Non-Fiction: Memoir

Teacher Man

Written by: Frank McCourt

Published By: Scribner – A division of Simon and Schuster, Inc.

Reviewed by Melissa Minners



            When I was young, I had a creative writing teacher who inspired me to no end.  His name was Mr. Shaw and he showed me that my drivel was actually worth the paper it was printed on.  He encouraged me to use my mind…to delve into my creative side…and to produce whatever came naturally.  After I left elementary school, I longed for such an inspiring person to nurture and feed my creative side.  I never found an educator who inspired me in such a way.  How I wish I could have spent some time in Frank McCourt’s creative writing classes.  Reading about McCourt’s innovative teaching techniques – even those that he would probably fully admit were attempts made while flying by the seat of his pants – made me wish that I had such a creative educator in my teenage years…someone to aspire me to achieve greater heights. 

            Frank McCourt earned worldwide recognition and critical acclaim for his poignant memoir of his childhood in America and Ireland entitled Angela’s Ashes.  The book was so well written and contained such drama that it was soon made into an award winning feature film, starring Robert Carlyle and Emily Watson.   McCourt’s follow-up novel, ‘Tis, chronicled his return to America in 1949 and his journey toward his chosen profession, teaching.  His latest novel, Teacher Man relates Frank McCourt’s experiences within the teaching profession and how these experiences lead to the writing of the Pulitzer Prize winning Angela’s Ashes.

            Frank McCourt’s writing style is such that it keeps the reader enthralled.  Some memoirs can be very dry and matter of fact, but McCourt’s style is somewhat tongue-in-cheek.  He can see the humor in his life as well as the drama and can equally recognize how both can often intertwine.  He relates this irony in a clear and concise way so that any layman can understand and relate to the goings on in his life.  While other memoirs may tend to sound as if the author were bragging about his / her accomplishments, McCourt does no such thing.  In fact, McCourt often chastises himself for chances missed and roads not taken.  However, despite these chastisements, the reader easily recognizes that despite all that he has been through, Frank McCourt is grateful for all of his experiences throughout his life. 

            A memoir about a teacher may sound as if it could be boring, but I can honestly say that I found Teacher Man to be anything but.  In fact, I found the book to be incredibly enlightening.  I was reading about the life of a teacher from someone who had been there.  Teachers are often viewed by their students as people who have no cares, no family, no ambitions, no lives outside of the classroom.  Teacher Man refutes this fully, giving readers a unique insight into the life of an educator.

            If you are a fan of Frank McCourt’s work, there is no doubt that you have already read, or plan on reading, Teacher Man.  However, if you haven’t read any of McCourt’s work, you don’t have to worry.  Teacher Man reads as a stand alone.  You don’t have to know all about McCourt’s childhood and adolescent experiences to understand the man.  You’ll find out everything you need to know by reading about some of the discussions he has with his students throughout the book.  Teacher Man is thoroughly entertaining from cover to cover.  Not only are you given an opportunity to laugh, but you are given a great deal of insight into the teaching profession.  For fans of his work, it is interesting to see how Frank McCourt evolved into the amazing writer he is today.  Teacher Man will most certainly make an excellent addition to anyone’s library.



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