All We Read is Freaks

All We Read is FreaksWilliam Bowers (MFA, 1999)

Harcourt, 2007
ISBN: 9780151010547 

At the beginning of each new lesson, Will Bowers faces the blank stares of students in his community college English class. These are students who live amid the suburban sprawl of strip malls and strip clubs, who struggle with night jobs and their own personal catastrophes. Impressing upon them the importance of a nineteenth-century poet named Emily Dickinson can seem like a nearly insurmountable challenge. Yet Bowers leaps at the opportunity to bring a little poetry into the lives of his students. He shows them Dickinson's picture. He discusses her family and her year at seminary. He sees a glimmer of understanding. But when discussing her choice to be a recluse, the exchange breaks down, and one student declares, “She sounds like another freak. Seems like all we read in here is freaks.”

Written in direct, funny, and unflinching prose, All We Read Is Freaks is an extraordinary account of life and learning, and a teacher's passion for both.