The Water Is Wide: A Memoir Info

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A “miraculous” (Newsweek) human drama,
based on a true story, from the renowned author of The Prince of
Tides
and The Great Santini

 
The island is
nearly deserted, haunting, beautiful. Across a slip of ocean lies South
Carolina. But for the handful of families on Yamacraw Island, America is
a world away. For years the people here lived proudly from the sea, but
now its waters are not safe. Waste from industry threatens their very
existence unless, somehow, they can learn a new way. But they will learn
nothing without someone to teach them, and their school has no
teacher—until one man gives a year of his life to the island and
its people.
 
Praise for The Water Is
Wide

 
“Miraculous . . . an
experience of joy.”Newsweek

 
“A powerfully moving book . . . You will
laugh, you will weep, you will be proud and you will rail . . . and you
will learn to love the man.”Charleston News and
Courier

 
“A hell of a good
story.”The New York Times

 
“Few novelists write as well, and none as
beautifully.”Lexington Herald-Leader

 
“[Pat] Conroy cuts through his
experiences with a sharp edge of irony. . . . He brings emotion, writing
talent and anger to his story.”—Baltimore
Sun

Average Ratings and Reviews
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4.37

19954 Ratings

5

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Ratings and Reviews From Market


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76
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Reviews for The Water Is Wide: A Memoir:

5

Nov 06, 2008

This is probably more of a reflection than a"review" I read this book when I first started teaching, and my naive and much younger self wanted to be exactly the kind of teacher Pat Conroy had wanted to be-one who worked with children who needed me and whose lives I could touch in some way-only I would do it better of course! My first teaching job plunked me down in a non-air-conditioned overcrowded school in Little Havana (in the heart of the city of Miami, FL for you non-natives) with 100% of This is probably more of a reflection than a"review" I read this book when I first started teaching, and my naive and much younger self wanted to be exactly the kind of teacher Pat Conroy had wanted to be-one who worked with children who needed me and whose lives I could touch in some way-only I would do it better of course! My first teaching job plunked me down in a non-air-conditioned overcrowded school in Little Havana (in the heart of the city of Miami, FL for you non-natives) with 100% of my students hailing from Cuba, South America, Puerto Rico, etc.

Well, life imitates art, I guess. My first year was a pretty miserable failure and I did not achieve my glorified vision of "the Great White non-Hispanic Hope" (Hey, I said I was naive, right?). They ate my upper middle class white butt for lunch! But, man did I LEARN from my kids. Hard lessons to be sure, but critical to my nascent years as a teacher.

That's what this book popping up in my Goodreads wanderings makes me realize. Once I learned that I wasn't the only one in the room with something worthwhile to teach, I really became a teacher. Sometimes it's better to close your mouth and open your ears and hear what the kids have to teach you. I'm still naive, thank goodness, and still hope to make a difference with the teachers I prepare to teach-I just never assume I'm the only one with something to say. ...more
4

Jun 24, 2015

This is an enlightening book and also obviously the book of a young man as it is at times both overwhelmingly idealistic and alarmingly naive. Pat Conroy agreed to teach for a year on Yamacraw Island off the coast of South Carolina. There he encounters a world apart, conditions unlike anything he has encountered in his teaching on the mainland. He is to teach the children of the island, the people who used to live from fishing but now can't support themselves from polluted waters. He encounters This is an enlightening book and also obviously the book of a young man as it is at times both overwhelmingly idealistic and alarmingly naive. Pat Conroy agreed to teach for a year on Yamacraw Island off the coast of South Carolina. There he encounters a world apart, conditions unlike anything he has encountered in his teaching on the mainland. He is to teach the children of the island, the people who used to live from fishing but now can't support themselves from polluted waters. He encounters children who are savvy but unschooled for all the time they have spent in the classroom. He learns of various types of prejudice that attack them individually and as a group in order to keep them untaught and unteachable. There is an overarching lack of concern as long as discipline is maintained.

Conroy writes of his experiments in teaching methods and his gambles with the authorities to try new activities with the children. He also daringly spares the rod! This is an eye-opening memoir, even though it is no longer a new book. It remains a worthwhile read. Perhaps my greatest take-away from it is to try to know the people to whom I speak, with whom I would like to work or deal. The surface definitely does not reveal all.

Conroy's prose is beautiful; he captures the natural world around him so wonderfully. He also captures the individual children and their families so well. You will feel that you have met many of them by the time you have finished reading this book. ...more
4

Jan 26, 2016

I want everybody to read, no listen to, The Water is Wide. It is that good a book. There are sublime sentences, most often straight out of the mouths of the eighteen black kids whom he's teaching, 1969-970, on Yamacraw Island (Daufuski Island), South Carolina. Until he got kicked out for insubordination after one year as a teacher! That is told at the very beginning so it is no spoiler. He is a fantastic teacher. He is the kind of teacher these kids needed.

In the prologue the author says how he I want everybody to read, no listen to, The Water is Wide. It is that good a book. There are sublime sentences, most often straight out of the mouths of the eighteen black kids whom he's teaching, 1969-970, on Yamacraw Island (Daufuski Island), South Carolina. Until he got kicked out for insubordination after one year as a teacher! That is told at the very beginning so it is no spoiler. He is a fantastic teacher. He is the kind of teacher these kids needed.

In the prologue the author says how he felt the narration of his book by Dan Jon Miller was pure perfection. It captures the essence of his kids' lives. It improves what is at bottom a wonderful book.

He tells his story with humor, yet its topic is very serious. ...more
5

Jul 16, 2016

Published in the early 70’s, this is the phenomenal memoir of Pat Conroy as a teacher in 1969, on Defuskie Island, SC. His students were all black and mostly illiterate due to an “out of sight, out of mind” and racist mindset perpetuated by the school board on the mainland. Without going into all Pat did for those students, he was fired trying to bring joyous teaching and exposure to the world beyond their island. However he did not have the political skills to better the system. Because this Published in the early 70’s, this is the phenomenal memoir of Pat Conroy as a teacher in 1969, on Defuskie Island, SC. His students were all black and mostly illiterate due to an “out of sight, out of mind” and racist mindset perpetuated by the school board on the mainland. Without going into all Pat did for those students, he was fired trying to bring joyous teaching and exposure to the world beyond their island. However he did not have the political skills to better the system. Because this story still has relevance today, it should be a mandatory read by all educators and administrators alike.

If I could rate all of Pat Conroy's books at once it would save me a lot of time. They're all 5 star. There is always an undercurrent of his own depression focused on his characters, I think coming from his own life and family. All incredible one of a kind stories worth reading more than once; not because they're hard to understand, it's because they are soooo good. ...more
4

Jul 29, 2018

Pat Conroy is one of my favorite authors now. I loved “Beach Music” so very much. His writing style is just wonderful. This book is a memoir. Conroy spent a year teaching at an all-black school on an island off South Carolina.

This is the island


and here is the school.


He was faced with endless challenges. Since it was 1969, racism was a huge problem. Another challenge was the awful administration. Towards the end of the book, I realized that they made a movie based on this book. I now remember Pat Conroy is one of my favorite authors now. I loved “Beach Music” so very much. His writing style is just wonderful. This book is a memoir. Conroy spent a year teaching at an all-black school on an island off South Carolina.

This is the island


and here is the school.


He was faced with endless challenges. Since it was 1969, racism was a huge problem. Another challenge was the awful administration. Towards the end of the book, I realized that they made a movie based on this book. I now remember seeing it when I was about eleven (so long ago!) and it made a big impression on me.



Some of my favorite quotes:
“I learned that politicians are not supposed to help people. They simply listen to people, nod their heads painfully, commiserate at proper intervals, promise to do all they can, and then do nothing. It was very instructive. I could probably have enlisted more action from a bleached jellyfish washed ashore in a seasonal storm.”

“No man or woman has the right to humiliate children, even in the sacrosanct name of education. No one has the right to beat children with leather straps, even under the sacred auspices of all school boards in the world.”

“White guilt, that nasty little creature who rested on my left shoulder, prevented me from challenging Mrs. Brown on this or any other point. At this time of my life a black man could probably have handed me a bucket of cow piss, commanded me to drink it in order that I might rid my soul of the stench of racism, and I would have only asked for a straw. Blacks who have gone through the civil rights struggle have met a hundred white boys and girls who would dive head first in a septic tank to prove their liberation from the sins of their fathers.”

“In the fantasy of the races conceived in my mind, all blacks were noble people who had struggled against a repressive social order for years and who were finally reaping the tangible rewards of this struggle. All whites, especially myself, were guilty of heinous, extraordinarily brutal crimes against humanity.”
...more
4

Nov 02, 2016

I realize this book has an underlying focus on racism in the South in the late '60s, but the other plot line I what resonated with me-a gifted teacher unfairly losing his job. I lost mine 10 years ago, gosh as long ago now as I taught. It was quite difficult for me to read how inspired Conroy was in the classroom, how much he cared about his students and their minds and futures only to be told he's insubordinate and no longer wanted. "To fire me so insensitively is one thing, but they try to I realize this book has an underlying focus on racism in the South in the late '60s, but the other plot line I what resonated with me-a gifted teacher unfairly losing his job. I lost mine 10 years ago, gosh as long ago now as I taught. It was quite difficult for me to read how inspired Conroy was in the classroom, how much he cared about his students and their minds and futures only to be told he's insubordinate and no longer wanted. "To fire me so insensitively is one thing, but they try to destroy my personal reputation". YES I know this feeling. Conroy and I are both not ass kissers, which in the education system that runs on a political hierarchy , is a much craved expectation. All teachers have worked with a Mrs. Brown, a Piedmont, an Edna. We all have our opinions about these people.
To me the discrimination was against poverty. Sadly in this country more African Americans are found in the lower economic groups. These children had no chance. And no one cared. ...more
4

Mar 02, 2017

In 1969, Pat Conroy, a young idealistic teacher, accepted a position at a two room school house on an impoverished and isolated island off the coast of South Carolina. He is assigned the class of 5th-8th graders. The largely segregated school district of which this island was a part, had presumed that these Black children were inherently incapable of learning and treated them accordingly. He found a group of 18 students who could not recite the alphabet, let alone read, could not count to 10, In 1969, Pat Conroy, a young idealistic teacher, accepted a position at a two room school house on an impoverished and isolated island off the coast of South Carolina. He is assigned the class of 5th-8th graders. The largely segregated school district of which this island was a part, had presumed that these Black children were inherently incapable of learning and treated them accordingly. He found a group of 18 students who could not recite the alphabet, let alone read, could not count to 10, let alone multiply, did not know the name of their country, let alone understand its history. This is his memoir of that year trying to engage, empower and expose these children to the wider world. Conroy obviously cares deeply for these children and is proud of his efforts, so this is an upbeat, funny and heart-warming book despite the frustrations of battling a discriminatory system. ...more
4

Jul 06, 2016

Pat Conroy's memoir of his year teaching 1969-70. It's kids of Gullah dialect S.C. island living who don't have cultural context to the English and other subjects, like American History and reading skills- that he is trying to teach them. He tries to use active trips, other activities which give experience and relate to their family and island life- instead of the usual physical consequence and heavily redundant reciting lessons of former and approved school structure. So he argues with the Pat Conroy's memoir of his year teaching 1969-70. It's kids of Gullah dialect S.C. island living who don't have cultural context to the English and other subjects, like American History and reading skills- that he is trying to teach them. He tries to use active trips, other activities which give experience and relate to their family and island life- instead of the usual physical consequence and heavily redundant reciting lessons of former and approved school structure. So he argues with the boss.

Originally I read this years ago and it was a quick reread. And I was surprised on how dated I found it now compared to then. And rather more condescending than previously came across in the former read from many years ago. Conroy was very young and with the Citadel not far behind him. but he learns as much as his kids do during this teaching sojourn. Possibly more.

Not being Southern or of such rigid knowledge base and language forms for optimal English as existed at this time and during the year recorded here, I must say something. When I read this before I tended to feel he had become "enlightened" in the sense of his value system and perceptions. And he does to some extent. But in a larger, much larger picture, I now, in age, compare it to a classroom in which the class does NOT have a common language, be it Gullah or dialect, or standard anything. And hold languages that come from at least 3 continents. One in which there are 5 or 6 countries of origin and different age levels by 3 or 4 years represented and maybe half not having heard English because they do not even have a TV. Well, some of us had TV but weren't allowed to watch much more than the Variety Hour or Gunsmoke. Mainly because of not passing grades of their required and mandatory testing, many are not even in their age appropriate grade level. And one in which their foods for lunch brought from home (no food at school ever), are nearly unrecognizable to each other. One in which students were seated at heat registers for desks because there were not enough desks to go around. And where 5 foot 4 inch boys were put into chairs designed for 3rd graders.

And still those nuns taught us well. We learned. And I cannot remember ever going on a field trip until seventh grade. We also had 60 to 62 per nun in each small classroom. More than twice what is considered class room size in the "worst" schools today. And most of these Dominican sisters taught for 40 years in the same place until all of their students were Baptist and not a one was Catholic.

I just had to give a shout out for them. That was a task. And all of their students were main-streamed even then, too. If there were severe disability, we had to take turns "teaching" each other. Because there was too many of us and we did not have cars or buses available, few could even reach any kind of Public school "inclusion". Few of our parents owned a car. Most walked as I did, and we were not allowed to ride bikes, because there was no place to safely put them. More than 2 miles each way as I did, be it blizzard or NO air conditioning on a 98 degree September day.

This book made me realize how much more difficult it must have been for those women with all those heavy clothes on too. Especially in the heat. But did they do a good job! I wish one of them would have written a memoir. ...more
4

Jan 28, 2008

I was really impressed with this book. Not only did I enjoy the story, which is true, but I also enjoyed the writing of Pat Conroy. This is the first book I have read by Conroy. This is about the experience Conroy had in the early 70’s teaching in a one room school house on Yamacraw Island (which is the pseudonym for Daufuskie Island), an island off the coast of South Carolina. This island was populated by mostly African Americans. The experience was truly eye opening . It really depicted the I was really impressed with this book. Not only did I enjoy the story, which is true, but I also enjoyed the writing of Pat Conroy. This is the first book I have read by Conroy. This is about the experience Conroy had in the early 70’s teaching in a one room school house on Yamacraw Island (which is the pseudonym for Daufuskie Island), an island off the coast of South Carolina. This island was populated by mostly African Americans. The experience was truly eye opening . It really depicted the society of that time: Civil Rights, Segregation and Southern Culture and it’s resistance to change. Conroy took a true life experience and put in down on paper in such a way that the reader felt like they were there on the island with him. Add to that an exceptional sense of humor that was drizzled throughout the story and you have yourself a masterpiece. I have added all of the rest of Conroy’s books on my wishlist and I feel a little bit more with the program after finally reading one of his works. ...more
5

Jun 05, 2008

This was the first Pat Conroy book I read, and several years later, I had an opportunity to spend some time on Yamacraw, the island where he taught school. It was a magical place, with sandy roads shaded by great oak trees dripping with spanish moss. The people lived in backwards conditions, but they were tied to the land and their relationship with the land and the ocean in a way that few if any of the rest of us will ever experience. This is an inspiring, uplifting book and I am a better This was the first Pat Conroy book I read, and several years later, I had an opportunity to spend some time on Yamacraw, the island where he taught school. It was a magical place, with sandy roads shaded by great oak trees dripping with spanish moss. The people lived in backwards conditions, but they were tied to the land and their relationship with the land and the ocean in a way that few if any of the rest of us will ever experience. This is an inspiring, uplifting book and I am a better person for having read it, ...more
4

Nov 18, 2018

Here’s an author I had overlooked, regrettably, as my prejudice had relegated him to a grade B author – too popular to really be any good (or so I thought). I had even been to his beloved Charleston a couple of years ago, and was told that he was “the guy” to read before going, but I ignored that. Most of all, he was in my favorite local bookstore 5 years ago, Left Bank books in Saint Louis, and I did not show. Then last year someone at work gave me this book as a gift, and I have finally read Here’s an author I had overlooked, regrettably, as my prejudice had relegated him to a grade B author – too popular to really be any good (or so I thought). I had even been to his beloved Charleston a couple of years ago, and was told that he was “the guy” to read before going, but I ignored that. Most of all, he was in my favorite local bookstore 5 years ago, Left Bank books in Saint Louis, and I did not show. Then last year someone at work gave me this book as a gift, and I have finally read it.

It is delightful, a young man’s autobiography penned shortly after the event: His first publication, in 1972, a couple of years after the fact. This was a time that I remember well, being 10-12 years old, but his story is in the south where Jim Crow was just beginning to erode, and school de-segregation was in its infancy. My family vacations most frequently in the near geography of where this took place, Daufuskie Island and Beaufort, SC, near Hilton Head Island. When I go back, I’ll visit these areas more closely, and see how well my mind’s eye has drawn this.

Conroy’s account is highly entertaining in the people he encounters as well as his own transparently ego-fueled ebullience. He rails against the old south, yet acknowledges his own home-grown racism before he learned to despise it in himself, as well as that more sinister strand that continues to this day. Yet he loves these people, all of them, he can’t help himself. He took on teaching at a 2 room schoolhouse of all black students on an island reachable only by boat, and was shocked at way these people lived, almost like a tribe completely set aside from civilization. His descriptions of their language is almost insulting, but in 1972 he likely considered himself the most enlightened of any of his own kind.

By his own admission, Conroy is idealistic and impetuous, but it is clear that he was passionate about teaching these neglected kids. I have no doubt that the students loved him, and his most unorthodox teaching style. I remember the teachers with personality and opinions from my own youth, and those the most fondly. Conroy is ambitious as a teacher, experimental in method, and largely ignores the stale textbooks that are assigned. He takes the kids off the island for field trips, leading to all sorts of misadventure. But a persistent issue pervades Conroy’s year of teaching, the constant conflict with authority. He must have been almost unmanageable as an employee, constantly complaining and stirring up trouble. He went before the school board to plead his case, alienating his chain of command, and paid for it later. Ultimately he gets fired at the beginning of his second year, creating all sorts of chaos not only for himself but for his students and the islanders. But I have no doubt that these people appreciated this white man who came over for a year, opened there eyes, and likely made impact on those student lives for years to come. This was written in 1970-1972, when Conroy’s generation was railing against tradition and authority – I remember my own instructors at about that time. So this was in the air. Set against the backdrop of the Jim Crow south, where the author was born, bred and had outgrown, makes for an enlightening read.
To finish, here’s one of the final contests of wills where Pat and the superintendent square off (p. 258): “The next day I entered Piedmont’s office on the run. We shook hands like two gunfighters about to draw back thirty paces at high noon. I wanted him to explain the phone call from the axman, what had prompted it, and why he had not called me himself. He stared at me with malevolent, falcon-yellow eyes burning behind his brown half-glasses. He made no effort to be civil, or his normal unctuous, ingratiating self. For some reason he had assumed the role of the terrible god-head of authority wronged or authority challenged. He crouched in his seat, bent and misshapen, starting at me with a contempt born over a long and trying year. His stare was calculated to wither me and Piedmont had risen to minuscule greatness by his uncanny ability to melt underlings or other prey with his rapacious glance. I sat in a chair across from him staring back. And in that single moment I realized something very important. Piedmont could not scare me. Nor could Bennington. Nor could the assemble board of education in all its measly glory. For in crossing the river twice daily I had come closer to more basic things. I had come to know the singular power of a river advancing toward the open sea and the power of tides regulating that advance. I had seen how fog could change the whole world into its own image. The river, the tides, and the fog were part of a great flow and a fitting together of harmonious parts.”

In summary, this was an original, fresh, very personal story told honestly by a young man with a real knack for writing. I am convinced of his talent, and know I will read his novels, despite the garish cover art that turned me off initially.
...more
4

May 04, 2010

This was another outstanding book by Pat Conroy,he is a amazing storyteller. This book really makes you think about how society and how racism plays a big part in it. The characters were believable and you often felt sympathy for some of the characters. What separates Pat from most authors is the fact that lives what he writes, he is not just telling the story but he actually lived through it.
4

Nov 20, 2017

When Pat Conroy was a new teacher, he set out for a small island off the coast of South Carolina in 1969/70 to teach poor kids at a black school there. What a culture shock! Not only did these kids mostly not know how to read or write, but they had never experienced Halloween! Pat did a lot for these kids over the year, and taught them in unorthodox ways.

I thought this was a memoir, but it was only at the very end of the book that it said it was “based on” his year on the island. I think it When Pat Conroy was a new teacher, he set out for a small island off the coast of South Carolina in 1969/70 to teach poor kids at a black school there. What a culture shock! Not only did these kids mostly not know how to read or write, but they had never experienced Halloween! Pat did a lot for these kids over the year, and taught them in unorthodox ways.

I thought this was a memoir, but it was only at the very end of the book that it said it was “based on” his year on the island. I think it also said “fiction” somewhere, but I may be mixing that up with a review I read. I did disagree with one thing he did/argued for, but overall, I was enjoyed this book. It just might have been nice to know ahead of time that it may not have been a completely true account, though. ...more
4

Jan 04, 2009

I had gotten a copy of this book a while back for a few reasons:
1. It takes place in SC
2. Pat Conroy is a SC writer
3. I like some of his stuff, despite his lunatic family
4. I had fond memories of the movie
5. One of my favorite folk songs is "The Water is Wide".
6. A friend of mine is mentioned in the afterword.

I saw the movie made from this book when I was a teenager, a few years before my family moved to South CArolina. It made a big impression on me, so it was with some trepidation that I I had gotten a copy of this book a while back for a few reasons:
1. It takes place in SC
2. Pat Conroy is a SC writer
3. I like some of his stuff, despite his lunatic family
4. I had fond memories of the movie
5. One of my favorite folk songs is "The Water is Wide".
6. A friend of mine is mentioned in the afterword.

I saw the movie made from this book when I was a teenager, a few years before my family moved to South CArolina. It made a big impression on me, so it was with some trepidation that I actually picked up the book to read.

At first I was uncomfortable. There's a lot of bigotry and racial stuff in the opening that made me cringe. I hated that this was what people would think of South Carolina. I also hated how there seemed to be no middle ground for the adult characters- either they were horrible racists, or holier than thou liberals. But then, I started realizing how far the social structure of this state has come since the book was written. It's changed a great deal in the years since I first moved here, (one would hope!!), and was already moving away from some of the worse stuff portrayed in the book by the time I arrived here in 1971. Unfortunately, there still exist great pockets of ignorance and poverty though.

The real hero, to me, is the SC wetlands- the marshes and river and the estuaries that I so love in the lowcountry. There is great beauty here. That is why I am including this book in a m-nag with a special mission.
...more
3

Dec 27, 2009

Conroy, a successful novelist, spent a year teaching on an isolated island off the coast of South Carolina. The year was the 1969-70 school year and the island populated by highly disadvantaged sea islanders, mostly African-American with a handful of custodial whites who run the island and its limited services. Conroy, in his young twenties, a relatively recent graduate from The Citadel, had taught high school on the mainland for a couple of years. He is shocked by the impact of the historical Conroy, a successful novelist, spent a year teaching on an isolated island off the coast of South Carolina. The year was the 1969-70 school year and the island populated by highly disadvantaged sea islanders, mostly African-American with a handful of custodial whites who run the island and its limited services. Conroy, in his young twenties, a relatively recent graduate from The Citadel, had taught high school on the mainland for a couple of years. He is shocked by the impact of the historical malign neglect represented by the two room school house on Yamacraw—of course segregated until a few years before by policy and during Conroy’s moment by the demographics of the island. It is an engaging, if self-centered tale, written in the immediate wake of Conroy’s termination after a year and a month or so on the job, where he stirs things up by trying to broaden the horizons of his 18 students. He takes them on field trips to Trick or Treat in Beaufort, South Carolina, to Washington, D.C. to visit the nation’s capital with all its monuments, museums, and most impressively, its zoo. He fights with the other teacher, also the principal, and the county educational leaders, all of whom see satisfied with a traditional approach to instruction, one heavy on textbook drills and corporal punishment that nonetheless leaves several of Conroy’s older students unable to read or even recite the alphabet.

Conroy himself admits a journey from casual but eager racist as a teen to bleeding heart liberal by the time of his teaching career. Why it’s not explored or why the children and their families don’t provide inspiration for a more examined understanding of their situation isn’t clear. The book is too much Conroy in the moment, mitigated but not redeemed by self-deprecating admissions of his too passionate, too insufferable assuredness. The prose is mostly pedestrian colloquial (he uses “crap” way too much), but quick moving and sometimes beautiful. On the Washington road trip, one of his students asks about the lines on the road, something Conroy, like all of us perhaps, takes for granted. “To Jasper, who was accustomed to unpaved roads, they represented something strange, unexplained, and beyond his framework of experience. For the rest of the trip Barbara and I decoded road signs, billboards, and numbers painted on bridges and overpasses. Things I had not noticed for ten years now assumed great significance. I regretted that I could not be making this trip with the freshness of insight and beautiful innocence of Jasper and the others. I regretted that I was old, that I could no longer appreciate the education afforded by an American highway, and that I could not grasp the mystery of a single line painted down a road going north.” I regretted that there weren’t more passages like that and that Conroy passed on an opportunity to truly bear witness to a unique time, place, and culture. The real Yamacraw Island is Daufuskie Island, an island between the city of Savannah, Georgia, and Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, that like its neighbor has since become a resort island. Conroy’s goal was to do whatever he could to help his students see a way off the island but larger forces conspired more effectively to achieve that goal. The Water Is Wide is an entertaining relic of a former time that might have been much more. ...more
4

Jun 13, 2016

I knew that this was a memoir but I didn't realize it was a memoir about one specific year in the author's life; 1969. He offers to take a teaching position on Yamacraw Island only to realize that these children have been overlooked and basically treated like crap because they're black and poor. Conroy's idealism and belief that right and wrong are the only thing that matters leads to him becoming a passionate advocate of the island children, and earns him the enmity of people who just want to I knew that this was a memoir but I didn't realize it was a memoir about one specific year in the author's life; 1969. He offers to take a teaching position on Yamacraw Island only to realize that these children have been overlooked and basically treated like crap because they're black and poor. Conroy's idealism and belief that right and wrong are the only thing that matters leads to him becoming a passionate advocate of the island children, and earns him the enmity of people who just want to continue to ignore the islanders.

I have to admit that he seems to spend more time teaching the kids about life than he does trying to teach them to read. He's regularly harangued by the the woman who's been there for a long time because, she assures him, he needs to stick to the textbook and beat them if they don't behave. Which would be how they managed to get through four years under her tutelage and still be illiterate? Right, that's because they're stupid.

This story is both uplifting and heartbreaking because you have this man who is a believer and really wants to change things facing off with the people who want to keep the status quo. So Conroy is inspiring but it's heartbreaking to see him struggle.

Part of the reason that I was interested in this book was because I read The Prince of Tides last year. It was really cool to see how elements of his experiences here were woven into that story even though The Prince of Tides is fiction. Just a little bit here and there :) ...more
5

Aug 24, 2009

What can I say? I LOVE Pat Conroy's writing! In My Losing Season the way he describes a basketball game is pure poetry. While I was hanging about the local bookseller (as opposed to a book store) waiting for Conroy to write another book, I realized I had never read The Water is Wide. I don't know how I missed a Conroy book. I bought a copy and devoured it as soon as I got home! After having read all his other books and knowing his family history, it was an interesting read. He wrote this book What can I say? I LOVE Pat Conroy's writing! In My Losing Season the way he describes a basketball game is pure poetry. While I was hanging about the local bookseller (as opposed to a book store) waiting for Conroy to write another book, I realized I had never read The Water is Wide. I don't know how I missed a Conroy book. I bought a copy and devoured it as soon as I got home! After having read all his other books and knowing his family history, it was an interesting read. He wrote this book before he decided to tell the world about his family. Unfortunately, the problems he describes in the school on an island in South Carolina where he taught for a year, occur in far too many schools. The administration doesn't want to be bothered with students in poor areas of many school districts and keeps them down instead of giving them a hand up. Parts of the book are absolutely hilarious!

When I read most of Conroy's books, I was a Yankee who never wanted to live in the South. Conroy made the South seem surreal. Now I have lived in Memphis for three years. Memphis is not the deep South, but living here has given me a different understanding of the South and I had a deeper appreciation for what Conroy was describing. I can't wait to read South of Broad! I don't care if the critics pan his books. I hope he never stops writing!

What amazed me was that after I finished reading this book, I went to put it on the shelf with my other Conroy books and realized that I already owned a copy! I can't believe I bought a copy and hadn't read it! ...more
4

Nov 30, 2013

This book was suggested to me by a friend who was a teacher, and how glad I am that I read it. It takes place in the 1960s on a Gullah Island off South Carolina and is actually an autobiography of Conroy's year plus on the island teaching black kids. The first few chapters deal with his teaching the children, which I found interesting, but just as I was beginning to lose a little interest he changed and began talking about the people he met on the island--good character studies. And then he This book was suggested to me by a friend who was a teacher, and how glad I am that I read it. It takes place in the 1960s on a Gullah Island off South Carolina and is actually an autobiography of Conroy's year plus on the island teaching black kids. The first few chapters deal with his teaching the children, which I found interesting, but just as I was beginning to lose a little interest he changed and began talking about the people he met on the island--good character studies. And then he switched to his taking the children on field trips and then his leaving the island. I didn't want this book to end, and all I can say is that my own review on this book does not do it justice. Such a beautiful writer that draws you in more and more and leaves you wanting more. ...more
4

Jul 30, 2012

Moving and enlightening account of a year Conroy spent in the 60s teaching disadvantaged black elementary school students in a two-room schoolhouse on a small coastal island off of Beaufort, SC. He is appalled at the poor level of education and limited aspirations of his students due to the isolation of the fishing community and cycle of poverty. It was exciting to experience the creative approaches Conroy uses to get through to the kids and efforts to get their parents and school administration Moving and enlightening account of a year Conroy spent in the 60�s teaching disadvantaged black elementary school students in a two-room schoolhouse on a small coastal island off of Beaufort, SC. He is appalled at the poor level of education and limited aspirations of his students due to the isolation of the fishing community and cycle of poverty. It was exciting to experience the creative approaches Conroy uses to get through to the kids and efforts to get their parents and school administration to go along a series of field trips to expand the students� horizons. Credit is due to Conroy for covering his own history of racial stereotyping and admitting that his own ego contributed to his being fired for bucking the system too much. Compares well with Frank Decourt�s �Teacher Man�. ...more
5

Feb 02, 2010

Pat Conroy is a wizard with words. This is a true account of his sojourn as a young teacher in a two room schoolhouse on an impoverished island off the lower South Carolina coast. He made each of these students come to life and I was so involved both in the account of what went on in the classroom as well as what was happening behind the scenes in administration that had kept the inadequacies and inequalities in place.

I guess I so connected with this story because I went to public schools in the Pat Conroy is a wizard with words. This is a true account of his sojourn as a young teacher in a two room schoolhouse on an impoverished island off the lower South Carolina coast. He made each of these students come to life and I was so involved both in the account of what went on in the classroom as well as what was happening behind the scenes in administration that had kept the inadequacies and inequalities in place.

I guess I so connected with this story because I went to public schools in the rural South in the 60s and could remember the separateness so pervasive in the system. I did not then but have later understood how the system perpetuated racial stereotypes. I have also experienced how the rural South has changed maybe not for all and not as completely as it can, but largely due to visionaries like Pat Conroy who early on made that change the disparities are not as great and not as pervasive. Today no students can be or should be labeled as these students were and no teacher can survive who is as physically abusive as his co-teacher was and that is a good thing! ...more
5

Oct 30, 2017

This is not his magnus opus- that would be my just finished Prince of Tides, but I enjoyed this just as much. A young, passionate Conroy has been fired after one year of teaching, then spends time reflecting and writing about his experience. While raging against the racial injustices, he's candid about his own shortcomings and surprisingly forgiving toward his adversaries. Mostly it's his love and support of his students which shine the brightest. A great book to end the year, but I think I'll This is not his magnus opus- that would be my just finished Prince of Tides, but I enjoyed this just as much. A young, passionate Conroy has been fired after one year of teaching, then spends time reflecting and writing about his experience. While raging against the racial injustices, he's candid about his own shortcomings and surprisingly forgiving toward his adversaries. Mostly it's his love and support of his students which shine the brightest. A great book to end the year, but I think I'll keep dipping into the Conrad library in 2018 ...more
4

Jan 07, 2015

I'm having a little literary love affair with Pat Conroy. It started with Prince of Tides and continues with Lords of Discipine and The Great Santini. His is a powerful voice, and I'm glad I'm not involved in any organization or situation that he is interested in. He is a gadfly, afflicting the comfortable. I can see why his strong opinions and vocal criticism would get people's backs up in opposition. He comes on so strong that those who don't share his opinions cannot take the necessary step I'm having a little literary love affair with Pat Conroy. It started with Prince of Tides and continues with Lords of Discipine and The Great Santini. His is a powerful voice, and I'm glad I'm not involved in any organization or situation that he is interested in. He is a gadfly, afflicting the comfortable. I can see why his strong opinions and vocal criticism would get people's backs up in opposition. He comes on so strong that those who don't share his opinions cannot take the necessary step back to gain some perspective. In this case, revenge is a dish served cold in his memoir of his year teaching on the island before he is fired. I hope the book made a difference in the lives of the people he writes about. Since it was written in 1972, and the children now receive their education off-island via ferry, I suppose it was worth it. If nothing else, the book turned a spotlight onto one dark corner of discrimination and neglect. I expect his name is mud with the powers that be, and shining light to the children who benefited from his willingness to speak out ...more
5

Jan 04, 2016

Goodreads description of this book is simply terrible. This is the story of a white man, who in 1969, took a job teaching completely illiterate, isolated, culturally ignorant, poverty stricken black children on an island off the coast of South Carolina. None of these children could even name the country they lived in and the white school board in charge of them was apathetic, unaware and oblivious. Conroy spent his year teaching these kids using unconventional methods, anything at all that would Goodreads description of this book is simply terrible. This is the story of a white man, who in 1969, took a job teaching completely illiterate, isolated, culturally ignorant, poverty stricken black children on an island off the coast of South Carolina. None of these children could even name the country they lived in and the white school board in charge of them was apathetic, unaware and oblivious. Conroy spent his year teaching these kids using unconventional methods, anything at all that would spark their interest and give them a chance in the world beyond Yamacraw Island and he was totally villified for it. I fell in love with the kids and Conroy and I could have screamed at the ignorance of the school board. There is a ton of use of the n-word but I think it helped to give a genuine sense of what the world of integration was like in the South. I will probably read this again, I loved it that much. ...more
5

May 16, 2015

I love Pat Conroy's way with words. He has such a keen sense of description. He doesn't use a lot of words, yet manages to be very precise in his details. This detail makes his characters vivid and memorable.

There are crappy teachers who care more for their job than the students, and then there are the ones who roll up their sleeves and reach with both hands in order to make a difference. Teachers need to be teachable. Some of the problems with public schools that were addressed in this book, I love Pat Conroy's way with words. He has such a keen sense of description. He doesn't use a lot of words, yet manages to be very precise in his details. This detail makes his characters vivid and memorable.

There are crappy teachers who care more for their job than the students, and then there are the ones who roll up their sleeves and reach with both hands in order to make a difference. Teachers need to be teachable. Some of the problems with public schools that were addressed in this book, are still problems that afflict many public schools today. The status quo should never be the norm when there are students failing.

The writing was amazing. The characters were memorable. The topic was worthy of exploration. And bottom line, I would read this again. So 5 stars. ...more
5

Aug 05, 2010

It would be hard to explain what Pat Conroy is like if one has never read any of his books. But imagine the beautiful flow of a river; the perpetual dance of its waters and the calming music they create upon their every stroke with every earthly matter. Imagine the soothing feeling you can luxuriate in when you let your feet touch its cool waters. That is what Pat Conroy and his words are for me.

"beautiful
....calming
....soothing
....perpetual"

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