Lakhani paints a darkly comic picture of what a five-figure tuition bill really gets you at an elite Manhattan private school. The former Dalton English teacher knows the territory, and it is bleak. Here's Anna, a newbie teacher with Ivy credentials whose passion for the low-paying teaching profession is cause for celebration at the upper-crust Langdon school, where as the exotic-looking newcomer, she is mistakenly identified as a coveted minority hire. With low pay and even lower expectations from teachers and parents, Anna realizes there's no way she can survive-until she learns about lucrative after-school tutoring gigs. And just like that, Anna's ideals go out the window. In a hilarious out-of-control spiral into obsession with all-things designer, expensive and showy, Anna transforms into someone who believes money can buy everything and everyone. There is redemption, of course, in the form of a teacher who bucks the system, and Anna discovers some of her students are pretty wonderful. The realization comes rather abruptly, and the happy ending is a bit pat, but the romp through an unsettling, soulless world of adults and children who'd rather coast through life than live it provides plenty of laughs. (Aug.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Schooledby Anisha Lakhani
Welcome to Schooled, where even homework has a price. Ivy-League educated Anna Taggert believes that enriching the minds of America's youth is the greatest gift, and that landing a job at an elite Manhattan school is her lucky break. But when the grim reality of the private school hierarchy settles in, not to mention that of her meager compensation, Anna/em>… See more details below
Welcome to Schooled, where even homework has a price. Ivy-League educated Anna Taggert believes that enriching the minds of America's youth is the greatest gift, and that landing a job at an elite Manhattan school is her lucky break. But when the grim reality of the private school hierarchy settles in, not to mention that of her meager compensation, Anna realizes that passion might not be worth the sacrifice. Ever the optimist, Anna forges on until she discovers that the papers she grades are not the work of her students, but of their high-priced, college-educated tutors. After uncovering this underground economy, where a teacher can make the same hourly rate as a Manhattan attorney, Anna is seduced by lucrative offers--one after another. Teacher by day, tutor by night, she starts to sample the good life her students enjoy: binges at Barneys, dinners at the Waverly Inn, and a new address on Madison Avenue. Until, that is, Anna gets schooled.
Sharply observed debut."—People Magazine"
Witty, entertaining, and all together tantalizing."—Town & Country"
Biting teach and tell debut."—Redbook Magazine"
Utterly terrifying and delicious. I inhaled this novel in hours."—Jane Green"
Schooled easily finds itself to the head of the class."—Miami Herald"
By turns dishy, delightful, and hilarious, Anisha Lakhani's debut novel is also a biting teach and tell. Required reading!"—Claire Cook, author of Summer Blowout, Life's a Beach and Must Love Dogs
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Meet the Author
Until 2006, Anisha Lakhani taught English at The Dalton School on Manhattan's Upper East Side. Soon after she started teaching, she was named chair of the Middle School English Department. Lakhani received both her B.A. and M.A. degrees from Columbia University. She was born in Calcutta, India, grew up in Saddle River, New Jersey, and now lives in Manhattan with her husband and their beloved shitzu, Harold Moscowitz. Schooled is her first novel.
Read an ExcerptSCHOOLED
By ANISHA LAKHANI
Copyright © 2008
All right reserved.
Chapter One Had is only been a year?
I vaguely remembered a desire to become a teacher and a belief that it was the most noble profession on earth. I was going to be Mother Teresa and Angelina Jolie rolled into one, motivated only by the desire to help others. Okay, and maybe wear cute little Rebecca Taylor skirt suits and look good while doing it. How could I have believed that the entire private school system was anything other than absolutely corrupt?
Just before graduation my singular goal had been to convince my parents that becoming a teacher was more important to me than any role I could ever hope to fulfill in my life. Their skepticism and disappointment had only served to further ignite my resolve. Our face-off had, like so many family arguments, been at the kitchen table. The lava had been simmering throughout dinner. The eruption was inevitable.
"I have never been so disappointed in all my life." One simple statement from my father, and I was liquefied. I looked across the table at my mother.
"Mom?" I started tentatively.
"I'm with your father, Anna. Honestly, what do you want me to say?"
"So this is it? This is your chosen profession?" I could swear the table was starting to shake.
"Yes. I'm going to be a teacher." Stay calm, Anna. I willed myself to look my father straight in the eye.
"Like in a school?"
"Yes, Dad, like in an actual school." I didn't get it. Where was all the disappointment and anger coming from? Wasn't this a good thing? Had I said I wanted to be a porn star? Or a poet?
My father's face was ashen.
"With metal detectors? And unions? P.S. pay nothing? P.S. screw you, Dad, for my Ivy League education?"
What?! Here I was, professing my decision to pursue a career that was considered quite possibly the most noble profession on Earth, and my father was ... angry?
"Dad! I have such a passion for it. You should see me in my student-teaching class. I really get these kids and they love me!" It was true. I knew the word passion sounded cheesy, but it was appropriate. For the last two semesters I had been doing my student teaching at P.S. 6 on Manhattan's Upper East Side. Despite the constant supervision of the head teacher, I had basically been teaching a seventh-grade history class. I remembered the look of pain on my students' faces when I had told them we would he learning about the Bill of Rights in the Constitution, and how it had turned to excitement when I had announced that we would be creating rap songs to explain each amendment. A few eyebrows had been raised by teachers who passed my room in the hallway-there was music playing at any given time in my classroom with at least two kids standing on chairs performing their rap-but I got twenty-two initially apathetic students to understand the American Constitution by the unit's end. It was the proudest day of my life.
I took a deep breath and resolved to try a fresh approach.
"Dad, when I teach, I am the best of who I am." It was true. "I am never more proud of myself, more certain of my purpose, than when I'm with my students." He seemed to be softening.
"Anna, do you realize how lucky you are? You are going to graduate from Columbia. You can be ANYTHING. Do you remember how hard it was for all of us to get where we are? Your mother and I worked so that you and your brother could have the education that would allow you to lead comfortable lives ... better lives than ours. One of my greatest achievements, Anna, is that I am in a position to pay for you to go to any law or business school in the country that you get into. Hell, you can skip grad school and I'll start you with an analyst position at Merrill Lynch. We can drive in to work together. Is this making any sense to you? Do you know how much teachers actually make? Less ... than ... a ... gar ... bage ... man." My father said the last five words slowly, as if to chastise me with each syllable.
Before I had a chance to open my mouth, my mother chimed in: "Honey, we love you so much, and truth be told you've had a pretty cushy life so far. You really haven't had to pay for anything substantial. I know you think this is noble-your father and I do, too, but really, Anna, you can teach anytime. Go have a real career, and then teach after you've had your kids. Not now!"
I was furious. How condescending could they be? Apparently, I was a three-year-old more in need of a sippy cup than parental support. Teaching was not a fallback career. Okay, it wasn't cash-centered, but it was important. Very important. I suddenly looked at my parents through new eyes. Hypocrites. All my life I had heard my father complain about the long hours he spent at work. Phrases like money means nothing when you are old and can't enjoy it and nothing beats spending time with your children were thrown around our house on a daily basis by my mother. The beeping of the microwave, which signaled Mom reheating dinner in the middle of the night for my dad, was practically my childhood soundtrack. If I had a dollar for every teacher who thought my parents were divorced (my dad had the distinction of having never once attended a parent-teacher conference), I would have been able to retire by junior year. And now this? My parents wanted me to be an analyst? I was feeling deeply self-righteous and suddenly quite sarcastic.
"I'm sorry, Dad. You're right. Merrill Lynch. I can't wait to lead a lonely existence full of zero fulfillment. I'll be like all the other daughters of your friends who you are so proud of. I forgot that my sole existence in life is to please you and Mom. Gosh, how could I have been so carelessly independent?"
The look on my father's face was clear: I had gone too far. But I wasn't sorry. The direction this conversation had taken was entirely their fault. I had envisioned teary pride and heartfelt congratulations that they had raised such a well-intentioned, nonmaterialistic daughter. I hadn't announced that I was running away with my rock star boyfriend (not that I had one, but I could have). I hadn't made a dramatic declaration that I was going to join the Peace Corps. I opened my mouth to continue, but judging from my mother's face and her position right next to my father, I knew that anything I had to say was futile at this point.
"Okay. Go. Teach. But we're not helping you out one bit. Pay your rent. Buy your food. Ha-even more hilarious-pay your bills. Go have fun. We just wish you had told us you were going to take a Columbia University education and go teach. We wouldn't have bothered paying for it."
That did it. My parents were officially the most unreasonable people alive. Any desire to rationalize with these people was gone. They were mercenaries. Republicans. Supporters of the system that kept the working man (me) from ever getting a break.
I stormed out of the kitchen, brushed past my brother who had been eavesdropping in the hall, and went straight to my room. In a blur of tears and frustration I zipped open a duffel bag and crammed in as many clothes as I could, throwing my cell phone charger on top. I knew my parents were downstairs talking about me, but I was beyond caring. I was against everything they stood for. I didn't need them or their money. I would be fine on my own. I would make my own way. Okay, I guess that I would have to drive their BMW to the train station, but that would be the absolute last time I would drive a luxury car that promoted the evil empire. After that I would make my own way.
I couldn't stop thinking about how mean my parents were. Or how noble I was. If it weren't for people like me, the children of the world would never be educated. There would never be a cure for cancer, a car that would get sixty miles to the gallon, or a poet laureate to usher in the country's first female, African American president. I felt lonely, abandoned, and completely misunderstood. I had never had such a fierce argument with my parents, had never before left my house vowing never to look back. Well, actually, there was that one other time in the first grade when I had huffed my favorite Barbie chair all the way to the end of the driveway, sitting and stewing there till lunchtime because my parents had, in my wise opinion, favored my brother a little too much over breakfast. It was the smell of grilled cheese that had lured me back in that day. But there was nothing-nothing!-that could change my mind this time. I just knew I was right.
By the time I reached Grand Central, I was drained and homeless with only fifteen hundred dollars in the bank (an accumulation of graduation gifts) to last me for the summer. Or maybe a lifetime. Who else to turn to but Bridgette?
Bridgette Meyers was my best friend and sorority sister from Columbia. We had been suitemates in Carmen Hall-"suite" being Columbia's charming euphemism for a multi-occupancy cinder block cell-before upgrading into the Delta Gamma brownstone. Now Bridge had upgraded once more, and was living in a gorgeous doorman building in the East Seventies. She was an analyst at Morgan Stanley and was already making enough money to have decorated her entire space in subtle shades of sleek gray. I had visited her once over the summer, and even though I secretly felt like she had re-created a Maurice Villency showroom, complete with low couches, shag rug, and lighting fixtures that looked just like little spaceships, her apartment was definitely grown-up. Bridgette had been working part-time at the firm for the last semester; the week after graduation she moved to full-time. I really hadn't given much thought to what that had meant until she opened the door to her apartment. Almost overnight, Bridgette appeared to have aged a decade, but in that very sexy twentysomething way. She had just gotten home from work and was wearing a black pencil skirt, a fitted silk shirt, and what looked suspiciously like Jimmy Choo heels. Suddenly I was very conscious of my jeans and T-shirt.
"Hey, sis," she said warmly, opening her arms and engulfing me in a big hug. "Are you okay?" One look at her I'm-so-sorry-you-have-a-blue-collar-job expression and I was dangerously close to bursting into tears. Seemed like the whole world was either mad at me or felt sorry for me.
"Bridgette, I am seriously going to be out of here before you know it," I promised, and I meant it.
"Sweetie, are you kidding? What are sisters for? But seriously, are you sure this is what you want to do?" Bridgette looked sadly at my one lonely duffel, then directed me to the fold-out couch. "I mean, all the Delta Gamma sisters thought you were just messing around. Nobody thought you actually wanted to teach."
"Why is everyone acting like I have a disease or something?" I cried. "This is a normal career. Teaching. Normal. Some parents are actually happy when their children take this path! And Langdon is the most prestigious school in Manhattan. Do you know how lucky I am that I got this job?"
"I guess," Bridgette responded vaguely. "But Langdon is a place people go. It's not like a place where you work.... Listen, there's this thing tonight. Do you wanna go? You aren't going to start at Langdon till the end of August anyway. Come, it'll get your mind off ... stuff."
Stuff. That's what my dreams had been reduced to.
"Where?" I was suspicious, and just a little resentful that a few weeks after graduation my best friend from college wore designer clothes, lived in a designer apartment, and had a "thing" she was invited to in Manhattan.
"Just this Morgan Stanley summer analyst thing at Bungalow 8. They like, I don't know ... rent clubs and stuff. It's so lame, but lame fun, you know?" Rent out clubs? For summer analysts straight out of college? I may have gone to college in New York City, but my Manhattan had ended at Tom's Diner on 112th Street-fraternity and sorority parties on campus and nearby bars had erased my need to venture downtown. I was definitely not a New Yorker and the fact that Bridgette had beat me to it irrated me more than I was willing to admit.
"Downtown is too ... far," I finished lamely. "They're just trying to impress you."
"Anna, listen, this is just how it is. In the i-banking world, first-year analysts work their butts off, but yeah, the hard work we do is appreciated. That's where the free dinners at Nobu and parties at Bungalow come in. Also, we're working so hard that it's only at these events that we can just hang and get to know each other!"
I shook my head in disbelief. How naive could she be?
"Bridge, they're doing that stuff for you like a crack dealer gives out free shit to first-time clients! They want you to become addicted to this life so that they can use you. Once you taste how good a $400 meal at Nobu is, you'll be willing to put in whatever hours are necessary to be able to afford more dinners like that!"
It was all becoming so clear to me. I felt like I had been under a rock for twenty-two years. We were living in a society so blinded with fancy labels and exclusive restaurants that we were losing all sense of morality. What about happiness? Having time with your friends and family? Bridgette would be grinding away trying to raise millions for a company that might never know her name just so she could have a piece of ninety-dollar sushi and sashay her hips in a dark nightclub? Still, jobs like Bridgette's were rewarded with juicy salaries and addictive bonuses, whereas my role as teacher of America's youth would barely cover one month's rent.
We were replacing students with sushi.
"Okay, Anna, SERIOUSLY, you're taking this workers-of-the-world-unite thing too far. You want to teach. I get it. But are you coming with me or what? You'll love Bungalow." Bridgette gave me the same look I had seen on my mother's face: you're-going-through-a-phase-and-I'm-not-buying-into-it.
"No. You go." I pouted.
"Annie, at least teaching gives you the summer off. Come have fun with me ... it'll be like old times," Bridgette pressed, clearly unconvinced that I had abandoned the old me who would have been out the door five minutes ago. I glared back at her, not even bothering to hide my resentment.
Bridgette sighed and came over to the couch to sit beside me. I crossed my legs defensively and stared at her blank plasma screen. If she gave me a sympathetic hug I was certain I would explode.
"Just go! I don't want your pity!" I shouted, jumping and grabbing my duffel. I could take anything but the pity hug. "This was a mistake. I'll find somewhere else to live."
"ANNA!" Bridgette ran to her door and blocked the entrance. "Okay. I get it. You're going to teach ... I can't say that I don't respect someone who actually wants to go to work every morning."
Aha! The crack I had been waiting for!
"So you don't want to go to work every morning?" I challenged.
"I didn't say that."
"But you implied it."
"Bridgette! This is me," I pleaded. "Since when did you have to impress me? I don't even recognize you with all this ... this Jetsons furniture and analyst bullshit. Come down to earth, please?" Bridgette began twirling a piece of hair nervously, her eyes focused on a bizarre standing lamp that arched over her entire couch.
"The sound of my alarm clock every morning has already become ... a ... noose that seems to be tightening every day."
Her voice cracked when she said "noose," and there in front of me, finally, was a glimpse of my best friend from college. I almost wept with relief. After months of robotic "I love i-banking!" declarations, here was the lovable, lazy Bridgette I knew and adored. The girl who got herself through Lit Hum class at Columbia solely through SparkNotes and had her chicken cutlet sandwiches and Broadway milk shakes delivered from Tom's Diner even though our sorority house was around the corner.
"I can't go out because I'm flat-out broke," I admitted, but was starting to grin.
"The majority of my life is spent in a fucking cubicle," she shot back, grinning even wider.
Excerpted from SCHOOLED by ANISHA LAKHANI
Copyright © 2008 by Anisha Lakhani. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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