Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Water is Wide

As part of the Modern Mrs. Darcy 2017 Reading Challenge, I need to read three books by one author. I decided to read Pat Conroy because he is an author who spent his adult life in the "Low Country" of South Carolina, and he wrote books that took place in the area where we took our last bike trip. He died March 4, 2016, and is buried on St. Helena Island where we biked one day.

The Water is Wide was one of Pat Conroy's first books. It is a memoir of his year as a teacher on Yamacraw (Daufuskie Island) during the 1969 school year. He had been offered a principal position at Beufort High School, but he turned it down to stay in the classroom. He took a position on the island because no one else would do it. 

He did not realize until his first day on the job how bad the situation was. He was teaching a classroom of 5th-8th graders, and 14 out of 17 could not read above a first grade level. Five of the kids did not know the alphabet and five of them could not add one plus one. Conroy (called Conrack by most of his students) resorted to unconventional methods to impart some knowledge in his classroom.

This book is sometimes sad and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. His passion for the children during a time in history when the south was still very desegregated is very touching. He made many sacrifices, such as traveling to the island by boat each morning and going back to Beaufort the same way in the afternoon. He went to battle to give the children experiences outside the island they had never left, and he went to court to try to save his job. In the end, because he bucked the system, he was removed from his position.

This was an excellent book. I highly recommend it. Warning: It is full of very colorful language.

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