This gripping story -a year in the lives of three high school seniors and their school-takes us deep into the hearts and minds of American teenagers and American society today.
The seniors of Berkeley High are the white, black, Latino, Asian, and multiracial children of judges and carpenters, software consultants and garbage collectors, housewives and housekeepers. Some are Harvard bound; others are illiterate. They are the Class of 2000, and by bringing us inside the lives of three of them, Class Dismissed brings us inside the nation's most diverse high school, where we glimpse the future of the nation.
Autumn was ten when her father abandoned her family. Since then she's been helping her mother raise her two little brothers and keep food on the table-while keeping her grades up so she can go to college. Her faith in God gives Autumn strength, but who will give her the money she needs when she's offered the opportunity of a lifetime?
From the outside, Jordan's life looks perfect. He hangs out with the "rich white kids," rows on the crew team, has a cool mom, and has applied early to an East Coast college. But Jordan's drug-addicted father died last year, leaving Jordan reeling with grief and anger that makes his life feel anything but perfect, and makes his future suddenly seem uncertain.
A third-generation Berkeley High student, Keith is bright and popular, a talented football player who hopes to play college ball and one day, go pro. But Keith has a reading problem that threatens his NFL dream. And the Berkeley police have a problem with Keith-a problem that threatens his very freedom.
Looking into the lives of these young people, in this American town, at this time in history, we see more than what's true-and what's possible-for Berkeley High. We see what's true and what's possible for America.
"The students' conversations, whether with their peers, parents or teachers, are revealing and realistic. It's obvious the teens let Maran enter their lives, not merely observe them...Students, teachers, parents, community leaders and citizens need to hear these voices."
"Class Dismissed is a moving and, at times, heartbreaking, account of three kids from very different backgrounds...Maran tells their stories with great sensitivity. You can't help rooting for them-and wishing for a sequel with a happy ending."
"An altogether engrossing and often humbling account of the stark realities of public education."
-Publisher Weekly (starred review)
"A rich tale…compelling because everyone's story is complicated and full of life's odd twists…inspiring."
-San Jose Mercury-News Book Review (cover review)
"Meredith Maran cracks open the door of the American high school and demands a political accounting for what she finds…three remarkable students give a heartbeat to this well-reported tale."
-The Boston Globe
A terrific book, a marvelous work of on-site exploration, richly textured with the voices and the yearnings and the heartaches of young people.
-Jonathan Kozol, author of Amazing Grace
Meredith Maran is a gifted, gutsy writer. In this brave, inspired, and beautiful book, she holds one high school and the people in it up to our faces like a mirror.
-Anne Lamott, author of Traveling Mercies
Meredith Maran shows how some young people are finding their way through a diverse urban high school. She is an acute observer and we should listen to her advice.
-Gary Orfield, Professor of Education and Social Policy, Harvard Graduate School of Education
Class Dismissed is a fresh, comprehensive, insightful look at a tumultuous year in the life of Berkeley High School. Meredith Maran has sounded a wake-up call; if it goes unanswered, the bell may toll for all of us.
-April Sinclair, author of Coffee Will Make You Black