"...first-rate work....The writing is excellent throughout: the characters are well drawn, interesting and sharply differentiated; the dialogue is trenchant and lively; the atmosphere captures the world in which these people live and act; and most of all, the story, the narrative is suspenseful and imminently believable. I was with the book all the way. It is a keen portrait of the world it is depicting and exploring....
-Edwin Wilson CUNY Grad Center, Yale University Wall Street Journal
Rudy Gray gives us a black teacher in a Bronx junior high during the gold-chain-snatching early 1980s. This book is fresh, nuanced, poignant, redemptive. Thank God for Rudy Gray!
-Jane Mushabac, 2011 Scholar on Campus, NYC College of Technology, CUNY, co-author of A Short and Remarkable History of New York City, selected as a "Best of the Best" by the American Association of University Presses
Earl Chaney is a successful but burned-out teacher in a challenging junior high school. Continuously haunted by past misdeeds and failures to act, Earl needs an academic achievement to feed his starving ego.
Thirteen-year-old Kaseem Abdullah thinks that being cool requires him to control everything around him-including himself. He is a malicious, confused problem student who has a penchant for pilfering necklaces from innocent female victims. But after he acts out in school one time too many, he is confronted by school administrators who graciously decide to give him another undeserved chance to redeem himself. After transferring Kaseem into Earl's already troubled classroom, Kaseem pretends to turn over a new leaf, providing Earl with an unjustified sense of accomplishment. Yet outside of school, Kaseem continues on his path of self-destruction.
Earl mistakenly thinks his miscreant student has become a fine citizen. When the truth is finally discovered, Earl must come to terms not only with his student's deception, but also with his own personal flaws.