Schooling Carmen

Schooling Carmen

by Kathleen Cross

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781461173601
Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing
Publication date: 01/06/2012
Pages: 424
Product dimensions: 5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.94(d)

About the Author

Kathleen Cross is an author, educator and speaker who has been a guest on numerous television and radio shows including Oprah, Montel and Dr. Phil to discuss ethnic identity and cross-cultural communication.

Ms. Cross is the author of Skin Deep (Avon, 1999) an award-winning novel that has been required reading in several U.S. colleges and universities, and Schooling Carmen (Avon, 2004) the story of an East L.A. high school counselor whose survival depends on her ability to embrace change.

Cross has taught at the elementary, secondary and university levels, and after over a decade of work as an education consultant working to improve teaching and learning for urban students of color, she now divides her time between writing, speaking and community service.

First Chapter

Schooling Carmen

Chapter One

Never-Never Land

Carmen DuPrè lifted her Diet Coke up into the darkness and sent a silent wish to whomever there might be in the universe with the power to dole out desperately needed favors. Can I get some damn mercy down here?

Seated on a discarded student desk in a darkened storage room, she swallowed her drink in long, slow sips, sending icy relief to her worn-out vocal cords. Two and a half hours locked in an auditorium crowded with out-of-control ninth graders. Am I a counselor or a damn baby-sitter?

She leaned back against the cool cement wall, basking in the brief escape she'd found from the sights, sounds, and smells she was forced to endure day in and day out in her job as a guidance counselor at an overcrowded, understaffed, ac-ademically pitiful, mostly Latino high school on the outer edge of East Los Angeles.

Carmen hated her job. She hated the irritating racket of Spanish rock and gangster rap music blaring from the parade of brightly painted lowriders as they screeched into the parking lot each morning to let out their smoking, cursing passengers. She hated the wafting odors of the burritos, churritos, taquitos and every other kind of food ending with "ito" the cafeteria served up day in and day out. She hated the way every damn thing she said had to be repeated in Spanish for some parent or student who Carmen wished would just buckle down and learn the damn language of the United States. She hated the graffiti that covered the lockers, doors, walls, and windows of Overland High -- grafitti that seemed to magically reappear no matter how many times it was painted over by the custodians. But most of all she hated the bigwigs in the district office for having assigned her -- Carmen DuPrè -- to the damn hellhole in the first place.

If only her daddy were still alive. Carmen would never have had to step foot on Overland's campus if Wilfred DuPrè had not left his daughter alone in the district to fend for herself. With his twenty-two years in local politics and his popularity with both the school board and the teachers' union, Will DuPrè would have made sure his daughter began her career at a school somewhere on the Westside. The Leadership Academy, or perhaps Beverly Hills High. But Dr. DuPrè had been dead nearly three years, and though the folks in personnel knew good and damn well Carmen was his daughter, some-how they'd sent her to what just about everyone in the district referred to as "the war zone."

The only reasonable conclusion Carmen could come up with for her exile to the Eastside was that some bitch in central administration was jealous of her.What other explanation could there be for Carmen ending up at Overland? By her own measure she was overqualified for the place. She'd earned her bachelor's degree in English from Spelman, though that didn't seem to impress the powers-that-be making hiring decisions, nor did the fact that she had both a teaching credential and a counseling certification. Nearly half the teachers at Overland were hired on "emergency status," with no teaching credential or experience. Carmen didn't appreciate being treated like she was one of those. Before Overland she'd spent two very trying years teaching third grade math, and it seemed only reasonable to her that with actual classroom experience under her belt, she should have at least had an automatic "in" at a school in the Valley. Instead she had been assigned to a campus that was perpetually on the list of the ten worst schools in the city, a school the staff had sarcastically dubbed "Never-Never Land."

"Never-Never" certainly seemed an appropriate name for the place. A big, fat "never" was exactly what Carmen experienced on a daily basis in her job. She never heard so much as a whisper of support from her coworkers, who constantly reminded Carmen how lucky she was not to have to stand in front of a classroom all day. She never got a chance to get her name and photograph in the education section of the newspaper like those Westside counselors did when more than twenty percent of their seniors were accepted into colleges and universities. In the year and a half since she'd begun the job at Overland, she'd never had one student -- not even among the honors classes -- that she believed had the potential to apply, let alone be accepted, at an Ivy League school. And worst of all, she never got a chance to brag to anyone in her family about anything that had to do with her lackluster job. What made matters worse was that Carmen was forced to listen to story after story from the rest of the overachieving DuPrè family about the glamorous and lucrative aspects of their careers.

Carmen's brother, Maxwell, was an entertainment lawyer; her older sister, Della, sold high-end real estate; Lindsey, the youngest of the four, was a software designer; and DuPrè cousins all across the country held positions that ranged from airplane pilot to obstetrician. And then there was Carmen.

It wasn't that she hadn't tried other occupations before settling for a job in education. She'd taken her English degree and her sassy attitude to Boeing, Weyerhaeuser, Amgen and a dozen other corporations in Southern California. She'd even tried to get her foot in the door at a few of the movie studios in Hollywood, but none of them was willing to give her a job with a starting salary she could accept. She finally decided that a job as a high school guidance counselor might be the best alternative for her for the time being. If she worked hard, was nice to the right people, and dropped her father's name in the right places, she just knew she could make her way up the administrative ranks to one day become the superintendent of the whole school system ...

Schooling Carmen. Copyright © by Kathleen Cross. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Schooling Carmen 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fantastic!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
harstan More than 1 year ago
Drop dead gorgeous Carmen DuPre cannot understand why someone as beautiful and connected as she is has to work in the abominable Eastside of Los Angeles rather than the Westside where she feels she belongs. If daddy still lived that ¿mistake¿ would never have occurred. Carmen struggles to breath in a sea of Spanish speaking Mexican-American students as a guidance counselor at Overton High School. Spelman never prepared her for these lowlifes.--- Carmen is stunned when she learns that she has breast cancer that will require deforming her perfect figure. Since her looks is everything to Carmen, she leans towards doing nothing as she figures death is preferable to deformity. Mexican-American automobile mechanic Pedro Camacho works on Carmen¿s Lexus while trying to get through to this material girl that there is more to living than looks; he knows first hand having lost his beloved son to cancer. Dedicated math teacher Eugene Timms also keeps her off balance, but he is a geek and she only goes with hunks for Carmen sees the world as SKIN DEEP, but if she does not obtain an epiphany soon she will see the world from underground.--- In some ways the tale wraps up to easily yet fans will appreciate this powerful vigorous look at what matters, which street corner philosopher Pedro knows is obvious yet so many fail to see it. Readers will appreciate the powerful cast even the snobbery of Carmen as she struggles between disfigured living and being perfect until death. Well written and fun to follow, the simplicity of SCHOOLING CARMEN makes for a deep read reminding the audience to remember what really counts.--- Harriet Klausner