah Lawrence College, author of The Triumph of Meanness: America’s War Against Its Better Self)

“With honesty and refreshing straightforwardness, Garon delivers true stories of her time spent in high school classrooms in the Bronx. . . . A gritty and candid exposé of inner-city teaching.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Ilana Garon does the rare and elegant work of marrying non-fiction and storytelling in a highly readable and uniquely honest book. Without pretension or agenda, Why Do Only White People Get Abducted by Aliens? reveals the modern classroom from all angles from the desks to the chalkboards to the windows outside. Her characters and experiences are real and graciously dispose of moth-eaten stereotypes with humility and humor. This is an important book, not just because its stories interlock and lend us unvarnished insight, but because of the way Garon deftly and graciously handles such difficult material.” (Adam Chandler, staff writer, Tablet Magazine)