"A white teacher, a problem student, a week of crisis in a Harlem school"
NEW YORK, USA
FIRST PRINTING 1960
This is the story of a week of crisis in a school situated in one of New York's seething slums - the "pit" of Harlem.
Deborah Lieb, a dedicated and devoted teacher, is on the staff of Henry D. Thoreau Girls' Junior High, a school to which incompetent teachers are exiled, in which administrators and much of the staff apathetically serve out their sentences while awaiting transfers, a school where "come back on Monday" is a favorite teachers' dodge to get rid of problem students - most of them Negroes and Puerto Ricans reflecting the fears and angers and tensions of a depressed community.
The crisis arises when Deborah Lieb is accused by a reporter for a Negro tabloid of being anti-Negro. caught by the cyclopean forces let loose by this accusation - the Negro "hate" sheet relentlessly pursuing its racial enemies, and the white school administrators eager to secure advancement by "keeping the lid on" their problem school - Deborah finds her job threatened, her own values and self-assurance weakened. During this same week, she must deal with the problem of Barbara Jones, one of her brightest Negro students and a potential delinquent, haunted by the memory of the drunken bum who violated her in a tenement basement when she was twelve years old. Deborah must also cope with the pettiness and back-biting of some of her colleagues - the old maids, the Negro toadies, the narrow minded disciplinarians who are far more concerned about keeping order i the hallways than about a miscarriage in the classroom.
By skillful use of parallel narration, the author holds the mounting suspense of Deborah's story before us, while introducing an amazing gallery of characters. Teachers, principals, students - all are unforgettably etched for the reader.
Yet if this novel were nothing more than photographic realism, it would fall short of its purpose. For the theme of this book is implicit in its title; there must be time and love for hapless youngsters such as the ones that Deborah and the few responsible teachers befriend. It is this sense of compassion which illumines this engrossing and exciting novel. It is a genuine cry from the heart.