Book Review

Reading With Patrick: a teacher, a student, and a life-changing friendship by Michelle Kuo

There are times in your life when you meet someone who irrevocably changes how you think. For Michelle Kuo, her one-time student, Patrick, was one of those people. When she took a job teaching at an alternative high school in the South, Ms. Kuo did not know what to expect. Although she grew up as a child of immigrant parents, she didn’t fully understand the pervasiveness of racism in America until she began working with her students and saw first-hand the effects systemic racism had on generations of families trapped in one small town.

As much as this book is about Ms. Kuo, it is about her student, Patrick. He had a profound impact on her both in the classroom and after her time in the South. When she heard he was in trouble, she was returned to offer support and, through books and writing, hope. In spite of his circumstances, Patrick finds a way to maintain his humanity and teaches Ms. Kuo more about facing adversity despite a life filled with challenges.

This book provides an honest look at the harsh reality many young people in our country still face due to systems that work against them. Despite this, it is not an angry book. Ms. Kuo often describes the interactions with her former students (other than Patrick) with little unnecessary sentiment. In face, her students are seen as mainly pragmatic. This is the life they have been given and they do not expect much more.

Don’t expect any miracle by the end. This isn’t one of those stories about a teacher inspiring her student to do great things. Patrick doesn’t find that magic highway to riches. Ms. Kuo doesn’t make a grand difference that will ever be celebrated with an inspirational movie.

Despite all that, this was a worthwhile book to read. It will make you think, and that is one of the best things I can say about any book.

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