Among Schoolchildren

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The Pulitzer Prize–winning author’s classic, “brilliantly illuminated” account of education in America (TheNew York Times Book Review).

Mrs. Zajac is feisty, funny, and tough. She likes to call herself an “old-lady teacher.” (She is thirty-four.) Around Kelly School, she is infamous for her discipline: “She is mean, bro,” says one of her students. But children love her, and so will the reader of this extraordinarily moving book by the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of House and The Soul of a New Machine.
Tracy Kidder spent nine months in Mrs. Zajac’s fifth-grade classroom in a depressed area of Holyoke, Massachusetts. Living among the twenty schoolchildren and their indomitable teacher, he shared their joys, catastrophes, and small but essential triumphs. His resulting New York Times bestseller is a revelatory and remarkably poignant account of an inner-city school that “erupts with passionate life,” and a close-up examination of what is wrong—and right—with education in America (USA Today).
“More than a book about needy children and a valiant teacher; it is full of the author’s genuine love, delight and celebration of the human condition. He has never used his talent so well.” —The New York Times
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About the author

Tracy Kidder is the author of Home Town, Among Schoolchildren, and Old Friends. He has won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. Kidder lives in Massachusetts and Maine.
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Published on
Sep 6, 1989
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Biography & Autobiography / Educators
Education / Elementary
History / Social History
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Tracy Kidder is a winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the author of the bestsellers The Soul of a New Machine, House, Among Schoolchildren, and Home Town. He has been described by the Baltimore Sun as the “master of the non-fiction narrative.” This powerful and inspiring new book shows how one person can make a difference, as Kidder tells the true story of a gifted man who is in love with the world and has set out to do all he can to cure it.

At the center of Mountains Beyond Mountains stands Paul Farmer. Doctor, Harvard professor, renowned infectious-disease specialist, anthropologist, the recipient of a MacArthur “genius” grant, world-class Robin Hood, Farmer was brought up in a bus and on a boat, and in medical school found his life’s calling: to diagnose and cure infectious diseases and to bring the lifesaving tools of modern medicine to those who need them most. This magnificent book shows how radical change can be fostered in situations that seem insurmountable, and it also shows how a meaningful life can be created, as Farmer—brilliant, charismatic, charming, both a leader in international health and a doctor who finds time to make house calls in Boston and the mountains of Haiti—blasts through convention to get results.

Mountains Beyond Mountains takes us from Harvard to Haiti, Peru, Cuba, and Russia as Farmer changes minds and practices through his dedication to the philosophy that "the only real nation is humanity" - a philosophy that is embodied in the small public charity he founded, Partners In Health. He enlists the help of the Gates Foundation, George Soros, the U.N.’s World Health Organization, and others in his quest to cure the world. At the heart of this book is the example of a life based on hope, and on an understanding of the truth of the Haitian proverb “Beyond mountains there are mountains”: as you solve one problem, another problem presents itself, and so you go on and try to solve that one too.

“Mountains Beyond Mountains unfolds with the force of a gathering revelation,” says Annie Dillard, and Jonathan Harr says, “[Farmer] wants to change the world. Certainly this luminous and powerful book will change the way you see it.”
My Detachment is a war story like none you have ever read before, an unromanticized portrait of a young man coming of age in the controversial war that defined a generation. In an astonishingly honest, comic, and moving account of his tour of duty in Vietnam, master storyteller Tracy Kidder writes for the first time about himself. This extraordinary memoir is destined to become a classic.

Kidder was an ROTC intelligence officer, just months out of college and expecting a stateside assignment, when his orders arrived for Vietnam. There, lovesick, anxious, and melancholic, he tried to assume command of his detachment, a ragtag band of eight more-or-less ungovernable men charged with reporting on enemy radio locations.

He eventually learned not only to lead them but to laugh and drink with them as they shared the boredom, pointlessness, and fear of war. Together, they sought a ghostly enemy, homing in on radio transmissions and funneling intelligence gathered by others. Kidder realized that he would spend his time in Vietnam listening in on battle but never actually experiencing it.

With remarkable clarity and with great detachment, Kidder looks back at himself from across three and a half decades, confessing how, as a young lieutenant, he sought to borrow from the tragedy around him and to imagine himself a romantic hero. Unrelentingly honest, rueful, and revealing, My Detachment gives us war without heroism, while preserving those rare moments of redeeming grace in the midst of lunacy and danger. The officers and men of My Detachment are not the sort of people who appear in war movies–they are the ones who appear only in war, and they are unforgettable.

From the Hardcover edition.
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