The Girls in the Back of the Class

Genre: Politics and Current Events, Nonfiction; Author: Louanne Johnson; Publisher: St. Martin's Press

LouAnne Johnson, an ex-Marine-turned-inner-city high school teacher offers The Girls in the Back of the Class, her second book about teaching California’s worst-case kids (the first being My Posse Don’t Do Homework, which was made into the film Dangerous Minds, due out later this summer). When students doze in her class, Johnson paints their nails with white correction fluid. She drags them to plays despite snarls of ”’If anybody says ”Where goest thou” or any men got them leotard things on, I’m out of there.”’ The pseudonymous Parkmont High floats somewhere between humor and horror: One student fleeing a drug-addled gunman dives into the principal’s office, only to be told ”I’m in a meeting right now. You’ll have to wait outside.” Amid the drugs and blood, Johnson reaches after her dwindling female student population, mourning ”Girls wring their hands in quiet desperation for a few weeks, then disappear.” These jagged, elegant true stories ripple with giggles and gunfire. Required reading. A+

Originally posted June 9 1995 — 12:00 AM EDT

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