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Miseducated:  A Memoir by Brandon P. Fleming (Hachette Books)~June 15, 2021



May 24, 2021

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

As you know, I truly enjoy your writing. I’ve been chipping away at all of your books and short stories for quite a few years now.  As much as I enjoy reading your words, I am equally intrigued by your life and your complicated journey that was often masked behind your work and public persona.  As we all know, you can’t judge a book by its cover, which is why I absolutely love reading memoirs.  Memoirs give me a sneak peek into someone else’s life.  I am a fly on the wall somewhere different.  Somewhere vulnerable, somewhere true. Whether I am laughing, crying, learning or relating, memoirs are personal treasures that writers share with their readers.  I just finished reading Miseducated:  A Memoir by Brandon P. Fleming and my eyes are wide open.  I challenge any reader not to be inspired by this fantastic read.  Let’s take a look.

First, let me introduce you to the author.  Brandon P. Fleming is the Assistant Coach of Debate at Harvard University and the Founder/CEO of the Harvard Diversity Project. The Harvard Diversity Project recruits underserved high schoolers of color from Atlanta to Harvard’s summer residency program with Fleming raising money for their tuition.  WOW…right?  Fleming may be an award winning educator, but his road to a professional and scholarly life was a rough one to travel. He grew up in an abusive home with little to no role-models.  Basketball was his golden ticket into college. Classwork did not come easily for Fleming, so when an injury ended his college basketball career, he dropped out of school.  Without an education or skill set to obtain a stimulating job, he worked on an assembly line at a vitamin factory day in and day out returning to his delinquent behaviors.  It didn’t take him long to end up in the hospital after a failed suicide attempt.  From there Fleming slowly began to grow and discover a whole new world outside of his gangster life.  One with possibilities.  One with hope.  One that he was willing to work for.

Fleming invites his readers into his world with straightforward,  powerful words.  Through trial and error and being knocked down more times than I can count, he discovers the whole concept of being “miseducated”.  If you are raised only seeing Black men become “gangstas”, drug dealers and athletes, then that is what you aspire to be.  It wasn’t until Fleming discovered Black scholars, the Harlem renaissance and the power of debate that his life started to turn around.  When he realized that he could take his experience and newfound knowledge and help other at-risk kids not only survive, but thrive, he jumped on it.   How we teach and connect with learners is just as important as what we teach. Because of his past, Fleming knew how to tap into the young and underserved Black community and he inspired them through the power of debate.  

Guts and perseverance fill the pages of Fleming’s memoir from start to finish.  His journey encompasses aspiration after so much despair.  His story is one that not only at-risk Black kids need to know, but all kids need to know.   Watching Fleming rise up was beautiful and quite moving. His enthusiasm for learning shines so brightly in his teaching and his eagerness for knowledge and thoughtful discussion is contagious. Our youth are beyond lucky to have him. 

Until next time my friend!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly 

P.S.  Fleming’s memoir comes out June 15, 2021.  Be sure to pre-order it below from your local indie bookstore!

Click on the book pic to pre-order

Whistle While You Work!

Maid book cover

Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive By Stephanie Land

February 5, 2019

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

Oh, how I love a good memoir, especially one that I can read in just one sitting. Maid, by Stephanie Land, will have you glued to your seat until the very last page. Land shares her experience as a single mom who lived in poverty while cleaning houses for a living. She is smart, hardworking, and determined to make ends meet for her and her daughter.  In her book, she poignantly recounts her daily struggles to thrive in impoverished conditions. Her story is one of survival. It is filled with truth, grit, and everything in between. I encourage readers to read her story and share it.  There is much conversation to be had.

Stephanie Land’s dream was to become a writer.  Her plans shifted when she discovered she was pregnant.  Despite the challenges she encountered with her baby’s father, Land was committed to having her baby and raising her on her own.   She documents her journey as a single mom living in homeless shelters and various government-supported housing. She works as a cleaning lady, while taking classes at night to get her bachelor’s degree.  Her work is long and grueling with low pay. Her only respite is when her daughter goes to her father’s house on some weekends. She relies on food stamps and other programs to keep her family afloat. Living penny to penny, she is trapped in a system that provides no incentives to make or save money.  She is stuck on the poverty wheel that just keeps spinning. By not working enough, Land can’t afford to live or qualify for assistance. By making even slightly more money, her childcare voucher and rent subsidy are threatened. Her life is a complete catch 22 with no way to break out.

Stephanie Land’s book is her personal account of what poverty looks like in America.   She debunks common stereotypes of people living in the lowest socioeconomic class. She makes it very clear that not all poor people are stupid, lazy, and living off the system for kicks and giggles.  Land gives her readers a taste of the social stigma felt as a recipient of social welfare programs. She makes visible how quick society was to judge how she spent her money and how she spent her time.  She shows you behind the scenes of being a cleaning lady and how often times she didn’t feel like she was a valued human being in her client’s homes, but instead, just a faceless nobody cleaning the unimaginable for such small pay.  Most importantly, Land invites readers into her emotional world of parenting alone under undesirable circumstances.

Stephanie Land’s book was a pleasure to read.  Her writing is simple and easy to follow. Her words flow smoothly, allowing the pages to practically turn themselves. Though this is her story and her story alone, it shines light on the frustration of living in poverty and the flaws in our welfare system.  I believe in hearing people’s stories. Passing judgment is easy. It’s truly listening to someone’s words that proves to be more difficult. The saying, “ Until you walk a mile in someone else’s shoes”, holds true with this story. I urge readers to read Maid by Stephanie Land.  I hope her story continues to build compassion and understanding in others.

Readers will most certainly have plenty to talk about.

Happy reading!  Until next time Mr. H.

Your Biggest Fan!

Kelly

P.S.  Did you know people generally whistle when they are happy or when they are trying to get their mind off something they are doing that they do not want to be doing (i.e cleaning)?  Whistling is oddly a male dominated activity as well. Most whistlers do not even realize that they are often times producing sounds that are totally annoying to the people around them.  Lastly, the song, “Whistle While You Work” was written in 1937 for non other than the Disney movie…..The Seven Dwarfs.  I wonder if Stephanie Land can whistle????

Click here to buy Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive By Stephanie Land

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